I work for a small—no, very small business and I’d like to share a few of the mysteries that I have often wondered about in the very small business world:
1. Why is there extra space after my job title on my business card?
See, in the world of small business your business card has room for extra, invisible job titles. For instance, your business card may say “John Doe, Sales”. But then you notice the extra space after the word “sales”. You see nothing. But the funny thing is that your boss has magical glasses and he can see the invisible ink after “sales.” It reads: John Doe, Sales, Errand Runner, Secretary, Trash Taker-Outer, Fish Tank Cleaner, Fill in the blank______. You’ll check a thousand times and you’ll never see any of them. But your boss knows best. After all, he paid for the cards.
2. What’s up with the fish tank?
Another mystery in the world of very small business is the fascination bosses have with fish tanks. Our office has a fish tank the size of a treasure chest filled with sickening cichlids. My boss is the only one who treasures it. I suppose that’s because he does not have to clean the tank. Or feed the fish. Or fill the water on a daily basis. Come to think of it they don’t spend any quality time together. He’s a deadbeat pet owner.
The real kicker is that he can’t even afford it. At the end of every month we go over our expenses, trying to cut costs and increase profit. We look down the list of costs and circle what we can omit next month. His pen slides down the paper slowly, starting at the top. “Paper supplies?” He rhetorically asks. “Need it.” That’s an easy one. We go through some of the more obvious expenses and they all get a “Need it.” As he goes down the list, me eyes skip ahead to the fish tank, waiting for that sloppy circle of his. After all, this month was tough and we have to cut what’s not important.
He gets to the tank. “Need it.” (even adds a little extra emphasis). “Ummm” I chime in. “Are you sure we need that? Our costs were a little high this month and we need to cut something.” And he answers me, “ I know, but we can’t get rid of the tank. Clients love it. I’ll find something else to cut.” I can’t help but think to myself that we have not had a client here in months.
A week later I notice that the water guy has stopped refilling the water machine. Man, does that make me…thirsty.
3. What century is our equipment from?
One of the worst parts of small business is that owners are cheap (unless a fish tank is involved). If you look around my office you may notice that the computer monitors look like large UPS boxes. I often wonder if 100 years from now a historian were to visit my office, would he even recognize these prehistoric projection units? The last thing you see in a very small business is a very thin, flat panel LCD monitor.
The copy machine is no work of modern science either. I half expect to open it and find a crack snorting midget scribbling to keep up with the scanning light above his head. Or maybe a mouse on a running wheel, hooked up with wires, chasing after a dangling piece of cheese just out of reach. And don’t get me started on the fax.
But so goes the life of a small business employee. And while it’s not always the most glamorous place to work, you do get a lot of experience that you might not otherwise get. Like where else would I learn how to fix a level 3 paper jam? Exactly. And that’s why I can’t complain.