Skip To The Main Content

Notes from a small business: Yes, you have tough days. But you are living the dream


By Guy Browning, of design agency Smokehouse

Let’s say you’re a florist. It’s your business, but you’re having a day off because you’re going to a wedding. Of course, the first thing you look at is the flowers, to see if you could have done a better job and what margin you would have made. 

Pretty soon, among the bridesmaids and confetti, you forget about your job – until the reception, that is, when you sit next to somebody you’ve never met before. Naturally, the third question they ask, after “what’s your name?” and “how do you know Jackie?” is “what do you do for a living?”.

You tell them you’re a florist and they make the standard jokes about the wedding flowers, and then they tell you how wonderful it must be to run your own business and how they’ve always dreamed of setting up an independent bookshop in Pitlochry. After they’ve made you feel that you’re living the dream, you eventually get around to asking them what they do.  

They tell you that they work for a big company and they’re involved in some kind of data processing analysis. This part of the conversation doesn’t take so long, as you’ve no idea what they’re talking about. And they don’t either.  

The conversation bimbles on, the speeches are done, you dance like a jellyfish and then the wedding is over and you forget all about your neighbour. But not quite. Because the following Thursday you have a bad day at work. 

Your supplier turns up late with the wrong order; an invoice you’re relying on being paid today isn’t paid; a customer wastes your time while others leave your shop; your business rates are put up; and then your van gets a puncture. Just before you burst into tears and decide to end your life by eating a bunch of your own tulips, you decide you’re going to get a data processing analysis job, just like the person at the wedding had. 

Because that job has no responsibility. It has no customers messing your life up. You don’t have to worry about business rates or your van being unwell or invoices going unpaid. Instead you have teams of HR people to comfort you, IT departments to support you, bosses to shield you and teams to repair punctures, should you have one. 

Your salary will be paid into your account every month, with pension contributions and bonuses and every kind of expense. Then you’ll take one of your 30 days’ holiday, or maybe a paid sabbatical or maternity/paternity leave, or book yourself in for a couple of ‘agile teamworking’ courses at a nice hotel somewhere. 

Just before you close up, one last customer comes in – the very same data person from the wedding. They’ve come to get some last-minute flowers because they’ve missed their anniversary. Because they’ve had to work late again. Because all the good people in the office have been made redundant – except the useless boss, who’s making everyone work twice as hard. The season ticket costs 10 per cent of their salary and they get a seat 10 per cent of the time. 

You make up a lovely bouquet and throw in a couple of extra lilies for no charge. They ask if they can swap jobs. You don’t have to think about it. 
“No, thanks. I’m quite happy here.”