Entrepreneurialism isn’t what it’s cracked up to be

It’s a Monday morning. Two people out of the four person sales team are off. One of them, the newest of the sales team has been getting drunk all weekend and has rung in to lie about flu. I know she’s lying because she linked to me on Facebook when she joined and I can see the pictures of her having a boozy lunch the day before.  The other one is in such dire financial shape due to a casino problem that he can’t make it to work as he can’t afford the rail fare and can in wire him a small salary advance to tide him over.

Only I can’t wire anyone anything because we’re up to our limit on our overdraft due to our biggest customer promising to pay his massive outstanding bill on Friday and failing to live up to the promise. Our other biggest revenue source, a big retailer, have ‘reviewed their terms’ from 45 – 60 days. Yes, that’s right, from the point where someone comes into their massive chain of shops and buys something, depositing the actual cash in their till it takes a full 60 days for that money to make it’s way to me. For the ‘privilege’ of them selling our stuff, we have to wait two months to benefit – and this is before their 65% cut.

My investor is on the line asking for his monthly report.  What can I say? It’s shit.

The finance lady has threatened to quit again.  I actually don’t care because I prefer to handle the money myself, it keeps me close to the business, but the investors wanted me to hire her. Fair enough, but she’s an idiot. It seems anyone can get an accountancy degree.

There’s an email from a solicitor representing a fired employee threatening to take us to an industrial tribunal. I happen to know he was running his own business on the side. He also sold cocaine to the other staff. I fired him for going through someone’s drawer. Industrial tribunals are totally stacked against the employer and we’re going to have to pay it off before it gets there because if he won we’re ruined. Even the settlement could ruin us. We’re terrified of tribunals. You can actually take out insurance to cover yourself from tribunals it’s so damaging.

In reception an 18 year old in a black shirt and trousers who is working for the government has popped by to discuss our late tax payment. He’s not far off minimum wage. Knows nothing about tax.  He’s given a number on a sheet of paper to collect and get’s a bonus if he gets it. He’ll take any form of payment, any credit card, just so long as it’s settled.  They threaten to remove your furniture if you don’t pay but the real threat is your staff seeing a black suited government official knocking on the door.  That’s the killer. You pay them some money on the company credit card to go away.  The government are by far the most frightening opponent in the ebb and flow of business.

Most clients pay late.  Everyone wants their money quickly, but we’re always paid way beyond our credit terms. We have a firm we use to sue people who don’t pay and I sometimes have to go to court myself to give evidence even though I know that if we win it still means we’re unlikely to get paid. I once drove 200 miles to a court case and the Judge allowed the debtor to pay me back over 15 years in monthly instalments. He paid the first one and then stopped paying.

My wife’s about to give birth for the second time.  The first time, two years earlier, I almost missed it as I was trying to close of a round of funding.

I own 30% of the business.  It’s so indebted to the investors who have first dibs on any cash that I’ll never see any meaningful money. Not that anyone would be daft enough to buy us, so the whole idea of a quick exit was a complete myth.

I’ve not paid myself from last month yet. I always get paid last. I’m using my maxed out personal credit card to keep the printer in ink as we need it for proof reading.

I can think of three business ideas that would work better than this one. Which totally sucks and we should never have launched it.

That’s entrepreneurialism for 90% of people who take the leap.  What I didn’t realise was that all I had done by leaving paid employment in a good company was to create a new job for myself in a worse one. I had less money, more stress, no holidays and a rapidly diminishing lifespan due to long work hours, crap diet and a habit of popping into the bar next to the office for a quick one after work to ‘decompress’. And I never got to see my kids.

These days I’m not after big ideas. I’m after money.  You can still have fun, try new things.  But it’s all about having multiple revenue streams. It’s about being light of foot, using the tools that didn’t even exist 5 years ago to put yourself centre stage of your life and control it. Own it.  No investors, no staff, no industrial tribunals.

 

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