Archive | Reflections

1st year in business

It’s soon been a year since Ambaurora Communications was registered and I completely changed the direction of my working life. From life crising chaos to some sort of clarity and direction – here’s why I did it (and what the transition has done for my life quality).

My friend P has lots of qualities.

Shutting her mouth isn’t one of them.

Thus, when I was about to start working in the same company that I had been consulting for (through the agency that was my employer back then), she said: ”You’re extremely good at what you do. Why don’t you just start consulting on your own instead?”.

The thought had crossed my mind several times, but I always managed to come up with excuses for myself: ”I don’t have enough money”, ”I’m not so fond of the people pleasing and oozing and smooshing that comes with it, I don’t know if I can deal with those parts of consulting”,  ”I’ve struggled so hard to achieve my current title, who would I even be if I started from scratch all over again?”. As you probably figured out, there was really no ending to my excuses.

So I continued on the path I was on. I changed from PR Consultant at the PR bureau to a role as Communications Manager at a listed company.

And it was fun!

Parts of the job really included everything that made me tick: tight deadlines, lots of adrenaline and pulse, a tight and fun team where I was fortunate to work closely with both management and the board of directors. It might perhaps not seem like such a big deal, so to understand it, you might have to add to the equation the small town, Jakobstad, where I grew up.

Things are changing over there now, but when I grew up, working within communications and large listed companies weren’t even on the map. It just wasn’t. f you were female and lived in Jakobstad, instead you were most likely to end up working as a cashier or customer advisor at your local bank, or perhaps work at a boutique or clothing store. This is of course not the truth about Ostrobothia and Jakobstad, but to the younger version of myself, back in the days: these seemed to be the only options if you stayed.

I still remember the day when I moved to Stockholm. It was a professional milestone for me.

For the first time in my life I was now able to conduct work and speak my own mother tongue! Had I kept living and working in Finland, I would have been forced to continue being someone else. (Or at least that’s what it feels like when you’re a Finnish Swede forced to speak Finnish at work). It’s just not the same thing and while working in Helsinki, I always felt as if half of my personality went missing everytime I tried to make myself understood in Finnish at work. That is: every day.

That was a little throwback. Now we’re going to jump back into 2017 again. So there I was then. Thriving at my new work, although 2013-2017 had been rough years for me. I had struggled to get my degree while still working 40 percent, I had broken up from a long relationship, moved into a new apartment, gotten the job at the PR bureau and so on. Quite a lot of changes. Positive changes, but still they take their toll on you.

More and more often, I found myself fantasizing about another kind of work life. Yet, I felt ashamed for doing it. I felt stupid. Why on earth had I been working so hard for what I had back then only to realize it no longer appealed to me? I didn’t know.

Then – very long story short as I’ve written about it before – things got really bad at work. I found myself in a situation I could no longer turn a blind eye to, got burnt out and whether I wanted or not, I realized I was actually sick.

I needed a break.

During this time not only was I forced to rest and start rebuilding my body and soul again, I also had to go through that soul searching hell that comes with that kind of crisis.

 

Who was I? No fucking clue anymore without my title. Outside of work – what did I like to do? No one knew, turned out that I had not been doing anything else lately.

What did I feel like doing? Nothing. Unless you count staring into the ceiling or watching old episodes of Melrose Place (they just don’t make great, crappy tv like that anymore!).

In order to make this post bearable for you, I will fast forward some processes for you here and get to the part where I decided to quit my job as communications manager.

And yup. I was crazy enough to do it while I was too sick to either think or work. Please note: I’m not writing this in order to include it as some pathetic ”strategic communication” part of the story. This just happened to be the way it turned out for me. I believe life does this for you. There’s signs and possibilities everywhere, but you must also act upon them. You must shut down all of those internal “what if” and “but wait a minute…” that you love to comfort yourself with. They are not going to get you anywhere.

Headhunters started to get in touch with me. I should have been flattered but all I felt was panic. All I knew was that I simply could not see myself going back to a corporate environment. At least not as an employee. I did not know how to dream anymore at this point of my life, but if I could have done it I guess I would have dreamed about freedom and some sort of balanced control in my life. I would have dreamed about bouncing back again and being able to feel happiness and professional fulfillment.

I didn’t know how to dream so I went for a more practical route instead. Took a course on how to get started with your own business, got the paperwork done. Then I panicked when I realized what I had just done. Then I panicked a bit more when I realized I was not well enough to get started as soon as I would have hoped.

Thus, even though I formally got my company started last spring, it would take until the end of the year until I started to be in shape to kick things off and get going as I wanted to. (Not that I did not work during the time i between, cause boy, has there been work to be done!).

