Small businesses unattractive to job seekers (maybe it’s a good thing)

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The other day I was reading about how almost 1.12-million job seekers take the National Public Servant Exam in China.

But only 19,000 positions are available. It means fewer than one in 50 candidates will be successful.

Chinese graduates are so desperate for these public servant jobs that they turn to plastic surgery for an advantage. One clinic offers noses inspired by the Eiffel Tower.

In South Africa queues for jobs stretch outside public service offices, job fairs, farms and mines. One municipality that had jobs on offer had a queue of something like 1,600 job seekers.

The same sort of frenzy is not seen when it comes to starting and owning a small business. It’s seen as a lesser option perhaps only taken when all job options have been exhausted.

It’s not an easy way to make a living. A small business owner I came across recently had run his business for almost 10 years but now that things weren’t going well, he was back begging human resource managers for interviews. In his early sixties.

Too often small business is glamorised by people who have big cushy jobs in government or large financial institutions. They take out large institutional advertisements that cost the same as the money that could kick start 20 new small businesses. One institutionalised banker was quoted in a newspaper saying that the banking institution had opened a centre for entrepreneurs because the institution wanted to go beyond giving out loans to small businesses.

Can you believe such nonsense? Five years into the recessionary economy and this institutionalised banker suddenly has a soft heart. What’s going on here? Giving out small business advice with no inducements to take out loans? Who believes this garbage anymore?

Maybe it’s a good thing that job seekers find small business formation repulsive. Starting a small business of your own can be exciting but often it isn’t glamorous. Not when you have to scrape together funding finance. Not when you may face fierce competition. Not when an abundance of red tape throttles the life out of your small business. Not when there’s little or no support for small business.

Most people know the names of the favourite DJs on yak yak radio stations and their soapie TV stars. But ask them to name a small business entrepreneur they admire. All you’ll get is scratching of heads and ums.

At a recent home-based business expo an entrepreneur who started a theatre lighting equipment business in his parents’ garage said home-based businesses are the backbone of the economy, spearheading innovation for future generations.

Not enough people will hear that message. Few even want to hear the message. But it will resonate with those who have taken the first step towards building something of their own.


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