The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


When You Promise More To Still Be Poor …
July 23, 2020, 9:30 am
Filed under: Advertising, Attitude & Aptitude, Corporate Evil, Money

As I wrote last night, Nottingham Forest just lost their chance to be in the premiership playoffs.

They fucked up the best chance they’ve had in a decade.

On the last day.

In the last 20 minutes of the last day. Though the damage was done a few games ago when we let Derby County – our fiercest rivals – get a drawer in the last minute with a needless foul.

I’m devastated so to mitigate the pain I’m going to post this and hope it is useful to someone.

Given the impact COVID has had on adland, there’s a lot of us freelancing right now.

Of course, when there is a glut of talent available, many companies use this as an opportunity to lower your price.

I get the temptation to accept this. Some money in is better than no money in … but it’s also a slippery slope for you and all those around you.

So I thought I’d just write my thoughts on how to maybe handle it.

Not because I’m an expert, but because it will serve as a good reminder for me moving forward.

First thing you should do is check out the freelance rate spreadsheet the brilliant Alex Holder has been pulling together.

There is another alternative to this, which you can contribute to here.

The second thing you should do is to know your value.

This is not what you want it to be, but actually identifying and articulating your experience, your contribution to the work you were a part-of and the distinctive value you brought – and will bring – to every project you work on.

I appreciate this can be difficult, but it’s an investment – and a responsibility – to both your past and your future.

For more understanding on it, here’s a post I wrote about how Harrison Ford appreciates the value of his value.

Another thing to do is to remember you’re a small business, not just an individual looking for revenue.

While the two are closely entangled, thinking like you are a small business can actually help you when making decisions or when being asked to lower your rates.

Again, I wrote about a Hollywood star – this time Michael Keaton – who thinks this way.

It’s important … because you’re not actually negotiating for the job you have, but the next one you could have.

I say all this because recently I was asked by a great global brand if I could help them with their strategy.

I have always respected them and the challenge they faced was tailor-made for me given my global experience.

While I have no intention of doing ‘real’ work for a few months, I submitted my cost proposal and a few minutes later, their procurement department contacted me saying this:

“Your fee is higher than other partners we use, please lower it”.

At this point I could have just said agreed.

Afterall, I found the project fascinating, I think it could lead to interesting work and money is always useful to have coming in.

But I didn’t.

I knew my experience in this situation was better than most.

I knew they had recently spent millions with McKinsey, so what I was actually asking for was nothing.

I knew I didn’t want to start a relationship based on working down to a price, rather than up to a quality.

So instead I responded with this.

“You products are higher priced than other brands I could choose, please lower it”.

Cheeky?

Yes.

Aggressive?

Possibly.

But the reality is I have 30+ years of experience at the highest levels of creativity, client and culture so if a company doesn’t value that, why would I value them.

But here’s the thing … it wasn’t really their fault.

Procurement departments are literally paid to lower prices.

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are or what you do, they’re evaluated and compensated for lowering costs.

It’s not personal … it’s just their job.

So while I appreciate their request was just part of their process, defending my value was also part of mine.

My attitude was if they want to treat it like a game, then so would I.

Which means I am cool with them asking what they like, but I don’t have to agree.

To any of it.

So that’s what I did … and you know what happened?

They wrote back saying,

“We accept your rate and look forward to working with you”.

Now I know it won’t work every time.

But the attitude is what I’m going to do every time.

Because if someone only values one part of a relationship, then it’s not a relationship.

Some companies or freelancers will be OK with that.

Good on them. But I’m not.

Not just because of the reasons I’ve written about above, but because I’ve found – over the years – the best clients aren’t OK with this attitude and approach either.

As one of the most senior clients at NIKE once said to me, “I value people who can make me better not just keep things flowing the same”.

