Michelle Meredith owns and runs two businesses in Carmarthenshire, West Wales. From the age of 13, she was absolutely determined to work for herself. She believes that working for someone else was never an option for her. I wanted to find out why. How is a confirmed entrepreneur ‘made’?
What brought you to the world of self-employment? Was it necessity or personal preference?
Personal ambition. I just knew it was the only path for me. By hook or by crook I was going to work for myself. It wasn’t that I wanted to be rich, or take the world by storm or invent something revolutionary… I just wanted to work for Me. I suppose my business ideas were fairly modest but I’ve found that every entrepreneur is different: their motivations are different, their ambitions are different, they measure ‘success’ differently.
What do you think are the key personal attributes someone needs if they’re to be successful as a self-employed worker?
Total commitment and dedication. Even if you’re only doing it part-time you have to be totally committed to it at least part of the time! I also found I had to work unsociable hours, that can involve sacrifices. You may not be able to attend every family gathering or always be the kind of friend you’d like to be. As much as it’s a matter of balance, the balance is usually tipped in favour of the business. This can be hard.
What are the pros and cons?
For me, independence is really important. Being self-employed gives me a level of independence that I have to have. Control is a big pro too, control of my own destiny. It may sound very ‘new age’ or wishy-washy but Destiny will happen to you whatever you do in life. Destiny is the series of events that will necessarily happen to you in the future. I’d much rather have control over as many of these as possible… rather than just have things happen to me! I supposed personal satisfaction is tied into this too, people bang on about job satisfaction all the time and rightly so, it really is important. It’s possibly even more important the older you get.
The downside is not so bad. Irregular hours, no paid holidays, continuous uncertainty regarding the money coming in [she pauses] OK, so it does sound quite bad! [We laugh]. I guess the cons are part of the ride. They certainly help motivate!
What are your experiences working with young people?
Oh. I was hoping you wouldn’t ask that question! [She pauses to think]. In reality it always starts out well – brimming with enthusiasm and a willingness to oblige. Too often it doesn’t last. Maybe I’ve been unlucky? Maybe the young people I’ve employed have, in essence, yearned to be entrepreneurs? Maybe they didn’t know that they would be much better suited to self-employment? Trying to motivate them can be difficult. In some ways, young people seem slower to mature? In my day the whole “he said, she said, he’s going out with her and she’s dating him” stopped when you went to college or entered the workplace. Now it seems that even thirty year olds are at it. When somebody comes out in a cold sweat because they haven’t been able to check their social media accounts for two hours, that can’t be good, can it? Mind you, you hear of many young people with remarkable drive, people that achieved amazing success through hard work and dedication. People that hardened entrepreneurs can respect and admire.
If you could do it all again, is there anything you would do differently?
My business requires me to have specialist premises. Both these are located on the property where I live. I should’ve bought separate premises so that it would’ve made it easier to sell a business lock, stock and barrel.
In your experience, what do you think is the main cause of business failure?
Impatience? An expectation of instant success? For most people it doesn’t happen overnight. I think some people underestimate how much extra work you have to consistently put in to succeed. It’s also key to understand when to expand the business and when to sit tight. Expanding too quickly can be disastrous.
If you could give a young entrepreneur one piece of advice, what would it be?
Make sure the line of business you choose is one you have a passion for. This is what will keep you going when the going gets tough. I also believe that money cannot be the sole motivation. Thinking that your business is just a cash cow is a terrible mistake. When you’ve established yourself and considering investing in others, the pounds and pence can almost be the sole consideration. But if you’re young and starting out, you do need to consider other things, like passion.
Thank you very much for your time. I know you’re very busy so I do appreciate it!