The Micro Pod Episode 1: Why Micros, Why Side Hustles and Why Me

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The Transcript of The Micro Pod Episode 1: Why Micros, Why Side Hustles and Why Me

Hello, and Welcome to The Micro Pod. My name’s Kathy Ennis.

This is a podcast for people who are running a micro-business or thinking about running a micro-business. Maybe those people that are running a business on the side of full-time work (the side hustlers out there) and those people that are perhaps solopreneurs, freelancers.

So basically, it’s for people who run small businesses, ultra-small businesses but with brilliant and big ambitions.

Th Context

As this is the first episode of my podcast and I thought that I would put all of this into context for you. Because, when you’re hearing people talk about things that are there to help you grow, develop in whatever area that you want to, I think it’s a really good idea to have an understanding of how they got to be where they are at the moment.

So that’s what I want to do with you today. I want to actually talk about what got me to where I am and how it is that I’ve ended up working with businesses in the way that I do.

In the Beginning

I didn’t start out to be an entrepreneur, I had no idea that I would be running my own business at any point in my life. That was the furthest thing away from my mind – ever. And it was, as with a lot of things in many people’s lives, it was a combination of chance and things happening to me.

I had a pretty inauspicious start back in the 1970s. I went to a half decent school. Not very much was expected of me, I must say. It was in the time when kids here in the UK first got the opportunity to go off to university. And in those days they were supported to go to university as well.

I don’t think it was expected that that’s what would happen to me, because it never happened to anybody in my family. But through one thing and another things happend to work in my favour. I managed to get a few half-decent exam qualifications and ‘hey presto’ there I was off to do a degree. A degree which I loved, absolutely loved, but it fitted me for absolutely nothing because it was non-vocational.

I ended up studying a whole variety of things, including films. That meant that for at least two years of my three-year degree, I was sitting in the dark, which was just absolutely lovely. But I came out of there and it was “where do I get a job?”

Into the Workplace

It was right in the heart of a recession. I ended up getting a job – and I didn’t really know at the time, but it was something that I suppose I could say was my vocation – I ended up getting a job in my local public library. And I absolutely loved it.

I went off after that and I did my professional information qualifications, and I worked in further in higher education for nearly 20 years. And then after that, I was fortunate to get a job working for a professional body. And I spent nearly 10 years with them.

So, if you’re doing your maths and adding things up, it was around about my 40th birthday that you could say that I entered the world of entrepreneurship. That’s when I started my first side hustle.

Me and My Side Hustle

I was working full-time. I couldn’t afford to leave my job, there was no way I could do that. And actually, even then at that time, I didn’t realise that what I was doing was starting a business. I thought I was doing something that I really liked. I was involved in something that I really enjoyed doing. And that then would bring me in a little bit of extra income.

I don’t know if there are many people out there who feel exactly the same way. It’s a hobby that turns into something that you might start charging people for.

The one thing that I will say is that very quickly, it became an obsession with me. And I loved doing that far more than I loved doing the day job.

It did take me quite a few years to get myself to the point where I could leave the day job and support myself through the money that I earned in the business. And there were few ups and downs on the way, but that’s basically the genesis of where my business started.

An inauspicious childhood, 20 to 25 years of a career and then it was into business.

Into Business Full-Time

I’m sitting here talking to you now and I’m in my early sixties, so I have been running my businesses (because there have been three of them now) for the last 20 years.

In fact, this is my 21st birthday is so hey, happy birthday to me.

And so, what brings me to what I’m doing today? Well, it’s actually that experience. Because yes, 21 years ago, I started my first side hustle, it took me about eight to 10 years to work it out so that I was then actually able to go at it full-time. But even when I did that, it was difficult.

When I left university, I came out into a job market that was in the middle of a recession. When I started my business as a micro-business, I moved from side hustling into the business being the full-time thing.

Yeah, it was lovely. I got paid money to leave my job. I took my redundancy money and I was as happy as Larry – and then another recession hit.

This is Where the Trouble Started

And interestingly, all of my clients disappeared almost overnight.

At that time my business was in training and personal development. And the first thing that happens in a recession with most organisations is that they cut all unnecessary spending – and one of those is training.

Where things had actually been going really well, they started going really wrong. What I can say now – and I say it to all of the people that I work with is – business is nothing but a series of curveballs.

