Small business: doing, not being

Early retirement?

Early retirement?

One of the advantages of having my own business is, I have always thought, that I am doing something I enjoy and having responsibility for my own working life. In fact, having responsibility for all of my life.

In employment, we may think we have a career, but if we work for someone else, however ambitious we are, we are always going to be dependent on other people’s opinions about us, right or wrong. There will always be an element of “seeing out our time” until we retire. That amounts , at best, to being on a ladder to climb in the world of employment, and at worst, a treadmill. I am not sure where I used to be before being unexpectedly ejected, but I cannot say the overall experience of employment was entirely wonderful, though I had some fun.

To me, having my own businesses means I am in control of my own destiny.

The other day I was sitting in a waiting room talking as you do to a guy I had met briefly a couple of times before. Our appointments were running very behind so we had quite a long time to chat. My companion told me he had retired at the age of forty-seven and taken a pension, which meant he had been retired for fifteen years. I guess he was fortunate to have one of those old-fashioned final salary pensions which we all wish we had or could qualify for.

I know the guy has a serious hobby working with wood, but it is not a business. So is working with a hobby doing, or is it just being? If he had run even a part-time business for the last fifteen years would that have been more in the way of doing? Should not we keep ourselves sharper by doing?

I cannot imagine not working at something even if it is voluntary work, because surely we should keep our brains active? Is having an activity without a beneficial end result for someone else not doing, but just being? I do not want to judge my new acquaintance, but just to understand him.

Would you just like to be or do you always want to do?

Are you a leader and giver or a follower and taker?


Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Like many people who may read this, I am a great believer in face to face networking, by which I mean actually getting out to meet people. I run a business breakfast group, and I have been involved in running other groups too. It is great fun to be involved in organizing events, and in working with other people to do this. I have found that I learn a great deal about them, and no doubt they learn a lot about me. That is partly how to build trust in a network; by shouldering some of the responsibility for actually running it.

Not everybody is like that. There are people who turn up to the meetings but they don’t take an active role. They are followers. They do not volunteer for office. They do not speak up in discussions. We don’t know what they think. They don’t encourage others to come. We don’t get support from them and that makes it harder to give to them, because we don’t know what they want.

Many organizations run by members do at times have difficult choices to make, and sometimes that choice is whether or not there is still a need to exist. Without enthusiastic members with vision, many groups can wither and die. I have seen it with local business groups and even those related to old-established international ones who do charitable work. Without strong and vibrant support from a small number of people in running things, even very worthy associations will disappear as passive members take what there is, but don’t participate.

Recently I have witnessed someone perceiving a problem and seizing the initiative in just such a situation. Because he has stepped forward, others have taken up the cause and are putting forward not only their support, but their constructive ideas. The passive will remain passive and still take, but there should still be something they can take from.

Leadership is about doing and about encouraging (not telling) others to do. Giving time and knowledge is often more valuable than money, and most of us have some time to volunteer. It is about taking control of our own lives. I guess that is what David Cameron is talking about with his Big Society, derided by the passive moaners, of course. It is certainly true that the best gifts are of our time, because that is how we can most help others. That involves leading by example.

What do you think?

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