Employer vs Self Employed–which is better?

I have worked in retail for many years now and it has always been my desire to run my own shop. As I mentioned in a previous post, this stems back from childhood and a toy cash register I had which was much adored.

In a recent conversation with my assistant manager, who has worked for our company for just over 20 years, nearly a decade and a half as a manager, she told me that our regional manager had once commented to her that she was “essentially running your own business”. I have mulled over that statement much since it was voiced to me because the thought of my own shop keeps resurfacing in my mind. Here’s what I have concluded.

I am essentially running my own business. My gut instinct, alongside the figures, tells me what I need to do to change my shop around. Customers get shopper fatigue by seeing the same products in the same place every time they come in a shop, so much so that they no longer see them. So when stock is  not selling, whether that be one specific item or an entire collection of stock, my instinct tells me it needs to move, to make it more prominent, bring into the customer view by placing it in a different location in the store. Any reputable retailer will tell you that they know which areas of their store are ‘dead zones’ ie don’t produce many sales, and which are high volume.

This ability to make changes unilaterally, is something not all companies give store managers. Having recently worked for a large well known greetings card retailer who do not allow their management any kind of leeway whatsoever – all stores must be uniform in layout is the mantra irrespective of each unique customer base – I consider myself quite lucky. It is a freedom that gives you a real sense of ownership of your shop. And I do like that.

But the freedom has its downsides. I am not in control of the stock I sell, it’s what I’m sent and what I have to make do with. If it truly were my business, I would be able to choose what to sell and in what quantities; this is not something I am afforded. However, I don’t have to worry about visiting suppliers, choosing stock that might or might not sell and investing my hard earned takings, our buying department has done that for me. And I’m rarely left with excess stock but if so, it can be shipped to another store which is bigger with a greater footfall.

As with most retail, January is a bad month for takings: christmas has taken its toll on the wage packet, the flurry and excitement of the first week of sales has passed, and in our case specifically, trade is particularly low as the holiday camp is closed until the first adult weekend towards the end of the month. If this were my business, I would be struggling to survive this month, with just about enough coming into the tills to pay the overheads. The upside is, as an employee, irrespective of footfall or lack thereof, I will still get paid my regular amount.  Nothing to worry about then.

Again though, there are two sides to every coin. On the one hand, I have a regular pay check coming in, not too shabby but could be better though it’s enough for me and it will keep coming in every month no matter what trade is doing. On the other hand though, my salary is capped by the company so no matter how hard I work, my earnings won’t change dramatically. If it were my business, my earnings would reflect my efforts and there would be no cap as such.

There are other things to consider too: employing staff and paying wages, lease agreements and repairs/maintenance of property, illness and taking time off for holidays etc.

So, you have the excitement of running your own business, making it work and reaping the rewards when it does but also the stress that comes along with it vs having the freedom within a company to take ownership of your store but with the safety of having a known income, an HR department, a buying department, a marketing department, other store managers to help, employees, sick pay, holiday pay and other perks.

Which side of the coin do I fall on? Good question and one I have been asking myself a LOT. I don’t have a definitive answer for you, the coin is still in mid-toss as it were but when I do, you will be the first to know.


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