Getting a real job was never a phrase I would expect to hear from anyone when I started my business. It certainly wasn’t a phrase I expected to hear from my mother two or three years into running myPA Virtual Services. It was almost as if she thought I had played long enough with myPA, and now it’s time to return to work and get a real job.
Unfortunately, this is a statement and phrase that self-employed people hear more than you would think. So, what does this mean? It means that the person asking doesn’t have faith in your abilities to run a business. The product or service you specialise in is of no or little value, and that you cannot work for yourself. The person who asked gives the impression that they do not see your business as a proper business in the same terms that Tesco, BT or Virgin are.
Take business for granted
Often a small business owner is ignored, taken for granted, or dismissed. The assumption is that the work they do is not essential. The hours they work are often too many for such little reward, and self-satisfaction is not crucial. This attitude can also come from other small businesses if they offer a service that is not perceived to be of any or little value.
The Value of being Self-Employed
I remember being at a networking meeting in 2006 and speaking to an Action Coach. A business coach’s job is to help you grow your business. To help you become the best business owner, you can be and guide you through the worry of the legal, sales, marketing, and other aspects of business life.
I introduced myself as a Virtual PA. This coach looked at me and said, ‘Oh, you can’t help me, and you’re not the client I am after. You will be in paid employment within a few months.’ He then walked off, leaving me stunned. In his eyes, I will be getting a real job in the next few months. His statement infuriated me. He failed to see a business owner, a marketeer, a salesperson, and an accountant, a business owner who has the same issues as any other business owner. However, I offered a service that he didn’t respect, which was odd, as he suggested to his clients to use a VA.
I am still going strong, and he is still in the same networking sphere as I am. Recently, he tried to get me to join his Action Coach mentor group to help get my business over its first three years. I started my business in 2002. My business has been going for a lot longer than 3-years, and I had to remind him of parts of our previous conversation. He politely said sorry, he didn’t recognise me. His attitude to his clients is not at all complimentary either. He describes them as buying units. Not people, not businesses, but buying units. How many people do you think I have recommended him to?
Going back to the phrase getting a real job, what does this mean for the self-employed person? The business owner must have the confidence to continue with the business. The self-belief that what they are doing is worthwhile and that the short-sightedness of the other person does not affect their confidence, plans, or business. All this shows there is that lack of self-belief in the other person. A self-employed person has the confidence to believe in their talents and skills and provide the service better than anyone else.
Small businesses work within the sphere of other small businesses. myPA provides admin support to a web developer who provides a website for an IFA who gives financial advice to individuals. It is also interesting to note that the small business, self-employed, and micro-business sectors didn’t get affected by the recession in 2008. We continued to offer the services, turn up to networking meetings, and help our clients survive the downturn in business. The significant effect of the recession for small businesses was a lack of cash flow, generally because of larger companies not paying their bills on time or instigating 90- or 120-day payment terms.
Why was there a cash flow problem?
Payment terms are agreed at the outset of a contract. However, during the recession the owners of small business called their larger clients for payments, and an employee said payment would be delayed. (I lost two clients because of this cruel practice. Their business was a success but needed the cash to pay staff. The owners couldn’t live on cash reserves for two to three months at a time. This also brings in the story of One, which will be another video in this series). But if you told that employee their salary would be delayed by 90 or 120 days, it would be a very different story. I know small businesses that now refuse to work with larger organisations.
An example of now working with large businesses
There is an unwritten understanding that small and micro businesses rarely work for the government because of the payment return. It is far too challenging to get a contract. The number of hoops, reams of paperwork and legal requirements placed on the small business makes it an unprofitable venture even to start.
I know of a small business invited to tender for a government contract. They hired someone to help with the tender paperwork. They increased internal security and upgraded IT systems at their request. Three months of attending meetings, redoing forms, and providing evidence of their service. At the last hurdle, the contract was awarded to an existing supplier. This small business lost thousands of pounds and will never work with or apply for a government contract again.
Are small businesses worth it? Just try Getting a Real Job?
