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John Addis

SmartCompany /

Discomfort in someone else’s business has given way to the discomfort of running my own.

Are you having fun yet?

At a barbecue once, whilst hovering awkwardly on the fringes of a group talking about why they came to Australia, I heard someone say that “what you’re leaving behind is just as important as what you’re going to”.

I suspect it’s true of small business people as much as it is for those who have chosen to leave their country of birth.

Among other psychological scars I still carry from my stunted corporate life is one received over a warning not to eat a rockmelon at my desk, another for the abuse I received for using the word “guys”, and a third from the time I was passed over for promotion because the other bloke had a moustache.

I found incompetence and shameless self-interest every time I ventured into the world beyond my office door, which wasn’t often.

I never felt comfortable in interviews, and that didn’t improve even if I got the job: it was never long before I was consumed by a feeling of creeping unease; like a dingy, beer-sodden club, these places just weren’t me.

Much as I tried to fashion my workplace to my own image, these bastards wouldn’t bend. They just went right ahead and did their own thing, sucking up to a malevolent senior partner or running out the door with the contents of the stationery cupboard.

The corporate world was mad and I was the only sane person in it, with an ever-weakening grip on my own marbles.

Slowly it dawned on me: the problem wasn’t with them — it was with me. And if I was to solve my problem, my energies were best spent creating an environment over which I had some influence, rather than railing against my position as a small, squeaky cog in a big machine.

Of all the things I have done to “grow” a business, coming to this conclusion was the most significant. It was a delicious and uplifting shift in the plane of possibilities.

No longer would I be defined by what happened to me. Instead I would choose to make things happen or, at the very least, try.

I would take command of my own ship and relish the dignity of carving out a living for myself. At some stage I suspect, if only subliminally, you have made that mental shift too.

And where are we now? At the beck and call of staff, some sick, some drug-addled, some stupid; responsible to our clients and customers, a few of whom might give my womanising accounting-firm partner a bad reputation; lying in bed, restless, wondering which suppliers we won’t pay this month so we’ll have enough to cover the wages bill; working 70-hour weeks and wondering what our children look like?

What the hell were we thinking?

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