When I was at school, the career’s officer came in to talk about what we wanted to be when we were older.
My friends were busy chatting through options to be a vet, doctor or school teacher, whilst the man nodded away happily at their choices. It came to my turn ” A model or TV presenter” I said.
I had it etched in my lockable diary. I really wanted to be either a model or a TV presenter, have a thatched roof cottage and drive a Vauxhall Nova! (I know, don’t judge me!)
He laughed and told me to think of a real job.
After that, I never wanted to just settle for a job I was expected to do, I wanted only to do things I liked to do. I went on to study Psychology because the mind fascinated me, English Language because the power of words amazed me, and PE and Anatomy because the inner workings of the body hooked me right in.
Everyone told me I should become a PE and English teacher with my study choices and I was a natural teacher, but do you know what I did? I made a curve ball pass and after finishing my studies, I went to follow my first love; media. I wangled my way into the a job at the BBC as a personal assistant to some rather top dogs, and from that into production and guess what, I did end up working in TV and radio, doing guest TV presenter stints on small production company shows.
But I never imagined I would be a fireman. My hat? An iconic red and yellow helmet to protect me as I put out fires. Because that’s what I’ve been doing a lot of since I started running my own business, The Pilates Pod.
When you become CEO of your own company, you think of Lord Sugar and his board meetings. That you might have a team of people responsible for great things, coming to you with their ideas that are put into action and working brilliantly, and you get to steer the helm in your fabulous power suit, perfectly coiffured hair and fresh mani, all whilst drinking your almond milk flat white that your PA has brought you. But it’s not. It’s not even close. You probably don’t even get out for the coffee break, you probably rarely even get time to wash your hair let alone coiffure it (do people even say that anymore?!) You’re the last home, the first in and no matter what you do, it never feels like it’s enough. You always seem to be fighting fires with every day a new problem, a new fire, gets presented to you, stopping you from doing the thing you were going to do.
The truth is, as a small business owner, you are the last in the pile! You have to wear so many hats that you don’t actually know what hat you, the person, like wearing, or if you even like hats! You have to be the PA, the book-keeper, the marketing exec, the sales manager, business consultant, branding guru, digital IT expert, analyst, cleaner, tea boy, creative director, and general dogs body aka Head of Everything!
When your team are enjoying a nice bank holiday weekend off work and with their families, you’re probably catching up on the latest compliancy and regulation obligations. When the last client leaves after a satisfied late visit to your company and you finally close the doors, you’ve then got to clean up, empty the bins, collect the washing, sort out the staff holiday requests and catch up on emails that you’ve been too busy for all day. When you hit the hay at 1am, you can’t sleep thinking about the website copy you haven’t yet done, the ideas racing around your brain and your to-do list that’s getting longer because you are always busy with fighting fires!
So you put the light on and read. It’s Sunday tomorrow and your day off. You open the business guru book you’ve seen on all the top 10 lists. This one is the one that will give you all the answers how to structure your day, to get on with achieving great things with more ease and clarity, moving your business into the next stratosphere…
But the phone bleeps. Someone is sick, they can’t come in. Where’s that fireman’s hat? It’s time to fight some fires.
You get the childcare sorted and get to work, and an email awaits you from the accountant needing numbers for the VAT bill, TODAY. Where’s that fireman’s hat?
You finish your day and are about to lock up when the key snaps in the lock. Where’s that fireman’s hat?
You’re late to pick up the kids, the traffic is a nightmare and your phone lights up with an email from someone saying what you are doing isn’t good enough. Sigh.
Home at last and you take off your hat… what is going on with your hat hair?!!!! That remind’s me, book my hairdressers appointment! Your kids are desperate to see you, having spent another day at last minute unplanned nanny daycare (thanks mum!) You long for peace and quiet but it’s time for dinner, the washing, sorting school homework and then off to your son’s football practice.
A quick bedtime story and snuggle puts the world to rights, and you remind yourself that most small business owners aren’t in it for the millions of pounds (I wish!) but to put food on the table for your family and to keep your kids warm at night in their beds. The phone bleeps again, and it’s a Google review by a client saying how they appreciate what you do and how wonderful they feel by your service. It makes you cry. You’re exhausted, it’s been a long day, again, fighting fires.
But that little gratitude of thanks, appreciation and recognition makes you smile and want to do it all again tomorrow!
So here’s a big “hang in there, you’re doing great” to all small business owners. The last 12 months of lockdown have seen us fighting the biggest fires of our lives every single day, juggling home schooling, virtual working and shielding, whilst trying to stay afloat, look after our teams and provide a great service still.
Whilst others are looking forward to the world opening up and holiday plans, we’re getting ready to open up and getting ready to work even harder in our new hybrid online / in person world. We’re back to fighting some new fires!
We feel ya! Big hi-five to my local SME friends: Rubard, Market Theatre, Wild Minds, Chia, Los Reyes, Fabios, Hitchin Coffee Lab, Vintage Bay, Chilli B’s, Elite Sport, Riot Lounge, Groundworks, Farleys, Amore, The Little Deli, Social Pip, The White Wardrobe, Hermitage Rd Restaurant, Wholesome Weigh
PS. Nice hat by the way!
Read more about how our little SME was selected by The Guardian!