When you are in your 20s, you lead with your heart and believe that you can do anything and be anything – at least I did.
I started my company at 24, with the hopes and dreams of being some type of dominating ad agency in Phoenix. And then you realize, the hustle that is required to achieve that. You realize that you have to make hard decisions, contemplate compromising your integrity and having to just take any and all business to make sure you can pay rent.
I obsessed to achieve, worked 7 days a week, 14 hour days – was so exhausted sometimes I wouldn’t make it upstairs or I just changed out of one pair of PJs to another pair. Friendships and relationships took a back burner. I wanted to get to year number 5, that was when most small businesses failed by.
I made it to year 5, then 6, then 7 and then before I knew it, 10 years. I had grown as a company; I had larger clients, I had some employees, I had an office and I was happy. I realized the amount of work it took to run a business – you have to love running a business more than anything else. I hadn’t been creating as much as I was just running day to day operations.
I made it to year 12, by then I was married with 3 little step-daughters and my clients were dropping off. I had one male client tell me he wanted to go a different direction because he felt I should be home more taking care of kids. That stung a lot. The 2nd time I heard that, I felt crushed. I had overcome so much adversity being a young, female business owner and this was what made me fall down – and I struggled to get back up. I began winding down my company to look for a corporate job – it must be better than this.
I found a job, working for a previous client who had taken a job at a software company. It was super exciting the first 8 months. I had a steady paycheck, weekends off, I took a vacation with my husband and had really cool co-workers. I was then recommended for this big leadership training by the private equity group that owned the company and our CEO, that told me they were investing in me in the long haul and I was going to work my way up this corporate ladder. My boss started treating me poorly, speaking cruelly to me in front of the team and demeaning me. He once did it in front of the VP of HR who told me to not let him do that as it was not okay. His poor treatment of me continued to escalate, HR continually was on my side telling me she was working on it, to keep doing a good job.
So I did, I worked on leading the team, launching campaigns, working with the CRO and proving my value. By the time I was there for a year HR told me my boss wasn’t going anywhere – so maybe I should find a new job. That was a week before the whole country was shut down by COVID. We all went remote, and I thought – I can handle this – the company had hired a second Director of Marketing, so I was hopeful that things would level out, and they did. My boss left soon after and the new Director took over the whole team. He spent time coaching me and setting expectations of what he saw me doing. Being his right hand, leading the team, making sure the trains are running. We began an acquisition of a new company – I was read in, and part of the launch team. I worked tirelessly and long hours to do a good job, I was finally able to really see what I was made of. Then the CRO and CFO called me on Teams – and told me in 58 seconds that my position was eliminated. It stung, it was more deflating than being told I should stay home with the kids.
Majority of responses I received was “welcome to corporate” that is what happens. Well, that’s unfortunate and I actually hope there are corporations and C-Levels out there that lead better than what I experienced. I knew the decision was not due to anything other than the fact that I raised my hand – a lot, about the treatment of myself and my team. How I was continually made to feel like “a girl” and not know any better. Well…”welcome to corporate” right?
I was upset for about a minute, and then felt this intense amount of relief. No more drama, no more “this person is fighting with this person” and we are all supposed to be adults. Looking back 13 years ago, I remembered the core reason I started my own business, I had forgotten it among all the noise. I didn’t like corporate, how people were treated or how adults could fight with one another. I wanted to start my own company to change that – and while I didn’t become some giant corporation – I always kept my integrity. And working for corporate – I refused to compromise my integrity, and I believe it ultimately lead to my position “being eliminated.” I think it threw some people off when I had no emotion towards this company – what’s done is done. I wasn’t going to give any more of my time or emotion on a company that could eliminate my position and take a mere 58 seconds to do it. While unfortunate, it wasn’t going to get the best of me.
I reached out to so many of my contacts and clients – I had a few jokingly ask if I was done now with being a W-2 and could I get back to work. One of my long-standing clients said he wasn’t sorry this happened because “I have so much talent that was getting wasted.” This was the same client that had served me up a few times about expectations or needing more from me to help his business grow. I missed that, working with CEOs and owners who are tough as nails but so respectful at the same time. Where we can have an honest conversation if something isn’t going accordingly and we move forward and do better. I missed not having to play games, I could be me and rule those conference rooms with my knowledge and recommendations – it’s the best natural high. I missed wearing my power outfits, and while spending a year in Nintendo t-shirts, yoga pants and Adidas superstars was nice – it’s time to get back at it. I learned a lot, I grew in ways that I didn’t plan on, and I recharged that entrepreneurial fire.
So, corporate can be good for some, but for me – I want to teach my daughters that no matter how “small” you are, one person can change the world. And while I haven’t changed the world, I have certainly helped company’s and owners and individuals get to their dreams and that is something I want to continue to be a part of over and over again.