September 26, 2018

Core Story 17: Sobbing in the toilets at work

I’ve ended up back in full time employment twice in the time I’ve had my own business.

In May last year we had just returned from two months in Italy. To be honest, business wasn’t great. Despite the time away I was lacking clarity on how to move forwards, and needed to buy myself some time.

Whenever I spoke to Linzi about work, we ended up having that conversation. You know, the conversation that ends with ‘so when are you going to get a real job??

One day I opened a web browser. I don’t know what compelled me to check LinkedIn, but I did.

I hardly ever check LinkedIn. I think the whole platform is full of posturing, not real connection. I had a message in my inbox from a recruiter. I have no idea why I opened it, let alone respond. But I did.

A short phone call later I discovered the company was looking for help with Infusionsoft, and based nearby. The salary was good. They sold high-end property investment training courses, and were looking for someone to craft their customer journey.

The company was small but growing, with money available to invest in ads and systems. There would be scope to work from home. Their website was terrible, but there was an aspirational aspect to the message I liked.

In my head I was like… “ummmmm, where’s the snag?” I had been after a single big client for a while, so perhaps this was it?

Two weeks later I started work as ‘CRM manager’… a title that in hindsight barely reflected the scope of the work.

I remember my first day in the office. The mixed emotions. Sad at being committed to a daytime role. Pleased that I had found an opportunity this good so close to home. Worried I would delay progress on True Story Selling. Starting any new job is a culture shock for a few days. The company had ambitions to take over property education both here and in America. Big plans, big goals, aggressive timescales.

You could tell at the outset that the company was very… busy. You could see the busyness etched into people’s faces.

I have no problem with being busy. I like the ‘let’s make stuff happen’ attitude. But I also like time to reflect and think. As a creative person your output is only as good as your input.

I’ve since realised that the busyness stemmed from the company owners, who almost never took a day off (including on vacation), and wouldn’t be told something is impossible. If you talk yourself into a senior management role for people who never take time off, and won’t accept you can’t do something, guess what happens?

You breakdown – that’s what happens.

I was been promoted to ‘Head of Marketing’ in November. I knew at the time it was a risky move, for only a modest increase in pay. For a while I had managed to stay away from the office, and maintain a sort-of ‘CRM expert’ or ‘consultant’ status. Those perks quickly evaporated, along with a pound of flesh.

Things really unravelled in January this year…

I had just run my own Big Story Workshop, which was a success. At the same time, Linzi was in hospital for more than two weeks with pre-eclampsia. And at the same time, the day job had gone into crazy-insane-overdrive. At one point we were running three live webinars per week, which I was responsible for organising and promoting.

I remember sitting at my desk one Friday afternoon. I had about seven reports to prepare. I had a very novice member of staff to manage. Plus four webinars to plan, and write copy for. I remember just going blank, or vacant. Having the feeling of letting go of the steering wheel, regardless of the consequences.

I’m not really an emotional breakdown kind of person. You won’t find me sobbing in the toilets – although I heard other people. But the breakdown definitely happened.

I was up front with work about what happened. Told them they needed to find a new Head of Marketing. I’d lose another pound of flesh before managing to extract myself fully, but I got out in the end.

There were some good outcomes from this stint back in employment. My copywriting definitely improved – mostly because we ran so many damn webinars. At one point I was outlining and copy editing seven or eight emails per day, plus managing an in-house copywriter.

I did some things right. I worked from home very early on. I set a precedent of travelling to the office after the morning rush hour – if I even went in at all. I rejected the offer of a work mobile (haha – no thanks!)

When you do these things from the beginning, nobody questions them too much later on. Showing up regularly is not a good way to make yourself valuable. All that happens is you become a part of the furniture.

I’ve also questioned myself a lot. I’ve questioned whether I pushed back on management enough. I have to be pretty certain of my opinions before I’ll shout up, but sometimes I should have trusted my gut more.

I learned a lot about myself too. I learned I’m about as managerial as a brush. I’m also too prone to disappear on long walks for conventional office life. Too attached to my own eccentricity.

Oh, and I learned (again) that I can’t do everything and beat the world all by myself.

More on that in tomorrow’s final core story email, when I’ll bring you up to date.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.