When I retired, I wondered what I was going to do with my time.
The old cliché is that I take up golf or oil painting or fishing. But I’m not very good at those. They didn’t appeal.
So I set up a little business.
I always wondered what it would be like to run a business; to make my own decisions, with noone telling me I’m late in the morning or that I’m not turning the tread wheel fast enough.
I knew nothing about business. I knew the simple basics like not selling something for less than what you paid for it. I knew that the customer is always right, even when they’re wrong. But that was about it.
I thought it would be nice when someone asked me what I did for a living and I could reply that I ‘owned my own business’ [you have to imagine that last phrase with an Evening Cocktails kind of voice].
As it was more of a hobby than anything else, I decided never to advertise it.
“What kind of eejit starts a business and makes a decision not to advertise it?” I hear you ask. My kind of eejit. I’m weird in that kind of way. Anyway, I hate ads.
“What kind of business is it?” you ask.
“Mind your own business” says I, because that would be advertising [but it’s a kind of consultancy business. That’ll do you for now].
I thought it would be a handy excuse if ever I was asked to do the washing up [“Sorry, I have to do my accounts”] or go shopping [“sorry, I’m expecting a phone call”]. I didn’t think anything would actually happen.
The damn thing took off and has a life of its own. Even though people had never heard of me, they started contacting me. Strange. I got some very big clients. And they started spreading the word. And I got more clients.
Now this was fine. I was occupied. And money was coming in. I could afford to renew the car. We could go to France on our holidays. There was the downside of course – I had to do book-keeping, which I hate. I never realised there was so much involved, because I had always been an employee and someone else always looked after these things. But now I’m on my own.
Things were actually starting to get a bit hectic. I was actually back to doing a nine to five job. Except, when you run your own business, you don’t knock off at the stroke of five, because there is always something important that has to be done. I was working harder in retirement than I had been when I was working. If you know what I mean.
So, last autumn, I decided to retire from my own business. I would keep my existing clients, in case they needed me, but that was it. No more new work. I could relax and read and do some gardening and play with blogs and the like.
It didn’t work.
The phone calls keep coming in. I still don’t know where they come from so I started asking them [That’s called “Market Research” – I’m learning!] . It turned out all my existing clients are telling their pals and giving out my phone number.
The last few days have been hectic. I have two new big clients. One was a tender I had been asked to submit about a year ago. I had forgotten about it but they e-mailed me, and I’m to start work straight away.
New clients are ringing on a fairly regular basis. I don’t like to tell them I’m retired, because that might scare my existing clients if the word spread. I don’t like to tell them to fuck off because I’m really a very nice bloke. The only people I swear at on the phone are call centres and people doing surveys.
So I had an idea. I’d raise my prices, so they would go somewhere else, and my existing clients would think they had a bargain. But they keep accepting the quotes. So I still have more business coming in.
I’m feeling more like Reggie Perrin every day.