Small businesses are adaptable to changes in the market. They are flexible and offer a quality of services to their clients. They are approachable, and you will always deal with a human being. Just look at LinkedIn, search for small businesses. Look at the likes of BNI, who cater for small businesses and finally think about all those lorry drivers, builders and electricians and plumbers. Most of them are self-employed. We make the world go around. Being self-employed brings ingenuity, innovation, and creativity. So why would you think about getting a real job? We already have one.
I remember I started answering the telephone for one of my clients and the phone provider (I think it was BT) gave my clients 0845 number to Tesco. My client had this number for three or four years. Someone at BT had made an error. We got calls from Tesco’s customers as they held a fruit yoghurt competition. We had a nervous few days trying to sort out this issue. BT and Tesco telling us that the small business would have to get another number and take the hit on reprinting their business cards, headed paper, and other marketing material. All my client’s hard work over the previous three years marketing the business. The cost of that would be in the thousands.
Small businesses work hard for what they do. The thought of getting a real job, or I should say a salaried position with an employer, would never cross their minds or mine. I have a real job and love what I do. My boss can be demanding, but you know what, I know her very well and can ask her anything.
What I learnt about writing my memoirs for getting a real job
Asking a self-employed person when they are getting a real job is an insult to the hard work, dedication and time a self-employed person has made to make their business viable
Self-employed small businesses need the support of those around them
Small businesses make up most business in the UK
Writing My Memoirs – 31 Day Challenge – Video and Blog Posts
Interruptions when working from home are very different from those the workplace. Interruptions are distracting, costly and annoying. On average, one person interrupting you can take 10 minutes away from your productivity. It may seem that the interruption is only for a few minutes, but by the time you have stopped what you are doing. Interrupted your thought process to understand what it is the person is asking of you. Answer the question correctly. Then go back and pick up your thought process takes about 10 minutes.
Not to mention your attitude to the interruptions. Suppose you are deeply engrossed in your task. In that case, it is difficult to tell your facial features to be pleasant, smile and be accommodating. (Resting Bitch face comes to mind). Then you must explain to the person who has interrupted you-you are deeply engrossed in a task. Once you have been interrupted, your mind then focuses some of its attention on the question or purpose of the original interruption. Now you have two trains of thought, your task at hand and that of the question asked of you. It’s called attention residue.
In an office, there are strategies you can put in place.
Tell people you are unavailable during certain times of the day
Only open emails at set times
Create boundaries you and your colleagues’ respect
Turn your phone off
Interruptions working from Home.
All brilliant strategies, but what if you are working from Home? How do you deal with those interruptions? With Covid-19, many of us have changed our working style and moved our office to the dining room table or the spare room. We have had to manage family commitments and our bosses’ constant demands.
The strategies we had for interruptions in the office are no longer valid at Home. It is difficult to tell your loved ones you are unavailable for a chat from 9 am to 5 pm. They can physically see you. Not only that, but they can also reach out their hands and touch you. To them, you are there, in person. As a result, able to be spoken to and answer the question. Interrupted, able to answer just one question, for example, what are we having for dinner. To your family and friends, being in lockdown means you are constantly accessible.
Interruptions when working from home
How have I coped with these interruptions? Not well to start with, a plan was needed to deal with interruptions. My home office, entitled ‘The Studio’, is the converted garage. Suddenly I am available with my family and friends who want to speak to me. When in the office, they respected my time and rarely called or popped in. When working from home, suddenly, the rules seem to have been thrown out of the window. So new rules had to be set in place.
The new rules are:
Work starts at 9 am, and I will finish at 5-6 pm depending on the tasks at hand
I will take a break in the morning at 10.30 for 15 minutes and will talk and discuss whatever is needed
Lunch will be at 1 pm for 30 minutes, and again, I will chat and discuss whatever.
