As the lone entrepreneur in a circle of professionals, I have gotten used to being misunderstood. My worries, realities and challenges differ tremendously from those of my friends – I don’t get what they do, they don’t get what I do – life goes on and we enjoy our Mojitos anyway.
Or at least, most of us do.
It’s Friday night. We’re hanging out at one of those places that manage to make pizza pretentious. The topic of talk is the New Year and its new plans. Predictably, the rest of the table is looking at new jobs, new trips, new diets.
My turn comes – I’m not getting a new job. I’m not planning a trip to the Antarctic. I’m happy at my current weight. And most importantly, I don’t like discussing my financial position with anyone but my accountant. So I simply smile and announce that 2014 will be a big year for me because I plan to finally kick my 7de Laan habit.
Now, the group is split in two: Those who laugh and order another cocktail, and those who get that familiar expression of condescendence for poor little old me, the only one who does not bear badge of The Professional.
But hey – I’m used to some confusion regarding the life choice of managing a small business instead of being a CA/lawyer/whatever, so don’t mind much.
But Jen, what is going to become of your own little business?
It’s The Lawyer. She is smiling sweetly at me, cocking her head in a manner one reserves for conversations with 4 year olds.
This, dear readers, is occupational annoyance number one for Entrepreneurs: Getting a new idea off the ground is hard. Juggling 201 roles and responsibilities is harder. Keeping quiet when someone openly belittles you for not having a cubicle is hardest.
Perhaps I’m being oversensitive, but one NEVER uses the word “little” to describe someone’s livelihood. Little belittles. Call the business by its name. Also – don’t use the word “own”. Whenever someone describes my company as “your own business”, it sounds insignificant. As if that which I have built up over years of hard work is on par with other things we use “own” for - own shampoo or own pyjamas. People never speak of their “own jobs” or “own houses” – simply of their jobs and houses. “Own” makes things sound silly and insignificant. “Own” makes you sound like a toddler refusing to let go of his blankie.
So, despite smiling back sweetly and answering that my company is doing fine, allow me to take this opportunity to tell people like The Lawyer to shove it.
Starting and managing a business is not easy. It may not be academic, but it’s certainly not a piece of cake.
On behalf of entrepreneurs everywhere, allow me to give The Professionals a piece of my mind:
1. Yes, we respect your degrees. It is indeed hard work to excel academically. Being smart is sexy. So is being proud of what you have achieved. What isn’t sexy is being snotty about it. I don’t want to generalise, but no-one does “snotty” like the lawyers do. If I had 10 bucks for every time The Lawyer in my story smugly snuck in a mention of her Master’s degree abroad, I wouldn’t need a business overdraft. Coming in second for smugness: Chartered Accountants. Oh. My. Soul. The only reason that this group is not tied in first place is that I have met a number of exceptions to the general rule. As for the rest – as braggy about their board exams, late nights and better-than-you degree as the lawyers.
Kudos to the doctors and dentists: despite spending even longer studying than the rest - and learning to save lives, dammit – they’re a pretty humble bunch. At least in my experience.
2. Haven’t you seen the latest trends? “Stuff” is not cool anymore – stop flashing yours! Let me back up and explain. I’m aware that statement makes no sense. And is perhaps not entirely true. What I’m trying to express is the apparent trend towards living life for people and experiences rather than things. This is why I started a business – to (one day) generate enough passive income so I can experience more of the world than I would have alternating between a cubicle and suburbia. I see this everywhere – this growing trend towards the mobile lifestyle. To NOT tie yourself down with things, but instead gear your worklife and finances in such a way that allows more flexibility – more time for your passions, more money to see the world.
As the old adage goes – the things you own end up owning you. That’s my viewpoint. See, I don’t own a whole bunch of things. My only splurge is books. I LOVE my books.
I don’t really care too much about the rest, to be honest. I don’t have any designer items. The furniture in my little cottage is pretty, but functional.
To The Professional, this makes me seem poor. See, they LOVE to show off things they bought. Next time you’re at a restaurant, I promise you that Miss Lawyer and Mr CA will casually place their latest iPhones on the table. Me? I place my old Crackberry proudly alongside the shininess.
See – not worrying about Things gives me one thing that they don’t have: A debt-free lifestyle. I’ll take that above a new phone any day.
Next time, dear Lawyer, you disparagingly smile at an old Blackberry, please remind yourself that there is more than one way to spend one’s money. And that the lifestyle you chose may give you all the Weylandts furniture a credit card can buy, but that it also only gives you three odd weeks a year to escape your office.
3. On a related note – please, please, please stop discussing your salaries so bloody openly. Didn’t Momma ever teach you that talk of money is tacky? And come on – you’re working SO hard to look classy with that Gucci handbag! Don’t spoil the effect, now…
The value of a Professional’s pay check is like those Blue Waffle disease pictures on the internet – no-one really wants to know, but everyone does.
No matter what the topic of conversation, expect the predictable shift to crass, boring money.
(Side note: What makes this even worse is the tendency to speak in “K” and “Bar”. For goodness sake – it makes you sound like a prat. If you really have to tell us how much you earn, at least use proper words!)
Yeah… Think that’s my little rant done.
Allow me to just stop one predictable train of comment criticism right here – the people written about in this column represent acquaintances. I’m not some back-stabbing biatch out to grill my friends. The professional friends mentioned – if you couldn’t guess it yourself – include a group of awesome medical folk and exceptions-to-the-rule CA’s who do not make themselves guilty of the above behaviour.