It has been more than a year already since I set up bca supply chain and started working for myself. After 28 years in the corporate environment with some very large and well-known companies, this was always going to be an interesting and challenging career move for me. I was always the one in my group of friends with the regular salary, 25 days paid holiday, a boss and an annual appraisal. Time to change all that, was I thinking straight?
So, one year on and what are my thoughts?
- Finding work has been less daunting than I expected. I’m not meaning to sound complacent, more that listening to the advice I was given, and spending time on preparation has paid off. Contacts in the food service industry and networks proved crucial. Many of the people I have worked with in my first year were colleagues and contacts from my previous roles, or referrals. With their support I hit the ground running from day 1.
- Having time to do other things has been a big plus. I was given some great advice not to commit to projects that will fill every hour of the working week. Time is needed to manage your admin, network and importantly do some other stuff. After all, that is one of the reasons for choosing to work for yourself, right? Becoming a trustee of a local charity, coaching youth football midweek as well as weekends, and more impromptu days out with the family are all part of my life now.
- Learning from other organisations has opened my eyes. Having spent long stints in my previous roles, including 10 years in my last job, working now with other organisations has meant that I am learning new things all the time. It is a terrific feeling when you realise something you have learnt on one project can help on a different project elsewhere.
- Celebrating the first anniversary. Surviving the first year, and still having the energy and drive to go into the second, was call enough for a wonderful meal out with friends.
There have been plenty along the way, and advice I would now give myself back at the start.
- Keep on top of your admin! Whilst I have always thought of myself as an organised person, suddenly being faced with managing your own invoicing and accounts, IT set up and troubleshooting, subscriptions, and tax matters was sometimes daunting. A good accountant helps a lot, but where is the IT department when your laptop crashes?
- Cashflow matters. I have spent much of my career negotiating lengthy payment terms, but being on the other side isn’t quite so enjoyable. Ensuring the client has agreed to pay you quickly and then does pay you on time is critical to my cashflow. End of month following invoice is a long time!
- Networking is really important. Making time to catch up with people, and keeping in touch is not just a nice to do, but now crucial to keep you in their minds. You never know where the next call is coming from.
- Saying “no thanks” is OK. Turning work down never seems like a good idea, but I have found that if I genuinely haven’t got sufficient time or knowledge to be of value to a prospective client, then being honest and saying so has been the best approach. People respect you for it.
I would like to think that my family and friends can see that I am enjoying my new working life, and so far, I have no regrets. I love talking to people about my first year and sharing my experiences, especially those who are contemplating a similar career change. The advice I was given before I started has proved spot on and kept me focussed when doubts crept in. I can’t wait to write again after 2 years.