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It was October 2010 when a bolt from the blue hit my desk in the form of the old brown envelope – I don’t remember the exact wording but it went along the lines of ‘due to the current economic climate we will have to make staff cuts’ I was in a redundancy pool of ONE – my chances of being retained as Practice Manager of a medium sized accountants in the Black Country? – Zilch. I remember thinking oh dear (or words to that effect) I’m nearly 50 and who is going to employ me?

My first thought was to feel sorry for myself indeed it was 9.15 in the morning and I left for the day! – I had some hours owed to me so I took the next day off too but instead of wasting that time I began to build a business plan which involved me sub-contracting to my soon-to-be former employers. The plan, if accepted, would guarantee a least part of my take-home pay on a monthly retainer.

The Plan would spread my income risk across more than one source; involved paying less tax, taking control over where I work and when, and would be able in time to employ others, thereby multiplying my earnings.

Mark_019gravatarMy new clients (including my former employers) would benefit from transferring the financial burden of using my services from that of a fixed cost employee to that of a variable cost consultant, paid by the hour/day/project but my plan also included a monthly retainer – after all I still had bills to pay.

My former employer was happy to negotiate I was persuaded to stay for the 3 months contracted notice (although I did move to a 4 day week – using two half days a week build my new business) for this I kept my company car – you see co-operation works!

Here’s my 5-point action plan for anyone facing redundancy –

1. Offer your employer the prospect of retaining you as a consultant, particularly if your role or your particular skills were unique.
2. If the company already engages consultancy firms, go and talk to THEM about becoming a consultant in your field.
3. Consider teaming up with other colleagues in a similar position to form your own consultancy business. Your accumulated experience, offered on a variable cost basis, could be hard for an employer to resist.
4. Don’t panic and take the first, or any, job you are offered. Your new boss could sideline you again at any time in the future, and you will be back to square one again.
5. Talk to others who are already consultants in your industry. They are likely to be suffering far less than their employed counterparts in today’s climate, and should be happy to give you some pointers.

mark_sigMost consultancy businesses were started by people who were previously employed in similar roles, and some grow to be massive global ventures.

For many though, the simple knowledge that never again will they have to hear the words “We’re going to have to let you go”, will be incentive enough for them to join the ranks of the self-employed.

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity – Albert Einstein