The other week BooHoo (which I have discovered has some sort of warehouse next to my building) had a £1 sale. Customers were fighting for parking on the restricted street access, trying to bribe us with sob stories and cash so they could grab a couple of hours in our business car park. I found it ironic. But I’ve already realised I can never win against these people. And why would I want to anyway?
But it’s making me think even harder about my business and whether it has any place at all in our current economy. And if the likes of Ocado, sheltered by the success of its parent companies Waitrose and John Lewis, can take 15 years to profit, is it time to give up the game?
The question is, do I still want to be here, trying to make ends meet when I’m hitting retirement because unfortunately that is a potential reality. Already my retirement provision is being nibbled at by my business. And I don’t have anyone propping me up if I have a bad month. I have to pay my bills.
Other people’s expectations of you when you launch your own business adds a lot of unnecessary pressure. If you’re sharing bills you are still expected to provide. People look at the hours you work with a thinly veiled hint of jealousy. Family expect success. And the only conversations you end up having with them are how well or how badly you are doing.
At some point the monotonous life of the office, with its much lamented regular paychecks, begins to look quite appealing – at least for the short term. The layman might think three years is quite enough to move into profit margins. But it can take a lot longer than that to turn real profit. And at any moment, it can change. Recent news about the UK’s flailing steel industry thanks to cheap imports only serves to remind me that our Government is all about profit, not nurture.
The UK has a record number of home grown businesses, the majority of which could be considered little more than hobby businesses due to the lack of money they make. If you are spending more than you earn are you running a business? But not to worry. It looks so entrepreneurial on the statistics and you don’t count as unemployed even if working tax credits are helping you out.
I don’t need a lot to get by financially. But when things are tough, is the stop gap of returning to work even a realistic option? Running a business is apparently as damaging to your chances of getting a job as being a return to work parent. You are viewed with suspicion. You might leave again. Can you cope with being told what to do. Do you have other commitments?
And then I read articles like this and I stop thinking the bad thoughts and remember I am not the only one. You shouldn’t believe everything you read. Behind many success stories there are a whole bunch of things that favour these people above all others. It doesn’t make them successful. They just have a bigger safety net.
There are of course the people who work from the ground up – they are the Richard Branson’s of this world. And they can take a lifetime to cultivate. I don’t have hugely high aspirations. I want to make enough money doing what I love whilst still being in control. I’ll take it from there. But even that seems like a very hard sell these days and I know that ultimately I may never succeed.
My life is littered with the shattered hopes and dreams of dozens of hopeful fashion graduates who all now lead very different lives where their only contact with the industry is shopping on a Saturday morning on the high street. And a big part of me doesn’t blame them for that.