Exploring what your “Business of Me”can be
Can self-employment offer some senior people more, rather than less, employment security than a permanent role with a large organisation in these challenging times? This is a hard question to answer. Some forms of self-employment are more “secure” than others. But with the right attention to risk, work-life balance and simply getting much more broad reward from work, some consideration of self-employment is something we encourage. Buying a business, or starting up a new one, can be immensely interesting and fulfilling. If, though, security of income is a real need and an appetite for risk is modest, then this may not be the best path. It is a personal decision, but one we support with extensive materials and experience.
Many large organisations are compromising their employer brands by decisions they have been making on outsourcing, contracting, redundancy and separation – and most particularly in the way difficult decisions in these areas are handled. It seems to me that there has been something of a shift to much more impersonal, or transactional, cultures.
Senior people are being actively affected by these decisions, and a number are making their own decisions to resign from such organisations and perhaps take a break from returning to regular organisational employment. Some senior people are even looking to capitalise on opportunities for more nimble providers of services and products than what their former employer organisations have had.
We are seeing executives in transition actively exploring self-employment while concurrently pursuing permanent roles aligned to their skills, experience and interest. As a lot of evaluation can be done cost-effectively before any significant commitment to one or more forms of self-employment, we encourage this.
Forms of self-employment being explored by those with whom we work often start with freelance consulting and contract executive roles, as well as being a non-executive director. Exploration has then, in some cases, extended to starting a new business, investing in an existing business or franchise and even being a ‘business angel’. A number of people with whom we worked in the past now have a ‘career portfolio’ of two or more of the above forms of work in their personalised ‘Business of Me’.
Success in self-employment is often associated with lots of energy and drive, mastery of new fields to complement signature skills, learning from mistakes and being competitive. We would add that being able to cope with stress, not taking rejection personally and being able to both delegate and work without relying on approval from others can also help.
We have also observed a number of executives in transition become more attractive to traditional employers by virtue of their self-employment efforts. The attraction has been driven by factors such as energy levels, market knowledge, ideas on solutions that meet market needs and commercial nous that have been evident to the traditional employer.
We would never encourage anyone with whom we are working to ‘bet the farm’ on a self-employment concept. But jumping from an unsatisfactory senior role in an organisation to a similarly unsatisfactory senior role elsewhere is not a great outcome either. Exploration of self-employment, in testing a number of issues, may end up laying the foundations for an eventual pursuit of self-employment, but after another employed role or two.
Your ‘Business of Me’ – pursued through self-employment – can be a means of better capturing your skills, experience and interest in addressing specific needs in the marketplace. In doing so, the prospects of employment security, fulfillment and generation of a suitable return on your monetary investment and personal efforts can be enhanced.
Matt Gaffney is a Director of Macfarlan Lane. Matt’s own ‘Business of Me’ not only involves the provision of specialised career transition support at Macfarlan Lane, but business planning and executive coaching work through a practice called Enindico that he established in 2010.