Recession leads to rebirth of the family business

I’ve been aware of several colleagues who run their own small businesses, and are taking on their own children to work with them in their businesses.

There is one simple imperative for this – the young people stand little chance of getting a job anywhere else! Thanks to the recession, it appears that a job search is a long, lonely process. And you can hardly blame employers deluged with CVs for using all manner of tactics to come up with a shortlist from the hundreds of appropriately qualified applicants. Which means they are less likely to choose the perfect person for the job.

And it’s tough out there. One neighbour of mine has a daughter who has recently completed a History of Art degree at Manchester University. She would like to work in advertising, but the only work she has in her diary over the coming months is a couple of fortnight-long stints – unpaid – of work experience at London agencies. And part-time stints in the village pub, pulling pints.

In these circumstances, the best approach for many young people must be to drop their aspirations from that dream job with a big PLC, and focus instead on the local networks which they and their family are naturally members of, and ask around for opportunities. There are plenty of smaller businesses doing well, and needing help as they expand – they just don’t make the news.

Are we about to witness the return to prominence of Smith & Son, or (much rarer) Jones & Daughter – a brand genre that seems to have largely fallen out of favour?


How to promote yourself in a world of converging media

In the mid 1980s, I was a young journalist on a weekly trade magazine. Hard to believe now, there was no internet or mobile phones; I used a desk phone to speak to people and follow news leads, and a typewriter to type up stories that would be edited and sent by courier to the typesetters.

Everyone was used to reading their news from a publication, watching it on one of four TV channels, or listening to it on the radio. And we expected to pay for a local newspaper, too.

When I joined a PR company, we sent out press releases to journalists by fax; or, if they were accompanied by a photo, via courier or first class post.

As a journalist, my job was to sift information; finding that which would be of interest for my audience, and interpreting it on their behalf. I used other newspapers, and calls to regular informants, to source information. And to find out more, I simply phoned people who might be able to lead me to the information I needed.

Fast forward to today, and there are:

  • many more sources for information, most of them via the internet
  • fewer and fewer newspapers being bought
  • less advertisers in them
  • very few local viable newspapers – the London Evening Standard recently went free
  • those journalists with jobs have much more information to filter, and are obliged to write (and even film) for many types of media output
  • opportunities for citizen journalism – a great example of which is Jonathan MacDonald’s blog about the abusive Tube worker.

And here’s a great video that provided me with useful statistics covering the issues outlined above, and puts media convergence in context.

So, what can you as a small business person do to help develop your own PR, in a world of converging media – and where the traditional forms are shrinking? Here’s five tips on how to improve your profile in a world of converging media:

  • be clear about the message(s) you want to promote – this is an area where a PR professional will be as helpful as ever
  • don’t delude yourself about the importance of a single bid feature or article, on its own it is less powerful than it used to be
  • publish online, on the news section of your site, on blogs, tweets etc – journalists use Google to find stuff out, just as you do
  • get listed – from TV expert sites to Linkedin, demonstrate your knowledge of your niche
  • be the journalist’s friend. There may be fewer of them about, and they may be under more pressure, but they ought to be interested if you have something potentially interesting to tell them.

A book review – the Great Pensions Robbery

I’ve just reviewed an excellent book about the parlous state of the British pensions sector. It details the demise of private pensions as well as those in the public sector, hastened by the activities of the New Labour government.

With the Conservative-Liberal government now in power, it seems some of the tough decisions ducked by Labour are now at least being talked about. And the recent decision of the BBC to cut back their final salary scheme might be the first step in an overdue cutting of unsustainably generous public sector pension entitlements.

Anyhow, the review is on the Blogging Bookworm site, where I am guest reviewing for a second time. More here