I haven’t done a blog post in a long time and usually they’re about self improvement and conquering depression etc but this has been kicking around in my head for a while and since I’ve played both employer and employee recently I find myself in a unique position and I feel compelled to give you a glimpse behind the veil – and to vent at how scary and horrible what I do can be at times.
My name is Ayman. I’m 27 and self employed – which is wonderful and fun and exciting and also sucks a fat bag of dicks – I make considerably less than minimum wage and certainly less than if I was on the benefit. Admittedly this is mostly my own fault as I’m generally unorganised, foolhardy and am prone to slumping into unproductive stints of depression and procrastination. I have done my share of shitty minimum wage jobs and have at one point or another complained that I’m not getting paid enough – as I’m sure most of us have. The more I run the wheel of self employment the more I conclude that I was an entitled little shit bag – that being said, if you’re working for giant multinationals rolling in fat stacks of moohlah who could easily pay you more then maybe I’ll hold my tongue – this discussion generally applies to working for small to medium size businesses. I won’t be going into why I think the minimum wage sucks and hurts employees nor will I be discussing why lower wages and automation are generally the easiest ways to cut costs and drive the lowest possible price for the end user –frankly, I’m not an economist, nor am I experienced enough to weigh in on these things – I am just going to discuss my musings on the employee/employer relationship in light of my recent experiences as both.
This past weekend I had been invited to an event to sell my wares (a bunch of swanky natural handmade men’s grooming products that you should totally go and buy at madarabindustries.com) this was a one off market tied to an event happening in the city– it was being run by a group that I’d worked with before and I trusted their hype and their track record for putting on a great show. It was tied to a major local event, it was run by good people so it was presumably a safe bet and a chance to raise some much needed capital (to pay for the next event).
The usual deal for these shindigs is to pay a stall fee upfront –this secures your spot and goes towards advertising, hiring the space, a band if there is one and paying event organisers etc – at least that’s how it’s supposed to go. This fee can range anywhere from $30 upwards of $1000 if the foot traffic/ expected turnout is massive or the event organisers are taking a monumental amount of piss. It is always a gamble and you never know how much stock to take let alone whether the stall fee, accommodation and other overheads are going to be worth it – i.e. less than the amount of money you end up making.
Leading up to a big event I’m usually making a shit load of stock, I’ll have no money(or worse get I’ll get into debt to make enough stock or to pay the fucking stall fee) and I’ll be laying awake at night praying that things go well. Additionally I’ll get a friend to help me with labeling or selling and I’ll either pay them whatever I have on me or pay them once I’ve sold some stock (the latter makes me very nervous). As nerve wrecking as it all makes me, it’s usually ok because we’ll usually break even or do well -meaning I can pay people and get some money together to pay for the next thing.
If things go well or I at least break even, I’ve just helped some of my even more broke ass friends get a bit of money together to pay rent or pay for a tyre so they can pass their WOF or whatever. I pay everyone that I owe money to and the economy marches forward. Let’s say things go perfectly for a long time and I need to hire people full time – well then I’ve just created a bunch of fun, well paying jobs that let employees pick their hours and listen to the music of their choice (having worked in a super market – I cannot stress how important this is) and we all set sail toward the horizon with the wind in our beards and smiles on our faces.
So, what happens when things don’t go well, when you don’t break even and you just paid $1000 to sit in the rain for a day and sell two bottles of beard oil? What if the event organisers over blew their event’s expected foot traffic and overcharge you? Or it rains and you get a quarter of the expected foot traffic and subsequently none of the expected sales? The worst part of this is your debtors and your employees have the audacity to expect to be paid regardless of how things went–so what do you do?
You know, other than put a gun barrel in your mouth and say it’s not your problem anymore.
Well, maybe you take on some awful minimum wage job to pay everyone back, maybe you get into more debt, maybe that gun barrel starts to look quite tasty again.
Bar the last option it is YOUR responsibility to do something about it.
This is what the past thousand odd words have been getting at – the responsibility – IS ALL ON YOU. The risk- IS ALL ON YOU. So surely the rewards (if they ever even happen) – should all be yours. Your employees did not take the risk, your employees agreed on a rate for their time and THAT’S IT.
When an employee takes on a job they don’t say to the boss “I will work for no pay if the business doesn’t do well this week” the agreement that’s generally made is “I will trade you hours of my life for x amount per hour” – obviously I’m speaking very simplistically and not considering commission based jobs or whatever the fuck Fonterra’s been up to.
What I’m getting at, if your boss is driving an [insert name of overpriced late model luxury brand of automobile] and you’re driving a [beat up rust bucket typically of Japanese origin] then I feel it is generally somewhat justified: the employee doesn’t take on massive debt and risk, the employee doesn’t spend years living off of rice and cheap coffee -working unpaid every hour of the day to get a company off the ground, the employee certainly doesn’t lie awake at night wondering if everyone who needs to be paid gets paid on time and finally the employee has the greatest phrase in the history of employment ; “let me get my manager”- THIS IS ARGUABLY THE THING I HAVE MISSED MOST ABOUT BEING EMPLOYED – the ability to throw your hands up and dump all responsibility on your boss – I got to use this a couple of times a while back and it was so liberating – it almost made me consider going back to the employee life.
Before concluding I would like to clarify I don’t assume your job is easy, nor am I assuming it pays you a fair wage, I’m not suggesting your boss is a saint and deserves his Audi. I’m just saying the grass isn’t always greener – Shit this blog is supposed to be about beards… Err… The beard isn’t always softer on the other face – yeah that’ll work.
Finally, thank you to everyone who’s hired me, supported my brand and most importantly given their time to help me get this venture and my ideas off the ground –this includes you – Mr or Mrs Reader.
Founder, Steersman and Chief Mad Man of Mad Arab Industries