Have you got guts to take a giant leap? Matt Storey, partner at The White Storey, talks
It’s probably time I stopped chucking out blithe prophesies. Early last year, embarking on a new job, I perkily quipped that for all any of us knew, 12 months hence I could find myself out on my backside digging holes in the road. And now… while not quite repairing potholes, your humble scribe finds himself staring at four newly painted walls, contemplating an empty bank account and the prospect of building a business from scratch.
Because yes, it was my painful discovery that switching from one corporate environment to another can be disastrous. As someone with strong convictions and a forthright manner, I experienced the discomfort of repeatedly head-butting an embedded culture that wasn’t me and ended up with the gloomy realisation that I just didn’t belong. (The less charitable among you may be wondering if that’s a euphemism for being unemployable!)
Which is why a few months back I held my nose and stepped off the cliff, horribly conscious that my next job absolutely had to be the right one. I couldn’t afford to waste another year busting my nuts for nothing.
My first task was to announce my availability for hire on LinkedIn. Opting for a puckish approach, I described myself as managing director (temporary contract) at My House. Little thinking that My House was a perfectly plausible name for a creative agency. Or that the listed role of “house husband” could be interpreted within the events industry as an actual job.
And even though I kept-up the spoof by listing our team members (my children) and outlining the day-to-day responsibilities as transport logistics (school run), recruitment (babysitters) and conflict resolution (tea-time squabbles), people took it seriously and congratulated me on my exciting career change.
So be warned everyone: Potential employers probably won’t read beyond the first paragraph of your carefully-crafted social media profile.
I must say that, having worked continuously since joining the events industry in 2005, it was heaven to take a break. I loved the experience of taking my children to school every day, even if my phone never did leave my hand.
There were plenty of exploratory conversations with industry contacts, but all fell away for one reason or another – usually financial or competitive. One interesting revelation: No matter how senior your position, how relevant your track record and how enthusiastic the original expression of interest from a potential employer, you may be met by a brick wall when it comes to follow-up time. Few, it seems, have the cojones to say “Thanks, but no thanks”.
It was in the playground that I was tracked down, twice, by industry friends facing dire emergencies. One resulted in my working flat-out in 40 degrees of Parisian heat having pulled together a tiny team to assist the strike of a huge exhibition at the Porte de Versailles.
Around that time, a few people asked if I’d ever considered going-it alone. Recent experience had proved I had the contacts, the background and the know-how to provide whatever event resource anybody needed. And quickly.
And then, a close friend, Gary White (White Productions) reminded me that I’d once prophesied that we’d one day work together. Maybe his client-side understanding of production requirements and my fixer mentality were a marriage made in heaven. (Forgive the irresistible cliché: I happened to officiate at Gary’s wedding – the day after the Parisian heatwave job).
Remembering some wise advice on starting a business: “Do what you know and do it locally”, I blinked hard on hearing that office premises below My House were being vacated. The stars, it seemed, were aligning for the genesis of The White Storey.
So, if you’re contemplating taking that leap and worried about being skint, I can tell you, it’s not so bad. Right now, I’ve not got a pot to piss in, but, from here, as Yazz and the Plastic Population so succinctly put it: The Only Way is Up!