No longer protected by the corporate cocoon that I have existed in for the last 3 decades, I am in the midst of setting up my business here in the UK. There is plenty to be excited about; the prospect of starting my first independent work in a couple of weeks time, the networking, the absence of somebody else’s boundaries. There is also the less exciting stuff; the administration and compliance work that even a small business cannot ignore.
The UK is reputed to be a relatively easy place to start up a business. Nevertheless, an online foray through the UK Government Gateway to register for corporation tax and meet other regulatory requirements had me wondering how many potential entrepreneurs are deterred by the complexity of it all. I tried methodically reading through the guidance but found myself in a kind of web page “do loop” . I found it easier to dive into action, breaking all the rules about preparation and planning. The website crashed a couple of times which, judging by the “try later” user message that popped up, is not unusual. See if that works if you are a budget airline.
Never mind, this is just a momentary attack of the start up blues; there is surely more excitement and fewer obstacles ahead on the change curve. That is the plan.
Change is good.
A brief, challenging episode in my professional life was spent working with a team of people based in Fort McMurray. So it seems inevitable that my blog reflects on the frightening wildfire still burning around the city.
Fort McMurray is not the kind of place that expects to be the subject of world news headlines. Certainly, it is accustomed to being at the centre of the contentious debate about the exploitation of the Canadian Oil Sands but the city is not usually mentioned, outside of Alberta and Canada, except in passing. The mood of the city is mostly influenced by the seasons, the hockey and the price of crude oil.
All this changed overnight in the last week when the seasonal wildfires turned on the city and its inhabitants. Even now we know very little about the 90000 people that were forced to evacuate. A colleague posted pictures of an evacuation flight with as many dogs as people. The citizens of Fort McMurray are a resourceful lot. The climate and the industry they support make sure of that. Over the last 4 decades, the city and its oil-sands jobs have attracted people from many places and heritages; the First Nations, Eastern Canada, Newfoundland, from the Indian subcontinent, Eastern Europe and almost anywhere else you care to imagine. The multi-cultural mix that is modern Canada is amplified here.
So now the evacuees of the Fort McMurray have, without any warning or consultation, been forced onto a steep change curve. Bewilderment and disbelief were the immediate reactions.
For now, I am guessing the citizens of Fort McMurray and the surrounding communities are yet to experience the bottom of the change curve. A period of frustration and anger is probably setting in. The media will soon lose interest. The challenge for the government and community leaders is to find ways of accelerating the rebuilding effort, involving all those impacted and communicating relentlessly.
After 31 years of working with a large corporation with all the stimulation, security, stresses and strains that brings, I am experiencing my first week as an independent consultant. The weather, here in the UK, is tentatively spring-like so it is hard to be anything other than uplifted.
People ask me about my feelings; mostly expecting me to say that I am happy to be free of the yoke of routine work. In fact, my feelings are a complex mix of excitement and trepidation. First of all, of course, I am not retiring, as suggested by the announcement that accompanied my departure. Age 60 and in mercifully good health, I cannot envisage turning the rest of my life into a vacation. So the idea of starting up my own business is compelling and fraught with risk of humiliation. Maybe the skills I have honed over the last 3 decades will not be so remarkable after all.
My response to all this is to immerse myself in the comfort of the Change Management principles I have learnt and then repeatedly relearnt. So today I am building out my start up plan and performing a stakeholder assessment. Tomorrow I will be developing the communication plan for the launch of my business.
Change is good.