YOUR COMFORT ZONE MAY BE YOUR SAFE PLACE ... BUT NOTHING EVER GROWS THERE
Updated: Feb 12
A window of opportunity…
Just over 12 months ago I was made redundant from a job I loved, the company was experiencing a huge period of change and with that my job role (along with many others) was changing too. I was for sure in my comfort zone, I had been there a while, I loved my job, the organisation and the people I worked with. With a heavy heart I left after declining to sign the new terms and conditions, essentially making myself redundant. My background was in childcare, so, I went back to working in a residential childrens home, having left the industry as a Registered Manager in 2014. It was a tough move, dropping down to a Senior Care Practitioner from the position I had was extremely difficult.
A lot had changed yet unfortunately nothing had moved on in an industry that in my opinion requires a huge shake. Young people moved around far too much, a lack of understanding the word “therapeutic” being banded around all too easily without its true value being understood. I always knew I had a lot to offer, one of my core strengths is building positive relationships with other people. I enjoy listening and when required mediating difficult situations calmly and effectively, but what next?
Then one day last March, whilst having coffee and discussing future plans with a friend, I was made aware that a connection of hers was planning to open a new recruitment firm. My Mum and Dad have always told me I would do well in sales, I understand business and have a flair for connecting with people. (they are my parents, so as much as I appreciate their support, they will always be my biggest fans I guess!). I was intrigued though, I wanted a change, I needed a change and as much as even considering being employed by a start up company would be risky and a lot of hard work, how amazing would it be to be involved with such a journey?!
I contacted Nick Lewis, who I knew, but not very well and he asked me to come in and see him. He explained that he was looking for two Consultants, he had placed an advert and received a good response so competition would be tough. That said, he offered me an interview the following week and to be honest I was pretty sure he was mainly being polite as our children had been friends for a long time!
I made my way through the interview, answering honestly and giving examples of how working with people by listening to them is the key to building positive relationships. I explained my passion for making new connections and the importance of understanding value of people in an organisation. He identified the lack of experience on my CV, but gave me the opportunity to evaluate the reasons why I would be a good fit for the business. There are so many clichés used in an interview “I am really hardworking” “ I work well in a team” “I work well under pressure” I simply said I was prepared for this to be incredibly tough and had my eyes wide open to this being probably one of the hardest things I would ever do.
I clearly remember walking away thinking, ok so I have no experience and I don’t hold much hope that I will be successful, but, I handled that as best as I could and didn’t make a total idiot of myself, especially in front of Nick, so I will take that as a good experience.
To my utter shock and disbelief Nick called me a couple of days later to formally offer me the position. I remember asking him if he was joking! He assured me he wasn’t, but I needed to be prepared for a lot of hard work, we had no clients, no candidates and no one had ever heard of us. Success was going to take time and there was an awful lot of ground work to be done before we would see any results, but if I was prepared to stick with it and be patient (not my strength I will admit!) it would be worth it…. Challenge accepted!
Everyone is bossing it…
Two weeks later I arrived at the new office and so began my induction, followed by sales training and as a team we began to clearly identify our USP’s. There was so much to learn, so many ways to engage with people, there was this thing called LinkedIn that I was told would be important and would help me reach a wider audience. I was involved with all aspects of the business and from day one I felt valued.
There was this underlying knot in my stomach though… what if I can’t do it? I have never closed deals in my life, never prospected new clients and the idea of producing LinkedIn content by video was utterly terrifying.
Speaking of LinkedIn, it quickly became a place to me where I received a lot of support, I spent months learning how to build connections, writing content and of course jumping right out of my comfort zone and presenting myself (and Team4you) by video.
One thing went around and around my head though (and still does when I let it) “everyone else is bossing it” whereas I was still very much a newbie, an amateur, who was learning to network, interview candidates and pitch to clients. I felt like a swan trying to hard to glide on the surface, but underneath those orange webbed feet are pedalling hard! All around me were people claiming they had billed £15k last month and had just landed another huge contract, I however was still very much finding my feet. The pressure was on.
The good news is that with pressure comes a chance to prove yourself, learning something the hard way can be painful, but it also presents an opportunity to earn your stripes so to speak. I guess it depends which way you look at it, but I am thankful for the days when I would go home after making 50 plus sales calls without so much as a lead. Anyone who has worked in a sales role has been there, I am no different, but working in such a small team the microscope is very much on you. Performance is everything, especially when you are working for a start up and so much is at stake.
Ahh there are many, the most important ones being:
Don’t be annoying! – Sales calls have their place, of course they do and they work well for some people, for me I don’t see the same value in them. I quickly realised networking provides a much more humanistic approach to building a relationship, I have made some amazing connections through networking and formed professional relationships with people I am now pleased to call friends. I am a big advocate for networking, its something I am looking forward to doing even more of in 2020!
Don’t chase business that isn’t there! – A very difficult thing to recognise, especially when you are so keen to prove yourself and you need that new client to work with you. However an important lesson for me has been to realise that a client who gives you and 4 other agencies one vacancy as well as going out to advert themselves. The chances of you successfully placing a candidate against those odds is very slim. Value your time, sounds simple, but actually a really hard lesson I have had to learn!
Evaluate yourself honestly– To me this means YES, lets look at what went well and what could have gone better BUT… don’t spend weeks bashing yourself for it. Don’t let a negative experience consume you both in and outside of work. Unfortunately, I am speaking from a personal experience I had with a “client” last Summer. I am all for receiving constructive feedback, however this was not feedback of any description. It was rude, unfair and frankly affected me for weeks before I was able to move on. Lesson learnt – “don’t let things live in your head if they are not paying rent!”
Lean on your team! – There were only 4 of us when we started and 9 months later only 5 of us now! This means we have good days, bad days and difficult days AS A TEAM! I am usually miss independent, someone who is conditioned to relying on themselves and no one else. My experience this year has taught me that its ok to be a bit vulnerable, you wont be judged for it, you wont be seen as weak, you will actually receive the support that you need – refreshing indeed!
Work hard play hard! – This is certainly true of our team! We love to socialise together, it is an important part of growth and of course because we play hard, this means we work even harder!
This is me…
So, 9 months on and I am still here, turning up each day and giving it my best.
My knowledge of the industry has improved massively, my confidence has grown and alongside all of this, it has also been a personal journey for me that I am sure will continue for many years to come.
I have had some amazing experiences, met some awesome people, featured in podcasts, magazine articles, attended Women in Business events, and am even hoping to feature on the BBC in 2020!
A personal highlight for me was breaking into the Shropshire market in September when we opened our Shrewsbury office. The feeling of being “home” again after working in Birmingham for the last 6 months was fantastic. I remember attending the Shropshire Business Expo the week before we opened and knowing so many familiar faces and people who were genuinely pleased to see me again. Its true what they say, “There’s no place like home!”
So yeah, for once I will shout it out loud – I AM PROUD OF MYSELF!
I am also immensely proud of Team4you, its growth, its values, its vision and its more than anything I am so excited for what the future holds! Cheers to 2020!