Who am I, exactly? What the hell am I doing?
Nope, I’m not in the grip of some mind-bending existential crisis, no time for that, but I’ve been doing something of an entrepreneurial stocktake these last few weeks. And the bottom line is this. I’ve been kidding myself on, big style. Aye, it makes uncomfortable writing, but it’s true – I’ve been labouring under some significant small business self-delusion.
See, I’ve been found guilty of gilding the entrepreneurial lily. I’m not cooking the books or doing dodgy dealing, so don’t go rushing to cancel your contract, dear client. It’s just that my personal definition of what “business” actually means is a bit off the mark. But it took two salutary SME lessons to make me wake up and smell the coffee (of commerce).
First up was Douglas Fraser, BBC Scotland’s economics guru and all round Good Guy. Douglas, god love him, inadvertently brought me back down to entrepreneurial earth with a bump with his excellent online piece about Michelle Mone’s suitability as the UK Government’s new business tsar. But it wasn’t questions about her personal ambitions and profiling-raising exploits which gave me food for thought (that, dear reader, is a whole other story). Nah, the “bloody hell” moment came with the bit which said that with a turnover of only £10 million at its peak, Michelle’s bra’n’pants outfit Ultimo wouldn’t even scrape a place in the top 100 Scottish business charts. It wouldn’t even get close. Sheesh, where the hell does that place small fry like me then? Barely registering a beep on the enterprise ECG, that’s where.
Not that I have any great ambitions to match Ms Mone’s commercial cashflow, let alone that of the really big boys and girls of business, but if Michelle’s a minnow, then that makes me and my kind nothing more than single-celled amoeba in enterprise. Ow! That’s a sore yin.
This business malarkey sure dishes out dents to entrepreneurial egos, eh? But I’m not one for lengthy mope-fests, I’m far too busy making my first million for that. And at least I’m quite good at getting up off my arse after a spot of business bumpsadaisy. But just as I was dusting myself off, down onto my arse I was knocked once again. And it’s all because of something small said, almost in passing, by my new business mentor at our very first meeting. I confess, oh great mentor-in-chief, new oracle on the block and all-round guiding light – it was a bit ego-busting to be told to my face that Word Up is good and yes, it’s going great guns, but it’s “not really a business”. Ow! That hurt too.
It hurt, but of course, it was true. What’s more, the truth-telling came at a time when I’ve been wrestling with difficult decisions about growing my business or sticking with solo flying. What’s more, the hard truth was tempered with plenty of positive noise, cheerleading, and some absolutely sterling advice.
Bizarrely, being bumped around a bit has made me feel even more certain about my sole trader status. There’s a lot to like about being a lone wolf. Okay, I’ll never be big in business, but it’s still a bloody brilliant way to make a living. So thanks for the pain, fellas. I feel much better now.