Some peculiar things have happened to me over the last year. There have been strange meetings with exotic folk in outlandish spots. Furtive telephone calls. Outrageous claims – that’s the cv – and counter-claims – the rejection letters. But none of this prepared me for becoming a small business.
I am not alone though. According to government statistics quoted by the Federation of Small Businesses around half a million people in the UK start a business each year. It’s worth dwelling on those statistics a bit. Small and medium size firms employ almost 60% of the UK workforce and contribute almost half of the UK’s business turnover. That’s a lot of people and a lot of money.
I have quite a few family members who run business of their own so I suppose there is some buried part of my genetic heritage on which I can draw. We’ll see.
In the meantime having embraced the spirit of entrepreneurialism I’ve been pondering what sort of business could I be? I’m still hoping to get a substantive job either full or part-time so it has to be something that fits around that. It also needs to be something that Mrs RPS and I can do together.
We were pondering our options when I saw an alert for a FREE half-day event on advanced eBay run by our local Business Link branch. Why not I thought. I didn’t concern myself too much with not having done the eBay for beginners. So I signed up.
That’s why I found myself at a conference venue in a small market town the other side of the county.
It was a fascinating morning. Firstly, I got to meet a lot of passionate, committed and knowledgeable people. That’s always a bonus. Second, I got to learn a lot of new technical stuff not just about eBay (about which I knew zilch to start with) but also about other web tools. Finally, I came away with a few ideas for what sort of eBay small business we could become.
The people were fascinating. They were selling products ranging from android tablets to perfumes, silks to woollens, china collectables and football memorabilia. All sorts.
Many had shops or premises and their own websites. They saw eBay as an important adjunct to their other business communication channels. Others only worked on eBay having started by dabbling. Some of the numbers were staggering. One chap sells 1000 units of whatever it is that he sells every month. Come rain, shine or snow. Or recession.
Over tea and coffee I learned that there is probably a willing buyer for almost anything. EBay’s power is that it makes it easier for the seller to connect to that buyer and the other way around.
What was truly eye-opening though was how uniformly ticked-off with our nation’s leadership everyone was. I suppose I expected red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalists who would be right behind the government. While some were on that bus for others it was much more complicated. But one thing everyone said or agreed with was that politicians don’t get small business.
More particularly they don’t understand it or value it. Someone asked how many times we see senior politicians getting their pictures taken with small businesses. One person said that unless it’s got robots, or you have to put a hairnet on, or it’s in a huge building, or is in any other way bright, shiny and telegenic – forget it. Politicians are just not interested. Given the numbers that seems pretty odd.
There was also a lot of sympathy for the handful of us there who had been or were just about to be redundant. Many of the long-standing business men and women there had had the same experience in the private sector. There was a strong sense of fellow feeling. If anyone thought public servants somehow deserved it they didn’t say so. The Mail and Express would have been very disappointed.
I left possessing all manner of new technical skills about using eBay to sell stuff. We also got the promise of six months free support from the trainer – an incredibly successful eBay trader himself – which looks like marvellous value.
My only trouble is what I should be selling. Time to declutter RPS Towers. Or perhaps develop the RPS exclusive range of quality knitted swimwear … perhaps I need to work on that idea a bit.