I’m in charge of my own destiny, thanks!

While we’re on the topic of new beginnings, yesterday was certainly momentous… the first day of the last year of this century. How many human beings get to witness this time, reflect on past, present and future at the changeover of one century to the next? We’re among the very few.

This gets me to thinking about the vast numbers of people who are finding themselves in charge of their own destiny these days. These folks are people who have left “traditional” employment for one reason or another… they’ve been downsized, rightsized, laid off, whatever, but the short end of the stick is that they are out of work.

Lots of these people (myself included) are turning to self employment and finding that life on this side of the fence is mighty fine. But it’s a shock moving out of a job where somebody else does the selling, the administering, the sending and collecting of bills, the writing of a paycheque.

The word on the street is that by next year, at least half of us will be self employed, or “contingent” workers. That means that half of us will be responsible for not only operating our own business, but also paying for our own updating, motivating ourselves to do the best we can, and preparing for our social welfare needs with disability and medical plans. This, in itself, creates all kinds of employment for other people as we shift to a new way of working. They say that this shift is as big as the industrial revolution a century ago.

There are many people embracing their fate and moving into self employment in invigorating ways. One of them is Henry Jones and he’s the fellow I want to write about this week.

Henry is an electrician. He used to work at Honda. An injury caused him to spend some time on workers compensation and that experience drove him to explore the possibility of self employment. While Henry has very practical skills, his hobby has always been “old things”… antique furniture, porcelain, tools etc. He used to ply his interest as a hobby, but now, with his partner Jackie Howard, he’s developing an addition to the antique mecca just south of Barrie in the village of Cookstown.

Henry and Jackie began by establishing the Cookstown Castle, and Henry went on to purchase the Antique & Art Centre in the village under the auspices of the federal government’s Self Employment Assistance Program. But as the months went on, he eyed something bigger and put his vision to work out on Highway 400, across the road to the north of the Cookstown Outlet Mall. He rented the former Tempo Plastics building, all 40,000 square feet of it and invited over 100 top quality dealers from across Ontario to rent booth space in his facility. He installed a front counter and reception area that is a step into old world charm and mounted a sign promoting Road Show Antiques as he went into business.

Filling a huge building with rooms full of antiques is no easy feat, and Henry and Jackie are eyeing the antique car market as their next venture. With several thousand square feet available, Henry is approaching antique car dealers to bring their product in where consumers can get involved in our transportation past. Roadshow promises at its completion to offer an antique experience, everything from glassware to art to Victorian furniture to Canadiana.

By springtime, Henry hopes that the best of our historic transportation industry will also be on display to look at and to buy.

And while this column is a little bit about Roadshow, it’s also a lot more about initiative and courage. It takes both of those attributes to get back up when traditional employment has knocked you down. It takes curiosity so you can explore what’s out there; it takes faith in yourself as an interesting and interested person; it takes energy to look at opportunity; it takes planning to push an idea into reality; and it takes courage to trust yourself. It’s strange how willing we are to trust others to take care of us in traditional employment, but how fearful we are to trust ourselves.

Henry is not fearful. Henry Jones (and thousands of self employed people like him) have the kind of courage that makes a place like Roadshow a very real reality.

Thanks, Henry.