I will take a break at 3.15 for 15 minutes
Work will finish at 5-6 pm depending on the task
What I learnt about writing my memoirs
I needed to set new boundaries when working from home
Just because someone is at home, it doesn’t mean they are not working
Another person’s break is not my break
Writing My Memoirs – 31 Day Challenge – Video and Blog Posts
An Entrepreneur’s Mindset is generally different to that of an employed person. Entrepreneurs usually have a distinct attitude and set of priorities compared to those people in paid jobs. (When I use the term entrepreneurs, I am talking about those people who set up a business from nothing). We look at things uniquely and wherever we are, every decision, social occasion we talk about, consider or plan something for our business. If we need a job done, it will never occur to us to ask ‘How do I this’. Our first concern is the outcome that I want to achieve. From there, we will then decide on how to get the task completed.
Our minds are all over the place. How do we earn more income, what products can we sell, who will buy this service? How can we leverage our current services? It is a different outlook, which is not right or wrong, it’s just different.
My personal hell would be a day of shopping for makeup and clothes. It just has no interest for me. I am not really interested in my socks are matching as long as my feet are warm or if my bag is a different colour to my shoes as long as it holds everything I need it to hold. It just isn’t one of my priorities. Now, if it is one of my author’s books, that is a very different story. The font has to be spot on, the formatting and front cover need to tell a story in its own right and the author has to be 100% happy with the outcome, I am slightly anal about that, because to me, it’s a product that I have produced and I want my clients to treasure that product.
Take, for example, walking home yesterday. Just as I was leaving the office, the skies opened with torrential rain. It just wouldn’t stop. I didn’t have a coat with me as the weather forecast said it would be sunshine all day. So, there I am standing the lobby looking at the rain falling and pondering, how am I going to get home. I could, for example:-
Walk and get soaked
Call a taxi
Get a lift from someone
Wait until the rain stops
Options are available if you think hard
There would be more options if I set my mind to it, Critical Thinking (a very good business term for evaluating all options). I think situations through and make my decisions quickly and run with the consequences. It has served me well and I learn quickly from mistakes, especially as I am a firm believer that mistakes are more valuable than getting things right all the time.
Back to my story. I wanted to walk home as the dog also needed a walk, and the rain would wash her coat, which is a bonus. So, how to get home without getting too wet. Now, I considered my solutions was rather ingenious considering my limited options. Get a plastic bag, cut a hole in the top and arms and like magic an instant raincoat. So, there I am with my pink plastic bin liner, cutting in a hole for the neck and arms to hear someone from behind me question what I was doing.
I explained what I was doing and why. She couldn’t understand why I didn’t just wait for the rain to stop, as she was doing. Her car was 10 feet from the front door. It never occurred to her to walk to her car in the rain and get wet and that a makeshift plastic bag could act as a temporary raincoat for a few minutes. What upset her more was the fact that the pink plastic bag was a Biffa bag, and a trade Biffa bag at that.
Appearances can matter
I have been a member of BNI (a networking group for small businesses and entrepreneurs) for many years. Every so often a member would be asked to give a 10-minute presentation on what their business is and what referrals they are looking for. On one occasion, I took several tools that I use in my business and carried them in an orange plastic bag. As I stood in front of the 35 other members explaining my business and what each tool represented, I felt the presentation went well. It was only after my presentation two women in the group came to me and said they loved the presentation but couldn’t get past the orange plastic bag. They suggested that next time I should use a company branded bag.
It concerned me for a while and what was interesting was that both ladies worked for an entrepreneur, which differs from being an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur’s mindset will equate every penny spent to hours worked or jobs completed. Why would they focus on something as immaterial as the orange plastic bag and not the contents of the bag and what I was saying? To them, the importance of someone’s outward appearance was just as important as what is being said or sold. I have taken this on board and retired my orange plastic bag. However, I am still in business and the two ladies are not working for other companies that provide branded products.
Learning Points about an Entrepreneur’s Mindset
There are many ways to get a task completed, focus on the outcome first and work backwards
Don’t be guided by someone who has never had the courage that you have shown by setting up your business
Thinking outside the box is a prerequisite for an entrepreneur, so stand up and yell, “I will do this, and I will do it my way with the results I want to achieve.”
Writing My Memoirs – 31 Day Challenge – Video and Blog Posts