It’s easy to be complacent and think the grass may be greener elsewhere
Earlier this year, I saw a job advertised for a Campaign Manager at a major festival.
I love festivals, and I live and breathe marketing campaigns. I’ve been running them for 21 years, so I figured I’d be an attractive candidate. It could be a match made in heaven.
After 11 years of working for myself, I took the plunge and applied for the job. They employed me as a subcontractor for 4 months to drive their social media campaign.
But, it transpired that this was an expectation vs. reality situation. Here’s how it went.
My business was set to have its biggest year yet. So why on earth would I want to go and get a contract? I could spin some tall tale, but here’s the cold hard truth: imposter syndrome.
It’s been over a decade since I worked in the marketing team of a large organisation. What if I’d lost my touch? Why would my SME customers choose me as their marketing mentor and trainer if I can no longer play in the big leagues? I wanted to prove it to myself and be the best I could for the client.
In sum, I scratched that itch. Now I can leave it well alone.
As I was thrown back into the corporate environment, I remembered why I couldn’t run away fast enough from it 11 years ago. When you work for someone else, you’re not running the show. You will need to do things that:
- won’t work
- are purely for show
- you disagree with
The saving grace was that the team was great to work with, and the festival was a success. I was proud of my contribution and know I still have what it takes to work at the upper echelons.
A wise person once said there is always a lesson to be learned if you are willing to be taught. Willingness to learn is one of the key skills an entrepreneur can have.
I’ve got it in spades, so the experience was worthwhile:
1. Systems are everything
Startups need good systems because we don’t have the luxury of time or resources. As a result, our businesses are lean, green machines. Having effective systems for a team of three isn’t hard. However, it’s much harder to implement systems and stick to them when you have a team of 200.
The festival organisation had set up good systems. But as the big day approached, stress levels increased, and bad habits crept in, like sending eleventy billion internal emails instead of using the systems that had been created.
Since the festival, I have become obsessed with tightening up our systems as we prepare to hire again.
Some of our best systems and processes practices include:
- Add every task to Asana. If a task comes up in a WIP or passing convo, it must be added to Asana, or it will likely be forgotten or overlooked.
- We have one weekly WIP for 40 minutes and use Asana for our agenda. Any tasks are assigned to the relevant project straight from there.
- Slack is for team morale (read: memes and quick internal comms). It’s nearly impossible to find anything in Slack, so it’s unsuitable for project management.
- You wouldn’t create a document in Google Drive and not move it into the appropriate folder. So the same thing goes for Canva.
- We do not send internal emails because emails are the worst. Once I sent an email to a client with an internal thread attached, and I was mortified.
- We automate only what we need to; nothing more, nothing less. Forgetting about active automations is not a good look when you are a marketing platform.
2. It pays to slow down
Startups move fast, and we are fine with being scrappy. We aim for an 80% solution over perfection. Often this means things aren’t thought through in as much detail as they could have been. Some snap decisions would benefit from more thought.
We’re also guilty of not dedicating enough time to planning. As a result, we run out of time to bring our big, bold ideas to life or do them justice.
Without implementation, an idea is just that.
Bigger brands move at a slower pace (arguably too slow). I think the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle.
The festival was pedantic about typos and grammar, seeing this as a reflection on their brand. This encouraged me to spend a bit more time proofreading my own posts. There are often spelling mistakes, and my community is happy to point them out to me.
3. Imposter syndrome and the thoughts it throws your way aren’t facts
It’s impossible NOT to have imposter syndrome when you’re a founder because you need to learn how to do so much. While I have full confidence in my marketing skills, there are other areas of business that I’ve grasped but wouldn’t consider myself an expert in (like podcast editing!)
At the end of the day — female founders choose me because of my marketing skills and ability to teach them to others. Not the other stuff that goes hand in hand with running a business.
If I had my time again, I’d step out of the imposter syndrome zone by challenging my thoughts. I would have reassured myself I didn’t need to prove I still had it with corporate. Because I don’t work or aspire to work with corporate anymore, and neither do most of my customers.
My festival experience was mostly positive, and it helped rebuild my confidence.
But it took me away from growing my own business, which comes at a substantial opportunity cost.
Sure, the festival diversified my income during a very precarious financial climate. But besides kicking my imposter syndrome to the curb and adding a notch on my portfolio, my contract did not help me move forward in my business.
I mentor and train other female entrepreneurs. Taking on big client projects is not the kind of work I usually do or want to be doing.
I can’t help but wonder how much further along in my business I would be if I didn’t choose to divide my attention for 4 months.
I know many entrepreneurs are taking jobs or contracts in 2022, and even more are debating it right now.
We are feeling the after-effects of the pandemic, and you’ve got to do what’s right for you. But every choice has an outcome. If you have the luxury of choice, my advice is always back yourself 100%.
The most valuable learning? I’ve fallen in love with my business that I worked so hard to build, all over again.
After 11 years, it’s easy to be complacent and think the grass may be greener.
But straying for four short months made me realise I’ll never look for a greener pasture again.