One of the key things when I’m working on business planning with business owners is to talk about risk management; to identify what could go wrong.

This comes very much from this point of view; things go wrong. Things go wrong for lots of businesses, so part of my job is to try and prepare them for that.

I had no way of dealing with what went wrong because I had, at that particular point in time, I had no experience. I didn’t have a network around me.

The way the world is today where we can network face-to-face (maybe not right now) and we have all of the virtual things that are available to us. At that point in time, when I first started, those things weren’t there. There wasn’t the amount of information, or easy access to the information you need for business.

It was quite a difficult time. Where do you go? Who do you turn to?

An interesting time to be starting a business by somebody who is incredibly naive about business. But I think that’s the biggest strength that I’ve got. If things could go wrong, they went wrong for me. What I had to do is find methodologies for getting myself out of the wrong and into the right.

When I’m working with a client now, what I do is, I help them not by telling them what to do, but giving them examples and talking through with them what possibly they could do, what would fit with them, what would fit with their personality? How would they manage those kinds of things?

So, yeah, lots of things went wrong. There were lots of ups, some really nice times. There were quite a few downs.

With downs, things seem to come up all at the same time.

I took my redundancy, recession hit. My redundancy money didn’t last very long, financially we were really quite tight at home and then an awful thing happened – my pension was defrauded. So, everything that I’d prepared myself for the future, almost 30-years worth of investment into a pension, was gone overnight.

It was a really, really dark time financially and emotionally.

The Light Bulb Moment

But it was when I hit that bottom point that the light bulb came on. What the light bulb was about was the fact that I was doing all the things the textbooks said I should be doing when running a business – but I had no business. I wasn’t actually really running a business.

I wasn’t treating my business as an entity. It was still almost as if it was a side hustle.

When I was running my side hustle, I was working full-time. I had a regular salary coming in. So, if I didn’t make money in the business, it didn’t really matter because the salary was coming in. If I made a loss it didn’t really matter, I’d enjoyed what I was doing.

But what I needed now was to get serious about it because things were serious, and I needed to start making some money and paying my own way.

Putting the Business Into My Business

I’m incredibly lucky that I’ve got a hugely supportive husband who has been my rock through all of these years. That is very much a plus point, But I had to get serious about what I was doing.

The thing that I realised is that business is actually really quite simple.

You have to be able to do two things.

You don’t have to be extraordinarily clever. You don’t have to be fascinating. You don’t have to be mega creative.

What you do need to be able to do is add up – because numbers in business matter – and you do have to be able to plan.

That was really my light bulb; that’s what I realised.

Although I’d been doing this stuff for quite a long time, I didn’t really understand how businesses worked. I didn’t understand how to plan. And I didn’t understand how to, within the business plan, plan for the amounts of money coming in and the amounts of money going out.

Now to some of you that might sound, “What, she’s a bit daft. What does she mean she didn’t know those kinds of things.”

But you’d be surprised the number of people that I come up against on a day-to-day basis who make up a price because they think that’s what people are going to pay rather than thinking about:

  • How much does my business cost?
  • How do I build my pricing around what it is I do?
  • How do I build it around the level of experience and expertise that I’ve got?

So, it might sound simplistic but it actually isn’t.

That was my light bulb moment. I needed to understand how numbers worked in my business and I needed to understand how to plan my business. So, I made it my job to go and do that.

How Business Planning Saved the Day

I found that most of the business planning processes that were out there were not written for a business like mine. They were written for businesses that were going to be hiring staff, maybe had premises and probably go out somewhere to finance for business start-up or business growth.

I wasn’t a business like that.

I’m a micro-business. I am the business. I’m the chief cook and the bottle washer. If it doesn’t get done by me, it doesn’t get done. Okay, these days I do outsource some things but at that point I couldn’t afford to, I had to do it all myself.

That’s why that planning wasn’t suitable for me.

I had to ingest all this business stuff and then start thinking about how would I do it in a business like mine?

I needed to think about:

  • my products
  • my prices
  • my customers
  • how I get my message out to my customers
  • how can I do all of these things that within a business like mine, where I’m the person that’s in charge and I’m the person responsible for doing everything?

