business in Leeds, business start up, Catering, catering suppliers, Dragons Den, Employment contract, employment contracts, Euphemism, let you go, marketplace, Paleo-diet, Person specification, redundancy, Sorcerers apprentice, the apprentice
When we’re made redundant, we might initially welcome the opportunity to loosen the shackles of an old job; only to find later that we’ve taken those very same shackles into the new job.
Brian has worked for years in Leeds in an established catering suppliers which like everything else these days faces some serious challenges to its existence. Unfortunately for Brian that means it now has to let him go.
Brian semi-jokes about not wanting to be let go and that he’s very happy to stay hidden amongst the pots and pans, but he knows his protestations are in vain: ‘being let go of’ euphemistically hides the fact that he’s being made redundant. So, with his pay off, a substantial customer database and potentially six months of development time in his backpack, Brian has set up a new kitchen suppliers doing pretty much the same thing as he was doing in his old one – albeit in a leaner and meaner fashion with an emphasise on technology for paleo-catering.
His natural instinct has been to set about looking for staff who he can build the business with. He’s worked up job descriptions, person specifications and all the usual paraphenalia of what it takes to engage other people in your business.
But this rush to growth means he has missed an opportunity to rethink how he could really get to grips with how the business engages people over and beyond providing rabbit skinning technology to customers on time and to budget.
Brian assumes that employing staff will automatically grow the business when in fact it probably won’t. Employment can generate many different senses of entitlement for people: they do a job and they get paid for it; they work a certain number of hours, take a certain number of days leave, can reasonably expect sick pay and all the other benefits that a mature workforce in a mature employer can reasonably expect to enjoy.
The problem is that a new start up is not a mature business and not necessarily a reasonable place to work. It is fragile, uncertain of its place in the world and whether it is likely to survive out in the wilds of the market place beyond the first year is open to a lot of doubt. There’s a forest load of wild animals, poison ivy and bear traps to face if you’re setting up a new business and the last thing you want is a co-pioneer complaining about their employment contract.
A new start doesn’t need solutions imported to it from mature businesses with notions such as ’employing staff’ driving its thinking. It needs new solutions which confront the needs of its newness. The new start up doesn’t need staff at all – people who will honour contracts and deliver a job to the best of their ability in return for a negotiated remuneration – but generators: people who can not only deliver the business core activity but who can also generate more activity, more income and emulate the entrepreneur who has brought them to the party.
What Brian really needs are people who have the ability to generate something from nothing, to make value from where there was none before, to act as alchemists rather than as commi-chefs who can follow recipes to the letter but who don’t have the inspirational touch which invents, creates and conjures further opportunities from thin air.
Unless he can find those energies, Brian is likely to find that his new business will be letting him go in much the same way as the old one did. He needs to engage a lot more sorcerers – not more apprentices- in his new kitchens of the paleo-north.