There was a time in my life whenever I met a friend or acquaintance at a mall or at some merry function like a wedding, we would exchange customary pleasantries, "How are you?" It would then be followed by the next question, "How is work?" I would go into this monologue of the stress, exhaustion and the typical desire for greener pastures. I haven't been in formal employment for two years now, yet it feels like ages ago. Today, when I meet a friend after our customary pleasantries the next question is not "How is work?" but "How is business?" For a few seconds I am stuck searching for the appropriate response.
Quite frankly, I do not know how to respond to this question because in those few seconds after the question, I ask myself half a dozen questions. What part do they want to know? The money part, the marketing part, the growth part, the part that I wonder if it will succeed, the part I want to give up, or admit I do not know what I am doing. But those are not the replies I give. I probably say, "It is FINE."
"It is FINE," is such a vague response because sometimes I wonder does the other person really want to know how bad business is. If I tell them they will go on and remind me that I made a mistake to leave formal employment. I should consider going back and do this business thing on the side (making it sound like a hobby). They will tell me what business venture they are planning, plots they are buying, vacations they are taking and all this sustained from their job. I fear they will give me all the statistics of how bad the economic situation is with the high inflation, high interest rates, low purchasing power, loadshedding and every other business calamity. As if that is not enough they will attempt to explain the dynamics of the business I am in and arrive at the conclusion it is hard. Then they will move to suggest places where I could consider applying for a job with the academic qualifications and work experience I have. But perhaps what I fear most is that by saying how business really is I will convince myself that maybe just maybe I made a MISTAKE.
I have read books and articles, watched documentaries and heard people speak about their business pitfalls and hurdles. The difference between them and I is I know that whatever book I read or documentary I watch, I know it eventually leads to a happy ending. I do not know how my book will end; the chapters are still being written. Yes, there are days when I wonder where the money will come from, or when a client will call. There are mornings I wake up overwhelmed by the bills to pay, a broken down car or no health insurance. Then you get that flicker of hope that maybe I did not make a bad decision when I win some prize, I receive a thank you email, or the sheer belief that it will all be fine.
So, when someone asks me, "How is business?" I want to say do you have thirty minutes or an hour, I explain to you how business is. I have just sorted out our accounting and the business model but now I have to sort out the marketing and branding. The branding I am absolutely clueless about so I am going to research and read all about it for the next week. A client who promised to come have their book edited hasn't called me for two weeks. I constantly check the exchange rates fearing that they will go crazy once again. My car needs a new paint job and the brakes are squeaking. Can I tell you about the times I go to bed past 1 am just finishing off the business plan? My friend does not have time to listen to all this. In then end, all I do is smile and respond, "Business is fine."