A journey from redundancy to running your own business and being your own boss.
It was 2014. I had just got married in a no-expense-spared wedding and honeymoon. We had a gargantuan mortgage to pay each month on our apartment in central London, but we knew we could afford it as we’d both worked hard to rise the career ranks and earn a pretty good monthly wage.
Investing in our mortgage and apartment was to be our ‘get out of London’ escape plan, as part of our five-year plan to move to the coast and get a dog. But that was all far away in the future.
Then, one Friday in August 2014 …
An important looking white envelope slides across the meeting room table towards me. “I’m afraid I need to share some news with you Andy. As you know we’ve been making a number of structural changes and cost savings within the business and your role has been identified as one for possible redundancy.”
Like a moment in a movie the room felt like it spun 360 around me and I felt a sudden compulsion to get out of the room immediately. I listened briefly then made my excuses and left the room. When I walked into work that morning, I had no idea that it would be my last day of work for this organisation. I immediately requested leave, to take stock and consider things as the consultation process unfolded.
As part of the consultation process, I was asked to put forward a justification to try and retain my role and avoid redundancy. In my mind, this was essentially asking me to beg to keep my job with a new management team that I felt had already made their decisions. I felt that if ‘they’ (the business) couldn’t see the value in my work, then my work would be better placed elsewhere. So, at my first official consultation meeting I asked for the process to be fast-tracked and the redundancy package to be presented to me. A swift, sharp conclusion for all concerned and a little pot of money in the bank for me to consider my future with.
With time away from the daily grind of the 9 to 5, I had enforced time to think about things. Did I really want another job in London, commuting on a packed tube train, paying more mortgage payments and longing for the day when I could sell up, move out and get a nice garden and a dog? Together my partner and I decided it was time to go for it. Time to sell up and take a considered leap of faith into a new life and home on the UK south coast. This is, of course the condensed story that took almost 12 months to unfold whilst we debated and eventually put our apartment on the market and waited for a buyer.
In July 2015, almost a year later, we found ourselves waving off the removals van and driving out of London with excitement and trepidation and a new short term rental home as our only commitment in life
The next few months were exciting on a personal front as we found our new home and purchased it. We got a Miniature Schnauzer Puppy and started to make many new friends and adjust to our new coastal/village life. The picture in our heads was starting to become a reality. But the ominous presence of my career (or lack of it) loomed large. I still needed to work, but I wanted a better work/life balance, and I wanted a job that would fulfil me (at least) as much as my other roles had done. The redundancy had really knocked my professional confidence and the clock was ticking on my remaining redundancy finances.
After many months of searching the job sites and half-heartedly applying for a few jobs that I instinctively knew I wouldn’t enjoy, I saw a job ad for a marketing role at our lovely local gastro pub. They were looking for a marketing graduate type role. When I chatted to the General Manager, he said “You are far too over-qualified for what we are seeking!” but he had the vision to change the role slightly and we agreed to find a way to make it work as a semi-consultancy based role, just a few hours each week. This gave me the opportunity to apply my marketing skills in a whole new industry and regain my confidence.
The remaining free days each week enabled me to build my own brand and business vision, to pick up some additional client work as my understanding of the marketing and branding needs locally became clearer.
Six years on, I have grown a marketing and brand consultancy business that has built more that 30 business websites and provided marketing and social media support for even more small businesses. And I can say, probably for the first time in my career, that I am truly happy and really enjoy helping all my clients grow their businesses, as mine grows alongside them.
So what have these past few years taught me on the journey from employment, through redundancy and on to being a business owner myself?
· Sometimes bad news and difficult times are the kick up the bottom that you need to make the change you’ve been avoiding. Try and find the positive aspects and embrace the change to turn it into an opportunity.
· You can’t do it all or know it all when you start a business, find and work with people and suppliers who are experts at what they do, whether it is a great accountant, a marketing person, a web or graphic designer or even chat to other small business owners for advice and guidance, you’ll be surprised how happy most will be to help you.
· You’re going to spend a lot of time at your desk, invest in a good chair and a decent screen for your laptop or you’ll be getting neck and back ache … trust me I learnt this the painful way!
· There’s no time like the present … If you have a small business idea or dream, get on with it. OK, I had the financial backing of my redundancy money and partner to help me through the first few lean years, but even if you start your business in your free time and let it grow from there you are heading in the right direction.
· Be fearless, you are not going to know how to do it until you do it, and then, if like me, you’ll wish you took the leap of faith much sooner. Go for it!
Good luck and feel free to drop me a line if you need any help with your marketing, branding, web design or just want to chat through your small biz idea.
My next Small Biz Blog will be looking at the top 10 mistakes that small businesses make with their branding and marketing, so watch this space for that one in the next few weeks.
Thanks for reading, see you next time!