Find Clare’s article on happiness levels among business owners on pages 22-23 of the January edition of the Think Enterprise magazine. The text has now been added below.
If it makes you happy
For years, my husband would often wrap his arms around my sagging shoulders at the end of my long working day, and murmur the same refrain: “If it makes you unhappy, stop doing it.”
“I can’t! It’s not that simple!” was always my indignant response- I was doing an important job that I had trained for and performed successfully. I couldn’t just “give up”! Working in a profession that is famed for a heavy workload, high levels of stress and an impossibly skewed work/life balance, I believed that I didn’t have any other option. Determination and perseverance were qualities I greatly valued and always hoped to model.
Eventually the pressures (many imposed by myself) became so heavy and burdensome that I became ill. My misery was impacting my performance and my family. Something had to change.
In hindsight, this time of mental illness was a blessing- it forced me to evaluate my priorities and values. One evening, when Richard advocated again with sad and concerned eyes “if it makes you unhappy, stop doing it”, I realised with lucidity that he was right- it was time to hold my hands up and let go. It was a humbling but empowering experience.
You can find out more about Clare and Richard’s journey into self-employment here: [insert link to Is self-employment right for me article]
The Office Genie statistics (insert link) that business owners are 17% happier than the average worker don’t surprise me at all. Moving from employment to self-employment has seen our happiness rocket, and I can see it among my contemporaries too.
On 1st February we celebrate the 1st anniversary of Talbot Jones Risk Solution. Despite the risks, obstacles, fears, sacrifices, threats, worries, stresses and challenges, we have had the happiest year of our life. Think Enterprise asked us to consider why.
On reflection, much of our happiness comes from doing:
…what we want We want a solid, reputable, respected, profitable business that allows us to support our family. Seeing what we have achieved over this last year, and knowing we’ve built it ourselves is supremely satisfying. My self-confidence, respect and esteem have returned, and I feel very proud of us and our boldness, resilience, adaptability and achievements. It feels great to feel good!
We have a simple plan that reflects the financial milestones we need to achieve in the short, mid and long term in order to maintain a happy work/life balance. This gives us focus and a strategic goal to work towards as well as a practical framework in which to implement our creative and daring ideas.
…the way we want We don’t have a work persona of grey suits and grey words. Our ‘brand’ is a reflection of who we are and what we value. We wear what we’re comfortable in, we talk naturally, openly and honestly. We don’t have to toe any lines or put on a work mask. We are who we are, and that feel very refreshing.
…with who we want We love working with small business and charities, especially start-ups. This is where we can add most value to our clients- good quality risk management advice from the outset offers firm foundations and security, and getting the right cover at the right price can be make-or-break. It’s not the most lucrative corner of the market, but it’s one we get very excited about- so that’s where we choose to focus our efforts, without any middle managers breathing down our necks to go out hunting for Cash Cows.
Building a strong business is important to us, so we do it steadily and with consideration. If a piece of business doesn’t fit out areas of expertise, we signpost them to a broker who is a better fit, rather than take the money and do a simply adequate job. We work with people we like and trust. We support them and they support us. This means we have positive working relationships with those in our circle- and everyone’s happy!
…when we want We work LONG hours. We meet clients and take their calls in the evenings and weekends, and, even when on holiday, Richard will log onto our system and do an hour or two a day to keep on top of urgent tasks. But, if it’s a sunny day and we have a free diary, we’re able to up sticks and take the kids rockpooling at the beach for an hour after school, or see their glowing faces as they spot us in the crowd at the nativity service.
…for ourselves Although we were offered funding to launch an insurance brokerage from 4 or 5 different sources over the years, we decided to self-fund, and just really tighten our belts. The sacrifices are well worth it. We don’t have to answer to anyone and we’re not gambling anyone else’s fortunes- this gives us more confidence and assertiveness, and allows us to go to sleep at night with a clear conscience and no worries.
One of our strengths is creative thinking- this comes in very useful coming up with solutions to complicated insurance conundrums, but it impacts all areas of our work. We have a lot of ideas and enthusiasm. Working for ourselves means that we don’t need to explain or justify our decisions to anyone- which means we’re really convicted about the decisions we do make and we can keep momentum and enthusiasm.
We have found a very favourable balance where we don’t live to work, but nor do we work to live either. We do what we love, when we want, how we want, with whom we want and it has brought us a lot of satisfaction, peace, joy, contentment and fulfilment. And we are HAPPY!
Our disposable culture has conditioned us to often discard or give up on things without thought, and this can bring a lot of disappointment and unhappiness too. Careful consideration, reflection, analysis, action and adaptation are required when we meet with a problem or challenge. Sometimes we must be ready to change our strategy to keep successfully pursuing the same goal. Sometimes it’s right to let go.
What’s my one piece of advice to you? If it makes you unhappy, do something about it.
Talbot Jones Risk Solutions is an insurance brokerage specialising in Charity and SME insurance. Get in touch if you’d value a free insurance review, advice or quotation and we’ll be more than happy to help.