And if this approach ends up backfiring and I need to earn money, then I’m going to start my own procurement company and just approach as many companies as possible and ask to pitch my procurement department against theirs. I won’t even really care if we can do things cheaper or not, I’ll just enjoy watching how they like having their experience, reputation and value being dismissed and disregarded in favour of finding someone – anyone – who will do more, for less.

I’m nice like that.

Especially when Forest throw it all away.

Literally chuck it and give up. Fuckers.

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Even Nottingham Forest Are Embarrassed I Support Them …

So with COVID stopping football fans from attending games, my beloved Nottingham Forest thought of a fun way to help the players feel the stadium is full while earning some much-needed revenue at the same time.

The idea was simple.

Sumbit a photo of yourself and they’ll turn it into a life sized cardboard version of you to place on a seat.

Better yet, you can then come and collect it as a souvenir of your support.

Now I don’t need another life-sized cardboard cut out of me because years ago, I gave one to Jill as a wedding anniversary present to remind her who she was married to as I was travelling a lot.

It’s the pic at the top of this page. I know … and they say romance is dead!

However I did like the idea of supporting my team so I had a couple made.

Some of me.

Some of my mate who stupidly supports Derby County.

Anyway. over the weeks, Forest have been posting photos of the cardboard fans and I haven’t seen my face on any of them.

Oh I’ve seen my best mate Paul

… every bloody photo they put out, he’s there – upfront and centre.

But me?

Nope.

At first I reassured myself it was because they hadn’t printed mine yet.

Then I thought maybe they had lost my order.

And then, finally, I found one of them …

Yep, right at the back, carefully hidden behind other cardboard cutouts.

What makes it worse is that Nottingham Forest is not a glamorous club.

Even when we won the European Cup twice in a row, we were never sexy …

Which is my way of saying that for a club who attracts an unfair share of the visually unappealing, they have deemed me the most visually unappealing of them all.

Thanks Forest, thanks a lot.

Now please just get in the bloody playoffs … it’s the least you can do for me now.



Timing Is Everything …

A while back, I wrote about WeWork.

Or more specifically, how the Messiah complex of one of the founders led to him ultimately screwing the company up with an ill-advised planned IPO.

Of course, as is the way with corporate-insanity – especially when you label your company a ‘tech’ company, even if it isn’t – he walked away for failure with a huge pay-cheque, which means being a start-up founder is even more lucrative after the job than it is for a football manager, which blows my mind.

[Though apparently it was not enough, because one of the founders, Adam Neumann, is suing Softbank for ‘abuse of power’ … when in reality, the only case they really have is Softbank giving them so much cash and praise, it led to Adam gaining a Messiah-complex]

Full disclosure, I did some work for WeWork when they first started.

I met Miguel – one of the ‘normal’ founders – and found him, and his ideas for the company both interesting and exciting.

And for a while it was.

They were tapping into a need that wasn’t being met by traditional office lease companies.

They invested in building a WeWork community because they recognised the commercial attraction of it.

They identified ways to profit from giving ‘start ups’ and ‘independent workers’ the sorts of benefits only people in more traditional employment enjoyed.
But then three things happened:

+ They realised the flaw in their business model because they signed long term property leases but had short term tenants.

+ To get long term tenants, they had to appeal to corporates who could screw them down on price, adding further pressure to their position.

+ To counter corporate price negotiation, they re-positioned themselves as ‘masters of igniting corporate culture and efficiency’ – which, at best, was marginally true and at worst, was plainly rubbish … because ultimately they were a contemporary office space leasing company.

Sure they offered more than some of their competitors.

Sure they were incorporating logistics into their offering.

But fundamentally, they sold space in buildings for others to work in.

I’m not knocking that, there’s a lot of very successful businesses who do it.

And I genuinely think the original WeWork idea was a good one – albeit with commercial flaws – but when ego, ambition and cash-flow pressure come together, they can make a pretty deadly combination, which the World – and employees of WeWork – discovered when the IPO forced them to open their books to the World.

