As work-life balances go, 0% work and 100% life might sound like the ultimate, but it’s not such a dream for the 800,000 people who’ve lost their jobs in the pandemic and don’t know how they’ll ever make a living again.
And while they may have sympathy for the Goldman Sachs staff complaining about working 95-hour weeks, the answer lies somewhere in between that extreme and the no-hour weeks the newly-redundant are grappling with themselves.
If you’re one of the 800,000 and were blessed with a substantial redundancy pay-off, the enforced idleness of one lockdown after another may have given you a chance to reflect on what your future work-life balance should be.
You want the rewards, naturally, but may well want to spend more time with your loved ones than the previous nine-to-whenever allowed you to. How much better, you may think, to actually see and experience your children growing up rather than receiving updates by text because you leave for work before they wake up and arrive home, exhausted, after the poor little things have gone to bed? And while you may have worked for a decent employer rather than a tyrant, the only way to have a boss who completely gets you, who understands you, and who puts your needs first in any decisions, is to become your own. But beware of frying-pans and fires.
Buy a pub or a newsagents, and you could find yourself envying those Goldman Sachs employees for the amount of spare time they have, while junior doctors, possibly in the midst of giving you CPR, may wonder how you work such punishing hours.
Beware of icebergs, too.
Everyone envies teachers for the long school holidays they enjoy and their apparently-short working days, but it’s an iceberg job par excellence; others only see the tip of it, while underneath lurk endless hours of marking homework, often unpaid, demanding preparation for lessons, and paperwork to cover every single thing that Ofsted might wish to see on its next surprise visit.
A lot of people set out to work for themselves, full of enthusiasm and dazzled by what they see on the surface, only to find they’re heading, Titanic-like, for an iceberg job that’ll sink their hopes and take their investment down with it. Setting up your own business is laudable, and some succeed at it, but breaking into an established market when no-one’s heard of you takes many years, and your rivals are unlikely to warn you if they see you about to fall into one expensive hole after another as you repeat the rookie mistakes that crush the expectations of so many.
Some businesses do phenomenally well and seem to come out of nowhere, but often the apparent overnight success disguises the years of unrewarded toil, the broken relationships and the eye-watering debts that finally transformed a money-pit into something that looks so simple and profitable that we wonder why we didn’t think of it ourselves. Must have been busy that day, perhaps… But there is a short-cut. An easier way. A safer bet.
Become a franchisee instead, and you’ll be buying into a success story. From the moment you open your doors and start to trade, you’ll be meeting a demand that’s already there, your product or service will be proven beyond all doubt, and almost everyone will have heard of it.
Even Jeff Bezos didn’t have that when he started Amazon. In the UK, for instance, he began to build a reputation for it as an online bookshop that was usually a little cheaper than his high-street rivals’, but when he announced that he was thinking of experimenting by selling other things apart from books, most people (this writer included) thought “Why doesn’t he just stick to books?” and “Why on Earth would I want to buy household items from a bookshop?”.
Amazon was laughed at in Private Eye magazine for years as it made one spectacular financial loss after another until, as we now know, it became one of the most profitable companies on the planet. If you could buy into Amazon now, you wouldn’t hesitate – but you can buy into the many franchises that are happy to share their success with you and give you a slice of that pie, albeit at a price. Some of them do necessitate crazy hours, at least for a bit, and people are queueing up to buy them, but others offer a much better work-life balance than you’d ever find in employment.
You may wish to be hands-on and perform the service or sell the goods yourself, or you may prefer to put in a manager and keep an eye on your investment from the safety of your sofa or sun-lounger. If you get a taste for it, you might buy up additional territories and end up with a portfolio of franchises, knowing they’ll be easy to sell when you want to exit because everyone wants a proven success. If it succeeds, someone, somewhere will have franchised it, so you have a vast range of business types and models to choose from.
But whichever franchise you pick, you’ll be free to choose your own working hours, your days off, your holidays and how much or how little time you want to put into the business yourself. And with a chance to actually see your children growing up, just think of all the time you’ll save on texting.