 

Shitty strategies and USP’s – lessons learned

How to find clients


I’m still a newbie in this game, so I’m not going to take on any role of a business coach here, but at least I’ve learned one thing for certain: my way of getting customers differs a lot from the ”traditional” kind of way.

Sure, just like anyone else, I’ve got this site you’re currently visiting so you can find further information (if that’s what makes you tick). I also keep several social media accounts and hold myself accountable for also posting on these on a regular basis. Not to mention that I want to interact with others in these channels too.  However, getting clients has typically happened through the most strange and spontaneous meetings in the most unexpected environments! Sure, I’ve done my share of email pitching as well – and actually gotten results – but one of the biggest lessons for me has undoubtedly been that I must relearn to trust myself. I must learn to have faith in the fact that my weird personality combined with my professional experience is actually my strongest USP. Not trying to produce lame, clean cut mainstream posts that fits into society’s norms.

Perhaps you’ve also always felt like you don’t fit in? Perhaps you’ve also always been told that you’re too much and that you want to much and that you should have lower ambitions?  Too driven and yada, yada, yada. Even though you might have a thick skin, hearing this all of the time – whether applicable or not or just coming from someone jealous – in the end it gets to you of course.

It got to me too. And so during my first year, I’ve done my share of trying out different strategies. Both IRL and online. Needless to say: trying to enter into some “neutral business version” of yourself is a shitty strategy. Don’t waste your time on it. My advice to both you and myself for that matter, would have to be to stop taking yourself so damn seriously.

Take your work seriously and make sure you deliver on time. Forget about trying to fit yourself into some well thought out business costume or persone. You already know the answer: you’re too much of a human for it. It won’t fit.

 

You will be too much for some of your friends and co-workers

Sadly, your first year in business will also have some people come clean. Even though you will be struggling and there won’t be so much for your peers to be jealous about in the beginning, jealousy will arise. Isn’t it funny how people these days love to like, love and comments famous entrepreneurs post and initiatives? In reality, your changed career path will be too much for some of the persons you might have considered friend or at least industry connections. The good ones will stay. The bad ones will find you embarrassing to deal with and try to pretend they don’t know you anymore. You can not count on their support.

But on the other hand…

 

The Law of Attraction effect

Changing my career while also working hard on changing and improving my own mindset has brought amazing people into my life this year. Daring to post uncomfortable texts, posts and updates has given me an even thicker skin and helped me sort out my own way forward. I know it sounds like the oldest cliché in the world, and you might not feel like it at all, but please try to give this “trust the process” thing a go.

 

Which leads me to the next lesson:

 

Keep going (especially when you feel silly)


I feel silly most of the time. I may be recovered physically from my burnout, but the emotional scars are still there. Ready to bleed at the most inconvenient times. This is however not a rational feeling.

The rational, professional part of myself already knows this. But I believe we have to tell ourselves to keep going at least maybe 100-150 times per week.

For example: I got my first paycheck as a writer when I was 13. I’m 32 now and every time I hit a “publish” button on the web, I still have to fight my urge to run into the closet and hide. This is not a rational behaviour, but who said humans are rational? I try to battle back.

So I keep going.

The good part? Every time you conquer yourself, there will be results. It may not look like you intended it too. That blog post you wrote may turn out completely different from that perfect image you had of it. Still: you wrote it. It might not be trending this instant, but perhaps within six months, your post might be exactly what someone else needed to read and provide you with an unexpected business opportunity.

In the end, it’s just like a workout. The ones that matter are the ones that get done. Simple as that.

 

 

 

 

 

Track your time

At some point on, you will of course feel the imposter syndrome creep up on you. You’ll feel lost as if you’re just pretending to “play business”, especially when working on the more creative parts of your business. Use Toggle to track your time!

Not only will you see that you’re not at all playing around, but you’ll also get a realistic grip on how much time certain tasks do require. This will give you an advantage when you prepare your tenders and you’re able to set your rates and calculate hours in a more business focused way.

Remember and repeat – it’s your business. Not a hobby project.

 

 

Life

What about that life quality I mentioned in the beginning then? Well, thank you for asking. I used to live in order to work. Nowadays, I actually have a life too. It’s worth mentioning here as I’m by no means the only one suffering and recovering from a burnout.

With regards to recovery and coping strategies, those are a chapter of themselves, but somehow I’ve slowly, slowly managed to experiment and find a work rhythm that works for me. Turns out, I do some of my best work on Saturdays or Sundays, which no longer needs to be an issue as I can plan my workload in accordance with my natural rhythm. Mondays are no longer anxiety for me as I’m not forced to sit through painful meetings and have no control over my work week. Instead, I prefer to start my week by having a slow Monday.