However, I can’t help but think if Adam Neumann had waited just 6 months longer before announcing the IPO, he may have discovered WeWork was so in demand by companies wanting to reimagine their office approach post COVID-19, that investors may have overlooked all of his blatant exploitation and delusion.

I’m so glad he didn’t.



Trumps Tax Plan Is Genius …

When Trump came to power he made a big deal of lowering tax for everyone.

Of course, what he really was doing was lowering tax for himself – which is weird, given he doesn’t pay any.

Anyway, when I left the country I was still waiting for my tax return to be processed.

A couple of weeks ago, I received this …

Yes, that’s a cheque for $1.

A cheque that probably costs more than $1 to produce.

But better yet, the bloody cheque is void because you only have a year to cash it and that passed on January the bloody 1st.

Given I have another US tax return in the system, I guess I should prepare to live groundhog day in about 12 months time.

You’ve got to admire Trump … he makes big promises that catch the headlines then makes sure they can’t actually happen to which he then blames the people in charge of the operation. The people that he forgets, he is the boss of. Tosser.



Together We Can Make It Better …

I know I said there’d be no posts while I’m away, but this is important.

As many of you know, a few weeks ago I wrote about a management style where the goal appears to be to systematically destroy the confidence and self-worth of their employees.

While I suggested a few possible reasons for their approach, the reality is – intentional or not – what they’re doing is abuse, pure and simple.

I am well placed to say this because – as I also wrote in the post – I had once been a victim of it.

Well that post hit a big nerve because within 72 hours, it had been shared thousands of times on Twitter and I received over 250 stories of abuse from people who previously thought they were alone in facing this cruel and debilitating experience.

I must admit I was initially shocked how many people had been affected until I remembered the reason this topic is so rarely talked about is because one of the ways the abusers get away with it is they make the victim feel so worthless, they believe it’s all their fault and so keep quiet out of shame for their supposed inadequacies.

Reading so many stories of pain made me both very sad and very angry and I knew right them that I wanted to do something about it, but the reality is I didn’t know what I could do.

Then I got an email from someone I used to work with …

Rather than tell me they had gone through a similar situation at work – or even their thoughts on my post – they asked if what I’d written was about them.

After telling them that if they feel guilt, then maybe they needed to take a look at how they conducted themselves [because at no point had I mentioned any names or places in my post] I then realised there was a way I could try and help stop this situation happening to others.

Let me introduce you to a site I’ve set up called Corporate Gaslighting.

Corporate Gaslighting [available at TheyTriedToKillMeButI.Live] is my attempt to try and stop this slow, systematic abuse from bad management while also hoping to help those who have been victims of it.

The goal is simple, but hard.

Simple because all I want to do is fill it with people’s [anonymous] stories of their abuse.

Hard because I know how damaging these experiences are and how survival often means burying them deep down inside and kidding yourself they don’t exist … even though you know very well they do and they’re eating you alive.

But the benefits will hopefully be worth it for two key reasons.

For management … my hope is they come and read the stories to be reminded of the responsibility they have for the people they manage. And if they end up reading something they think is specifically about them … then maybe it will force them to look at their actions and behaviours and – for their sake – start to change them.

For victims … my hope is that by either writing their story or reading others, they’ll not only realise they’re not alone in this slow, viscous destruction of self-confidence, but the reasons for it happening have absolutely nothing to do with them and all to do with their managers. If I achieve this, my hope is it helps removes the stigma of guilt and failure we are all made to feel we brought on ourselves … because then it will remove the power abusive managers have over us … allowing us start to valuing ourselves again and [hopefully] giving us the strength to take action rather than only take the abuse

But none of this can happen without stories which is why this post is directing people to the site where they can learn how they can get involved to help themselves and help others.

Corporate Gaslighting isn’t about revenge. It’s about change, help and encouragement.

With that in mind, it has been designed to be a safe place to be vulnerable.

No names. No comments. No judgement.

What happens next is up to you.

I am just here to help.

Thank you.

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