Getting a Real Job
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