Why bad behaviour inspired me to fly solo

 In Articles, Business

“Expect the unexpected, and whenever possible, be the unexpected.” – Lynda Berry

My first blog post ever. I thought I’d never get here.

This is not because I can’t write. I can do that no problem. It was finding and taking the time to do so.

In my now 29 years into of writing news, features, content and curriculum. Writing about myself has always been a challenge. I’ve always chased after other people’s opinions and expertise. It’s the role of the journalist, my primary training, and I prefer the perspective. But since I became a change and project manager, and an instructor/facilitator (going on nine years now), I realized that I could encourage and activate others with my experience.

So here I am talking about why I decided to venture out on my own 13 years ago.

Part of it goes back to being the journalist– the independent writer who chases down the researched facts, then files it later to an editor for publication. Writing is a very solitary act. You may need to do some research and bounce your  concept across the news desk, but essentially you are on your own. I guess I have a bit of a nonconformist streak in me too. I’m told that’s a common trait of the Aquarian. I am a textbook case.

Although I really enjoyed working for news agencies such newspapers and CBC Radio One, (my dream job and it broke my heart to leave it), I stumbled into the dark side–the advertising world. Now you may not realize that journalism and advertising/PR don’t get along very well. One side is trying to get to the truth, while the other is involved in spinning it. Naturally, there would be a difference in philosophies.

Granted, the experience I gained working in and with agencies was extremely valuable. It taught me to be creative on-the-fly. It also helped me see the bigger picture of how content, visuals and strategy affect the minds of the people we are trying to influence. Journalism tries to change people too, in a way. We just do it using other people’s actions and opinions.

What drove me to move into my own space professionally was the difference in values and ethics between the the two industries. I saw and heard the most childish and abhorrent behaviour in the agency world by people who were supposed to be leaders. Ego drove a lot of what was created, despite the best intentions of strategy. Clients were overcharged, lied to– and some of them ate it up willingly. I also saw padded invoices, bait and switch scenarios and the most embarrassing temper tantrums ever. A co-worker, a fellow writer, had even encouraged me to ignore out-of-date information provided by the client and just plunk it into a new design concept. I remember walking into my creative director’s office so disturbed. It shook me to my core. Thankfully, she allowed me to do the proper research and get the story straight. The client appreciated the effort and I felt vindicated.

These incidents were the ultimate test to define and own my value hierarchy (we’ll talk about this in an upcoming blog). It also disappointed me, because I thought that these individuals held the same standards. It was not to be. That opened my eyes to a whole other world.

My research has proven that what I was not alone in my feelings. In fact, there are two key reasons why women go into business for themselves:

Human Capital

The significance human capital has on business performance for women is measured by education—the level achieved and the area of study/and the location. The appeal of entrepreneurship also depends on a woman’s previous occupation, employment experience and business experience. Knowledge in the target industry is also essential for most women involvement in start up activities. Established business and organizational skills have a positive effect on their confidence and performance. One of the drivers of going into business is that a woman did not enjoy her last job. No surprise there. There is also a desire for independence and self-sustainability even if the woman is married. A lot of us like to be the specialist and we like to be in charge of shaping and changing the world.

Motivations and Goals

Common motivation variables for women in business include personal or professional achievement, values and standards, independence and self-sustainability, and economic necessity. Business and personal goals often meld into each other, are expected to be positively related with the business performance of female owned businesses.

“In studies, men overestimate their abilities and performance, and women underestimate both. Their performances do not differ in quality.”
Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, The Atlantic – May 2014

When I made the choice to open up my own virtual shop, I borrowed the strategy methods, the creative brief questions and the agency standards for design and content, but I left the audacity and immaturity behind in a dumpster in the alley. I wanted to create a personable experience with my clients built on the values I learned from my journalism and broadcasting professors–something unique to the marketplace. I had to show them that they can trust a communications specialist who will put their needs first. The only way I could do that, and sleep at night, was to go on my own. Other colleagues have done the same, and those are the people I hire to help my clients.

Sounds altruistic, true, but I would expect that clients appreciate someone looking out for their interests first. The payback will always take care of itself, in one way or another. Being a consultant, an activator, a friend to my clients creates an experience that neither one of us forgets. It could also be a key contributor to why clients continually return for service and care.

My business has turned lucky 13 in 2015, (18 years total with two other businesses in two other provinces) and it hasn’t always been easy nor has my journey or performance been perfect. But I always strive to be authentic and genuine. Maybe that’s what drove me to go independent. Perhaps that’s why I attract clients who strive to be the same.

Even though everyday is unpredictable, I’m excited to get up out of bed every day–knowing that I’m helping someone find a voice or a solution. That’s the reward that keeps me going.

Until next time, take care and stay focused.

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