My friend Mrs Pao has like myself been looking at options for future employment. One option we have both independently been cogitating on for a while has been the one of working for oneself. We both have lots of ideas of an entrepreneurial nature. I actually have a book of ideas in which I write pros and cons, things I would need to get the idea off the ground. However, we thought we needed a bit more information on how to set about realising our individual ideas before wandering down that particular path and so, just before Christmas, we attended a seminar on starting one's own business entitled - funnily enough - 'Starting a business - is it for you?'
Not knowing what to expect we turned up with our pens and notebooks at one of those corporate chain hotels that exist on ring roads outside large towns and don't seem to be on any public transport route. As neither Mrs Pao nor I drive Mr Pao kindly drove us; he then sat patiently in reception reading a book for three hours until we had finished (I am thinking of having him cloned).
We grabbed a warm beverage and a few packets of corporate biscuits (to sustain us) and nervously took ourselves in to sit amongst the other would be entrepreneurs. We sat down in the middle of a semi-circle of about fifteen people all of whom seemed to have folders containing charts, plans and expense sheets which was a little unnerving as we just had some ideas that neither of us had seemed to have written down anywhere. Anyway as the dreaded ice-breaker session hurried towards me it seemed that everyone but me had actually put some sort business in motion or at the very least had a firm and well thought out idea of exactly what it was they wanted to do. As all I had was a glimmer of an idea that I had discussed with my Jobcentre advisor, and that's all, I was getting exceedingly nervous about opening my mouth for fear of looking as stupid as I was feeling. As my turn approached I sat there saying to myself (mercifully not out loud this time) 'don't mention cooking, don't say I can cook, just say the idea and shut up, don't mention the cooking'. This, you may recall, is what I usually say when finding myself in these situations. And I didn't. I said in a wobbly, little voice 'well, it's just an idea at the moment, but well I was thinking about setting up some sort of directory um listing peoples skills that anyone who needed someone for a job, er like a gardener or a bookkeeper could consult and find it all in one place. Like a local version of the website people per hour. The information would all be in one place and I haven't seen anything like that around'. I was soon put in my place by the forceful man who was starting his own cleaning business because he had made several hundred thousand pounds for his employer last year and didn't see why he shouldn't be making that amount for himself. A very valid point, but as he was rather obnoxious I wouldn't have him doing any of my cleaning, always supposing I could afford to have someone do it in the first place. He pointed out that there were several of those sorts of things around already. Ok. Back to the drawing board for me then.
It was an odd assortment of people sitting in that room. A man who had been invalided out of the forces because of an injury was setting up a business enabling people with difficult backgrounds to get into the workforce. A woman who appeared to be on her third business venture - it was obviously for her so one wonders why she was there. There was another woman who seemed set on world domination of the Internet by any means she could. A lovely woman who worked with people with Alzheimer's was so upset at the funding cuts that she wanted to set up a business whereby people who had this awful condition would be able to get the latest help in coping with it. Someone was setting up as a wedding planner. Most people had something on the go, including the man who was already selling sex toys on line. You wouldn't really expect someone in that line of business to blush an alarming shade of beetroot as they told you about it would you, but he did.
To find out if starting your own business was for us we had to do a quiz. If your score was between 0 and 15 it was definitely for you, between 16 and 30 not really although you would probably be good in a partnership, over 30 definitely not for you. Mrs Pao scored 12, I scored 26. I have always known that I am not a leader. I want to be one but I'm just not but, I am a very good supporting number 2. I am good at sharing and so would be good in a partnership. All I need now is someone to go into partnership with me as I have other ideas in my book.
Mrs Pao is well on her way to becoming an entrepenuerial legend. She has set up her web business and already has clients, she makes jewellery and sells it on line and at craft and wedding fares, see her website fishingforpearls, she makes cakes for people, she knits and she makes jams. And I feel somewhat diminished.
Still, in the spirit of my new, what's the word, oh yes optimistic personality, I am sure there is something out there that I am good at. I just have to find it that's all. So, back to the drawing board and watch this space. I might not be an entrepenuer but there is, out there, something I can be. This is my quest.