Lonely at the Top
Lonely at the top.
This is a follow up to earlier blog about leaving work which I did and set up on my own in April. I must say a massive weight had been removed from my shoulders when I walked out of my old office for the last time on 31st March. I took a week much needed holiday and started “on my own” on 8th April. In the preceding weeks I had done a lot of preparation and tidy up of files and setting up of systems. My first goal of the business was to get my income up a level that covered my living expenses I had managed to do this before starting the business. I had signed up a lot of people on monthly DD so I had income, the problem was (if it is a problem) was that I didn’t have that much work to do over the next 3 to 4 months. I had a lot of meetings set up, I had my 1 day per week at old employer, I was doing some marketing but nothing that would let me get my teeth stuck into for 20-30 hours per week. I was worried how I would fill this time in. My wife had been very supportive and I was worried that if I started taking days out to go fishing that she might not be very happy etc.
I must say by about 11.00am on the second day I was bored. I used to work in an office with 10 cackling females which I did not like. I found it very difficult to concentrate most of the time, and moving away from this was something I was looking forward to. However I found the silence and loneliness of working alone too much the other way. I had purchased a lot of client data to market to, but only wanted to issue 25 contacts per week in order I could monitor responses. I felt doing more can knock you confidence if you send 200 and get nothing back. After only 10 hours on my own I was desperate for someone to talk to. I put the radio on to break the silence. I then rang around my clients for a general chat “to make sure everything is ok”. I was finding the solitude difficult. Staring out of the window I cast my mind back to earlier experience that had happened to me over 20 years ago.
I had just passed my driving test so was starting to get sent out to client premises to do work. This was a big opportunity as it meant I would be dealing with bigger jobs. I worked with a great bunch of lads. The company I trained with had expanded rapidly and took on a trainee every year. So there was manager and then 10 staff between 27 and 16 year old. At the time I was about in middle of pecking order. We worked hard and played hard, had a good manager and good office banter, and practical jokes were a regular occurrence. I got all the usual “long stand” “tartan paint” when I started this when then passed onto next years trainee.
I was told I would be going to a larger job the following week which I was looking forward to. All the lads were jibing me with “wait till you meet Ron”. I asked them what was wrong with Ron but they would just laugh and say “wait and see”. This went on for a full week and I was a bit worried when I attended the business as to who or what Ron was. The company was 3 way partnership 2 brothers and their mother none of whom were called Ron. I arrived at the site to meet a lady (the mother) she said you can work in Ron’s room. I went into the room there was 3 desks but no Ron to be seen. I started work and then the mother came in to also work. She was on the phone to someone (a bit of an argument) then she said out loud “what would Ron do” she paused for a minute (as if to wait for answer) then answered the guy on the phone. I thought this was a bit weird. It was killing me not knowing who Ron was. So I decided to ask her is Ron likely to be in today? She looked quite annoyed and said he was always here and pointed to the empty desk with an Urn on the middle of it. The penny dropped. Ron was her deceased husband and his ashes were in the urn. She then went on to tell me Ron had been a bit of legend building up the company from nothing to where it was today and he had sadly died of a heart attack at only 50 year old. She seemed to gain comfort from talking to the urn as if it were actual person. At first I thought this very strange, even more so when they placed “Ron” in the meeting room for a meeting with their bank manager. As the week went by I realised that both the son’s also gained comfort from talking to Ron and would laugh, joke and talk about as if he were actually in the office. Ron also seemed to help with a lot of decision making “this is what Ron would do” was a regular phrase in the office. At the end of my time there, although I felt there treatment of Ron was a little strange, I thought if it works for them then why not. I guess everyone has their own quirky ways if you stop and look long enough.
My current position also reminded me of Tom Hanks in the Film Castaway where he talks to a football called “Wilson” to keep him sane. I wondered therefore do I need a Wilson or a Ron to survive on my own. How do other sole practitioners cope with working in solitude. I know in a few months time I will be busier and this will be less of an issue. But do you other guys have someone you talk to regular about issues other than family members. Or is the driver that founded AWEB?
In the end my summer downtime problem has resolved itself, a rival company to one I worked in approached me to help them restructure and re finance their business. Its about a 10 week job with a success bonus at the end, all the compliance work is staying with existing agent. Although not what I expected to be doing, I suppose I need to use the contacts I have whilst they are still fresh.
I would be keen to hear how others cope with working alone or if you have any similar stories.