Do you remember that funny Monty Python joke – What have the Romans ever done for us?Apart from the aqueduct, sanitation, roads, irrigation, medicine, education, wine, public baths, public order and safety, fresh water, public health and peace?
And today I had a similar thought about running my own business. What has it ever done for me? What have I gained and who have I become in thirty nine and a half years of self-employment?
I’ve become an entrepreneur. Truth is, I was always one. But I didn’t recognise or acknowledge that for about half of those years. I now feel confident, empowered, unique and yet still, at times, all too human and fallible.
I have had a career which has satisfied my ambitions and quenched my drive.
I’ve met hundreds of interesting people, formed friendships and relationships with the best of them, and learned how to achieve rapport with almost anyone who’s willing. My skills with other people have been enhanced a thousandfold.
I’ve enjoyed autonomy, and a nice life of freedom to do what I like when I like. Preferably off peak. If I want to watch telly in the daytime and work in the evenings, both of which I do regularly, then I can. I’m da boss.
I’ve been able to reinvent myself, over and over. I’ve been an accountant, a travel agent, run a catering business and a cleaning one, I’ve sold businesses I’ve started and I’ve franchised others. And I’m not finished yet. I hope my coaching biz will go on and on and I intend too to do more writing. How many careers can one woman have, I wonder? It isn’t half fun finding out.
It has toughened me up, and yet not taken away my wonder or innocence. In fact, over the last twenty five years, I’ve just got more and more woo woo every day. A commercial woo, that’s me. Head in the clouds. Feet on the ground.
I am now confident in my own abilities and decisions. I’ve acquired endless amounts of pertinent knowledge, making me an expert, and I’ve been around almost every block – at least once.
I have developed an inquiring mind and a thirst for knowledge, neither of which made themselves known to me as a schoolgirl.
I’ve had the opportunity to teach people things, I’m thinking here of employees who now have skills they use to earn their own livings in their own small businesses too.
I’ve been able to help people (my favourite thing of all, it must be said), specifically clients, and specifically making them feel better – more up for it themselves, more capable, more confident, more equal to the task.
I’ve discovered my creativity, something I never acknowledged or even was aware of in my early life. What’s more creative than bringing something into the world – ideas, books, businesses – which weren’t there before, and wouldn’t have been if it weren’t for me?
I know my strengths and weaknesses and how to play to one and either ignore the other or, better still, compensate with partners and associates and colleagues and staff.
I’ve built businesses and sold them on to other people who, in turn, have traded them for their own profit for two decades. Twenty years. Imagine that! I occasionally treat myself with a little drive down that street to see that all still going on all these years later.
I have been able to earn a living without limit. You simply cannot do that in 98% of jobs.
And it’s an ongoing personal development journey of deep value to me, ongoing indefinitely it would appear.
But apart from all of that… what has running my own business ever done for me?
If some of those are qualities you’d like to acquire, I hope you’ll let me help.
I thought you’d enjoy this photo of me from c1983. Yesterday’s thrusting young career woman, keen as mustard, starting out pre-computers you’ll notice, relying there on an adding machine, pencil and paper and a telephone with wires coming out of it… oh, and a very big stapler for stapling very big and important documents which we used to print out, put in envelopes, stick a stamp on and entrust to the Post Office. Dearie me.
Apart from being younger, I wouldn’t go back to office life in the Eighties for all the world. And don’t start me on the Seventies where, during what was inaccurately known as the three day week, we typed on manual typewriters by candlelight. You couldn’t make this up. And I don’t have to because, as that comedian from Wales used to say, I was there.
So there’s another one for the list, running my own business has taken me out of the dark ages.