I know that one of the things that people do when they retire is start a small business. I wrote about it a while ago. After reading a newspaper article about the topic. It seems to me that those of us who take this path in retirement do so for two main reasons, not counting hoping to make some money to supplement our pensions. People may well do this but this is so far from my own experience that I do not think I can bring myself to write about this particular pathway. No, the two ways are first, and I suppose best, retirement provides an opportunity to start a small business based on a long-held dream of what we will do when we retire. Mine, for example, was to open a small bookshop. After all I’ve already got the stock, if you count the few thousand books I already possess. Now I am actually retired I understand a bookshop is a pipe dream. First, the bottom has fallen out of the second-hand book market thanks to car boot sales and charity shops. One of the reasons that I have so many books is that they are ridiculously cheap these days and as any Yorkshire person knows you can’t say no to a bargain whether you want it or not. So I rarely buy books from second-hand bookshop these days although love them (the shops themselves), they can’t compete on price. Which is why from having 11 second hand bookshops in Leeds we now have one. I wrote about this bookshop some time ago. I said the owner told me he makes no money through the shop and only stays afloat through internet sales. Well if you can’t beat them…
The second reason ‘my’ bookshop will never happen is that I refuse to sell any of my books. Which, as I understand it, is a bad thing for a business hoping to make money. Anyway I’ve digressed slightly, the point I was making is that one reason retired people start their own business is because they have a hobby or a passion that, now they have their pension (!), they can afford to indulge in. You know the kind of thing – doing up and selling old motorbikes, making and selling bread, opening a café, that sort of thing. All well and good and, if you can make a bit of money doing it, then so much the better. The theory is that free from financial constraints spending your days in close proximity to the love of your life (this may be your partner or it may not), makes you a happy man or woman. I wouldn’t know because this is not how I / we (Mrs Summerhouse and I) came to be the owners of a small business.
What happened with us was more in the ‘some have greatness thrust upon them’ category. We had absolutely no intention of starting a small business until number one son, boarded the plane for Australia and, from what we can gather, may even manage to stay there. This is a long and complicated story, I’ll give you the short version. He went in July, we said we would run the business in his absence for six months. Mainly because we thought he had little chance of obtaining a visa to stay and, from a selfish point of view, we didn’t want him coming back to nothing because that would surely rebound on us, financially and emotionally. So we ‘ran’ the business while he was away but now, against the odds, it looks like he will be staying at least for two years while he completes a college course in landscape gardening. We have a Aussie friend who has, in retirement, retrained as an immigration consultant – plenty of work there you might think, which leads me to ask why did he have to interfere – no doubt with good intentions and as we know the road to hell etc. – in my own dear son’s immigration aspirations? For it was he, as far as I can gather at a distance of some 10,000 miles, who suggested going to college as a way of remaining in the country and if his current relationship with an Aussie lady should blossom over the course of the two years then who knows what the future holds.
Fine and dandy I hear you say, what’s the problem? Answer, college fees if you’re not a citizen of the host country. Well, he’s 36 so how can that be a problem for us, you say. Answer, he can’t afford the college fees, some £7,000 over the two years. Solution? Borrow (this is code for ‘give’) money from his dear old parents. Now, we have gifted him plenty over the years including most of the setting up costs for the small business in question – two vans, two trailers, a variety of mowers, strimmers, chain saws, hedge cutters etc. etc. You get the idea. We gave him money to go off to OZ with the words – this is it, son, no more money and now, six months later, he is tapping us up for the price of college fees. Laugh? I thought my trousers would never dry. I made a momentous decision, which may yet turn out to be either the best or, more likely, the very worst decision, we ever made. We offered to buy the business lock, stock and watering can. This meant no long-distance decisions from him, no struggle to communicate about what needed doing via various forms of internet and, most of all, none of the payments for contracts going straight into his account and not the business account we set up before he left with a view to paying in money from the gardening jobs his chaps did while he was away. In other words, for better or for worse, we run the business and take whatever profits (or losses) accrue.
So this is how we come to be running a small business just as I referred to in my New Year resolutions blog. We had ‘greatness’ or something similar, thrust upon us. Yes, we did a little levering ourselves, I have to admit, but mostly it just happened. It’s not that we don’t like gardening and I don’t mind having a gardening business and Mrs SH enjoys and has been doing some self-awarded qualifications in garden design, so, not too bad as a subject for a business. It’s not like we are running a slaughterhouse, or toilet cleaning business, I can live with it but, oh my goodness, what a challenge, is that the word? it has all been. It will be six months at the end of January since we took over and, although no money has yet changed hands between me and number one son, I have no doubt it shortly will.
I had intended this blog to be about the situations we have had to deal with since we took over the business but somehow I haven’t got round to it. So that will be the topic of one of my next blogs. Believe me when I say, you couldn’t write it but then I will have to try. So retired person and small business, a way of finding satisfaction in our retirement years or a pain in the bum? I will let you be the judge.