One Moment Changed Everything

February 3, 2012

in Business,Friends

One Moment Changed Everything

If you’ve been following the progress of my new marketing agency, then you’ll have noticed that a) I’m really confident and optimistic about it and where we are heading and b) we are experiencing massive startup pains. I’m talking about hurtful learning experiences.

All the learning that we’ve been doing this month has been tremendous, I can’t wait until we get it all sorted (in about 4 to 6 weeks I think if we keep on top of it) however, I was taken by surprise by something that happened this week. I’m still somewhat in disbelief as to whether it really happened.

I’m part of a mastermind of marketing agency people and have been paying attention to their concerns about staffing. In the past, as a solo practitioner, I didn’t have to worry about it, but as an agency, this is one of the biggest concerns for leaders and I’m still learning.

One consistent challenge that startup agencies have is payment vs cashflow. How do you divvy up the revenue to cover your hard costs and your staff costs? As the sole person watching the numbers, I am conscious of our hard costs, however, this mastermind has been showing me different ways of approaching it when I poised the question “what gets paid first – staff or costs?” to them last week.

Well, this week, one of our team members decided to take payment issues into his own hands and asked the client directly for his personal payment. This came as a surprise to me because I had no idea he would do this, while we had discussed rates of payment for another team member we never had a discussion about his own payment, or his role for that matter, as he didn’t allow any opportunities for communication over recent weeks, despite my asking.

Now, allow me to frame how bad a move this is. What should have happened was he should have asked me about the payment schedule for himself. Had he had done so, I’m sure he’d be pretty happy as we were planning to cover him in February with our next client payment and I wanted to groom him as a partner in the agency (there were a few things he’d have to correct first, such as controlling his temper and not snapping at everyone because he’s upset at Google or didn’t get enough sleep) and have him move up into a more executive role when we need to scale up (actually, trying to educate and groom the team to be able to do that…there will be a learning curve).

But this plan changed when he started complaining to the client as that made the agency look bad and shook the client’s confidence in us. This is the type of action that damages the client relationship in the long run and puts a shelf life on the relationship. It also shows a lack of trust in myself and sabotages the company overall as the rest of the team was also in the room and her confidence is shaken.

Why this came as a surprise was that not only had we had zero discussions about him/this prior, he was also a close friend whom I would have asked to be my best man at my wedding and who I think would have wanted to be a partner in the agency (he kept turning it down in the beginning, but now that we’re getting somewhere I wanted to have a discussion with him about where he sees this going in the future), but this shows too poor lack of judgement for him to be partner and clearly showed that he only has his own interests in mind (it was a premeditated action), so I’ll have to really rethink my previous train of thought.

Not only was this a career limiting move regardless of what industry or company one is in, this one moment also completely changed how I see him as well. I feel now that we can be business associates but this breech of loyalty will take a long time to get over and he’ll have to regain my trust, if that is possible.

Ronald Lee

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