I started to develop my own planning process and that worked. I also started to be much more systemized and systematic in what I did. I introduced automations and processes so that I wasn’t reinventing wheels all the time.

That’s the worst thing as a sole businessperson, when you’re on your own having to do things over and over and over again or repeating things. If you can put process in place that allow you to get on with what you do best and they take care of themselves in the background – that’s really what you should be doing.

That’s what I did in my business. I took the numbers much more seriously and I developed my own version of business planning.

Then interesting things started to happen. My business started to become more successful.

I was still engaged in things to do with personal development. I was working within the concept of a personal branding. I was helping people understand how to promote themselves and delivering training on things like public speaking and effective networking.

That’s when an interesting thing started to happen. People I networked with – other business owners – would say, “Kathy, can we go and have a cup of coffee and have a chat? I’ve got a bit of an issue. I know that you do this, I’d like to talk to you about how you do it and how I might be able to introduce that kind of thing into my business.”

Enter Kathy, the Business Mentor

I would go out for a cup of coffee, sit in a coffee shop, have a cup of coffee. I’m very visual person, so I’d probably grab a napkin and I’d draw a diagram on it for the person and say, “Do this, do that, do the other thing.” And they’d go off and they’d start doing that thing and they’d start getting more successful.

I remember a friend saying to me one day – after I had said “Oh, I’m so busy. I haven’t had time to do….” (I can’t even remember what it was now) – “ Where are you spending your time?” I explained to them and they said, “So how much are you charging for that?” And I said, “What do you mean?” And they said, “Well, people are making use of your knowledge and your understanding. So what are you charging for that?” I said, “Nothing.” And they said, “You’re daft.”

And I thought, “I am daft?”!

I thought, actually, I’m offering a service here. It’s based on what I’ve learned about business, what I’ve learned about planning and what I’ve learned about managing the money in my business. It’s based on the things that I’ve attempted and have gone wrong and the things that I’ve done and have gone right. I’m saving that person grief, time, effort and money by the benefit of that experience and some of that guidance that I’m giving.

So, I spoke to somebody about that and said, “What do you think I’m doing?” And they said, “You are mentoring. It’s not coaching because there’s too much bossiness!” After that I started investigating this concept of ‘business mentoring’.

I found the Association of Business Mentors and I became a member of that. I did my qualifications with them and then I gained accreditation with International Authority of Professional Coaching and Mentoring.

That’s what I spend my time doing now. I work with micro businesses, side hustlers, freelancers, consultants; your proverbial what might have been called ‘one-man-bands’.

The businesses I work with can be any type of business. A Pilates teacher, a nutritionist, somebody who sells courses, oh goodness me, “the world is your lobster” as my dad used to say.

The thing that holds them together is that it’s generally either one person running the business – being everything in the business – or very few people.

I work with them to help them be as successful as they can. I made all the mistakes so they don’t have to, that’s what I always tell them. I act as a helicopter on their business. I’m invested in them as individuals but I’m not invested in their businesses. Because I am outside I can actually see what’s happening, probably clearer than they can because they’re so entrenched in it.

So, that’s the thing that I do. My biggest, biggest, biggest learning – the thing that I talk about all of the time and I advocate hugely – is that businesses will succeed if they are planned.

I don’t mean that one you take off to the bank, but I do mean that one that says, “This is my objective for the year.” And it has to be measurable. It can’t be anything else. If you can’t measure it, it’s just a wish. “This is my objective or objectives for the year. These are the steps I’m going to take to get there. This is how I’m going to measure what actually happens so that I can make adjustments along the way. And these are the systems and processes that I’m going to put into my business.”

I think that it for me. That’s the thing that will make micro-businesses, side hustle businesses, consultant businesses, solopreneurs, freelancers – call it what you will – those businesses that are generally one person operated. That’s what will make them successful.

Me and My Podcast

I’m going to be sharing in my podcast information to help businesses like that, I’m going to be doing some how tos, I’m going to be helping as much as I possibly can businesses on the very micro side be very macro with their product services. And, because I don’t think it’s a dirty word, their profit.

I hope you found this useful. I hope it’s given you a bit of background as to where I’m coming from in terms of what this podcast is about. And I look forward to you joining me on some of my future episodes.

Thank you very much for joining me. Until next time.