Corporate life and being the Captain of your own ship

26 Feb 12 upload 054

Mine when I want it and not when I'm told (Photo credit: Jon Stow)

What I miss about my old corporate life:

  • Having huge resources in terms of reference books.
  • Having camaraderie of quite a few colleagues in sharing a lunchtime meal and drink.
  • Not having to think about paying the business bills.
  • Having a known and reliable amount credited to my bank account each month.
  • Having all my CPD training paid for.
  • Enjoying a lavish Christmas party.
  • The buzz of the big city

Here is what I don’t miss:

  • The office politics.
  • The inflexible management structure.
  • The lack of communication from management (and it is easy if someone thinks about it).
  • Being judged by my (small firm) origins,and being under-rated.
  • The long commute and the delayed train journeys and the over-crowding.
  • That guy on the morning train who shaved with his Remington without regard to his fellow passengers. Yuk.

Here is what I like about running a business:

  • Having all those resources on-line and not in someone else’s books.
  • Making all the decisions.
  • Being responsible for my own destiny.
  • Not being judged except by myself.
  • Working hard but not too hard.
  • Taking time off to de-stress and relax when I want to.
  • Working with people I have chosen myself.

Lots of people never work for anyone but a big employer. Many are probably happy, but they are not really independent or always allowed to think for themselves. We small business owners are both independent and free thinkers, so be happy like me. Don’t you enjoy it too?

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Mutual envy

Local businesses
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Many of us in business for ourselves feel we would be unemployable if we were asked to go to work for someone else. We enjoy the freedom of making our own decisions and being in charge. We make our own hours of work of course, rather than abide by someone else’s rule, though it is easy to work too much rather than too little. We always want to maximise our income potential and we do need a certain discipline to avoid becoming our own slaves.

We do know we would rather not be wage slaves and have come away from that mindset. That is why if we sell our businesses to someone else with an agreement to work on for a year or so, that situation can soon become very uncomfortable. It is not nice to be looking over one’s shoulder at the person watching us.

At the same time, there was a comfort in the relative certainty we had as employees that we would have a known income at the end of each week or month. If we are doing well in our business we do have that still, but it is down to our own efforts and managing ourselves.

Those still with jobs would mostly be frightened to have the responsibility we have for our own financial survival, but at the same time they envy us being our own bosses, as they see it awarding ourselves holidays and bonuses and time off in the summer for picnics. Of course our lives are not always about picnics, but there is some truth about the freedom if we are doing it right. What do you think?

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Loss of status issues for the newly self-employed

Signpost at the Cape of Good Hope

I remember well what it was like to find myself without a job, not able to get one and with the prospect of “getting on my bike” and earning a living as a self-employed person. I had not planned to be self-employed; it was a matter of survival, which I have discussed before.

In the corporate world of larger organizations we have the concept of status. We know our place, and we have worked hard to get there. I had various titles such as “Manager”, Senior Manager” and “Senior Consultant”. Once I thought these had some sort of cachet; I guess the main purpose was to define our roles, and so that we knew who to report to and others knew that they had to report to us. There are other reasons for titles of course. In the accountancy world, especially in larger partnerships, the title of “Director” is dished out to those who think they should be partners but haven’t been offered this status; it helps them feel better than being a senior manager but really doesn’t have any other meaning.

In the small business area titles are irrelevant to the clients and customers, and one has to get on with building a business. Just the same, if someone had been made redundant it takes a while to recover the self-esteem had when he or she had a designated title. It is bad enough feeling unwanted when made redundant, but not even knowing by what title to call yourself is very hard indeed.

Strangely, many people find it very hard to see themselves as the boss and in charge, and it may be a completely new experience. Of course being in charge has a lot of responsibility, not least in earning a crust to live on, but new business owners amongst those who have lost their jobs need to recognise the freedom they have to make their own decisions. It should be liberating and invigorating, and even if we make the wrong decisions sometimes at least we can change our minds. In the corporate world it can be very frustrating implementing someone else’s wrong decisions.

Running one’s own business can be so much more satisfying than being an employee in someone else’s business. We just have to throw away the conditioning and forget the grand titles we used to have. Just call yourself the Boss. Don’t you agree?

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