I find that this is what works best for me. Enough sleep, a sweaty workout at the gym or a long walk to get fresh air and circulate my creativity – these are typically the elements that I like to include on a Monday morning. It does not necessarily mean that I will be slow-tuning all day, on the contrary. But relieving my brain from all the unspoken and invisible requirements of how a Monday is ”supposed” to get started, that I used to have in a corporate environment, has truly worked wonders for my productivity and overall wellbeing.

I might just call P someday and tell her she was right.

/Malin

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Don’t underestimate the power of your ”invisible” channels

Customer events are an often forgotten, almost invisible communication channel. In the digital era we’re all living in and navigating through right now, it’s easy to forget the most powerful tool and channel of them all – the personal meeting.

Last week I had some interesting discussions with a prospect and we ended up talking about the impact of events. It’s not the first time, neither will it be the last time I’m talking about this topic, because it seems it’s a never ending discussion. Or to be more to the point: what the actual value of hosting an event is.

Good example of a successfull customer event: American Express inviting their customers to Stockholm Fashion Week. Photo: Johan Sjöberg

It’s understandable though, as hosting events won’t always get you those immediate results you and your team might be dreaming about. Most likely – you’ll receive lots of soft values, while the digit version you’re longing for might be delayed for quite some time. In my experience, a lot of times this is what makes people, also us communication professionals, forget about the importance of including the personal meeting into the calculation as well. In case you’re in the middle of finalizing your communications plan for 2019 right now, don’t forget to include customer events and personal meetings with your stakeholders in it!

Lacking inspiration? Tired of trying to come up with practical ideas?
Search no more! Here’s three ideas for your meetings this year:

  • Arrange a tour or a road show – this might of course sound a little bit cringe, but please keep reading. A lot of time, your audience might very well like the quality of your products or the level of service your company provides. However, the reason that they still don’t give a damn about your various ”professional” initiatives is just that. It is too professional, and not personal enough. In case you are in a spokesperson role in business today, you’ll need to shift your perspective on things and be prepared to be available not only 9-5, but also during evenings and weekends. You also need to be prepared to share at least something about yourself that will make people relate to you somehow!  Arranging a tour or a road show is not only a great way to gain experience, get lots of opportunities to gather valuable content for your continuous updates but most of all: you will get the opportunity to meet and greet with the people. You know, the audience you think you know. As you will understand as soon as you meet them though: No, you don’t and that’s why you need to get out of the office every now and then.

 

  • Provide actual value in conjunction with your event – on a low budget? See what kind of games or mingle activities you could try to squeeze in before or after your event. Remember: most of your customers/visitors/audience are obviously not coming to your event just for the pure fun of it. They want to leave and feel smarter in some way, whether it would be by connecting to someone new, learning something useful or perhaps just receiving a useful giveaway. Today, I visited Stockholm Fashion Week. At the moment, I have no connections whatsoever to that event, but one of my business contacts had gotten tickets through his American Express membership. I thought this was a very nice and inspiring perk that they arranged for their customers. Including not only the fashion show, but also drinks and mingle opportunities with lots of interesting people, this was also a great example of an event that really provided value in several ways for us guests. Way to go American Express!

 

  • Engage and include your audience as co-creators – nowadays, there’s lots of great apps that you can use in order to quickly create collective, graphic material, such as Menti for example. If possible, try to engage with your audience already a couple of days before your next event in order to prepare relevant (and good looking!) infographics, data charts that you can use in your presentation. By including your audience as co-creators, they too are more likely to share what they created with their network.Also: do engage with them while they are visiting you! Put away Instagram and focus on the human in front of you instead. Encourage your audience to tag you in their updates and make sure you do stop by their accounts to leave a like and a kind comment if they do. (You would think that this is common sense already these days, but unfortunately, for a lot of corporations it’s just not). Practice what you preach and do remember that you just never know whom you migh end up working for or together with in the future. Remember that in order to receive, you have to give as well.

PS. These are just a couple of examples of what might be good to do or bear in mind when you’re planning your trust building activities. Feel like brainstorming more about what could be done to improve your activities this year? Please feel free to get in touch.

/Malin

 

 

 
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Fuckups, insights, growth – 2018 in review

You might argue that the last thing the world needs is more blog posts about 2018. I won’t hold that against you. Still, I love to read and take part of other people’s dreams, ambitions, fuckups, lessons… So just when you thought you couldn’t stand one more, sorry, but here it comes –  yet another introspective blog post about 2018. Bon appetite!

First things first: why on earth would anyone share personal things about and around their business? Online? For the whole world, haters, prospects and current clients to see? Isn’t that a bit over the top, you know, acting like an attention whore? That’s of course one way of seeing it. My perspective is quite different.

I believe that by sharing experiences, whether they’ve been good or bad, you’re not only becoming more human in other people’s eyes, this is also an essential step on your own learning curve. It’s easy to celebrate good days. The flow days. Looking into the mirror and dealing with the consequences of your own daily habits is, well, quite different. Much harder, nastier. There’s no place to hide. There’s nothing to do – except looking at the evidence of what’s in front of you, what you created and learn from it.

Secondly, by sharing your experiences you’re also becoming more approachable to people. For me, this is an essential, not to say crucial, part of running a business. Nowadays, as services, products and prices may seem similar, what becomes your USP is YOU. Like it or not, you’ve got to work that to your advantage. All business relations need to start somewhere. And honestly: how many of yours started in a strictly business setting? No? Didn’t think so either. Twitter, Instagram, connecting over silly memes? Probably more like it!

Ok, so now that we’ve got that sorted out, let’s move on and see what went on during my 2018!

 

2018 – what happened?

In order to understand part of the events, a short recap is a must: during autumn 2017, I had a burnout. While still on sick leave in the beginning of 2018 I decided to quit my job. I had a good corporate position, but it was in what unfortunately had become an unhealthy work environment. Although there was a lot of anxiety, thoughts and “what if’s” involved prior to making the final decision, I just knew there was no going back for me. I was done with that part of my life.

And so I resigned during sick leave. I would definitely not recommend anyone to copy this concept of mine, as it certainly adds to your blood pressure and stress levels. However, sometimes you’ve just got to jump to move on. I chose to jump this year.

I’ve rehabilitated and worked hard on rebuilding both my mental and physical strength again after my burnout. Needless to say – this is not a process which you can put a beginning or and end to. It just is what it is. For me, an important part of my rehabilitation is not having to hide it. I’ve had my burnout. It was bad. It will forever be a part of me, but I’ve moved on. I am still actively moving on everyday by making small, sometimes tiny, steps and changes forward into a new direction.

2018 was also the year when I acted upon an old dream of mine and started my own business as a communications consultant.

Insights:

  • “This too shall pass” will sometimes be exactly what gets you through the day
  • I still suck at simply asking for help
  • Complete honesty is a scary, risky, yet also one of the most rewarding business tools

 

2018 – what about the goals then?

  • Attend a “start your own business” course, then register and start my own company
    check!
  • Create a new communications platform for myself as a business owner – check!
  • Rehabilitate myself back to “work mode” by Q4/2018 – check!
  • Extend my network and preferably also make sure it includes new and/or different sectors than just the “ordinary” communications/pr/finance crowd that’s already in it – check!
  • Writing – this was really a topic of its own (which I will get back to later on) but in short, my writing goals looked liked this:
    -start blogging again – check!
    -contribute as a writer for an external website as well – check!
    -regarding topics: stay my own lane, even if it would be very uncomfortable on certain days, also dare to share personal things in order to grow as a person – check!
    -focus on finding interesting and developing writing assignments for Ambaurora – check!
    -attend and complete a screen writing course for the pure fun of it – check!
  • Photography:
    -buy a “real” camera – check!
    -leave for a week’s photography travel – check!
    -receive my first revenues as a photographer through iStock and Printlercheck!

Pure photography assignments is currently not something I’m offering within the scope of Ambaurora’s service. However, as I’m a keen photographer, I think of photography as a way of slowly creating sort of a “passive income” revenue stream for myself. During my spare time, I’m often out capturing shots and as the raw material needed is already there for me to work with, the next step to start selling images is not that far away.

 

Fuckups and lessons learned

  • Challenging my comfort zone is still a necessary evil. Note to self 2019 though: think about when and where I choose to do this. Not everyone will get it and yes, I’ll most likely be perceived as a weirdo a lot of times during next year as well. Be prepared to deal with those emotions.
  • Numbers aren’t my favourite thing. Leave it to my CFO. No “challenging” myself regarding this area. Just stay away and let the professionals handle it.
  • Trying to do everything at once: resign, mess with Försäkringskassan, start your business while in the middle of exhaustion, going through therapy. Yey! We’re gonna party like it’s ya’ birthday….! 2019 will be all about doing ONE THING AT A TIME.
  • Therapy – feels like a huge cost but when you start perceiving the effects from it it will still be the best investment you ever made

I will stop here for today. However, if you’re into goal-setting and planning your year ahead in a structured way as well – stay tuned, as my next post will be about setting goals for 2019!

 

/Malin

 

 

 

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