Seven things I learnt in 2014

Seven things

This article first appeared on Marklives.

It’s that time of year again, when we’ve said goodbye to 2014 (some with regret and some with a big sigh of relief) and have started to plan all of the ways in which we will be better and more successful in 2015.

Our industry is rife with people telling us what the next big thing will be, and what trends we should be investing our time, money and energy in. But, sometimes, I find it just as useful to spend some time reflecting on what has been and what I’ve learnt.
The previous year was a big one for me. I made the jump and started my own business — and, of course, with such a massive change, came massive learnings.

So, without being deadly serious, here are some of the things that I learnt in 2014:

Spend time being insanely productive or doing something extremely fun — instead of wasting time being average.

Sometimes I’ve felt I’ll meet my death from meetings-about-meetings. Or that there’s never enough time to do everything, yet I still find myself spending hours looking at kak on the internet or lying on the sofa watching the Kardashians and wondering where the hell the human race is heading.

An eye-opener was not just cutting out the kak but gaining the understanding that, to be super-productive, means not only getting my head down and focusing, but also spending the times in between having huge amounts of fun.

If I were going to watch TV, it would something I really wanted to watch, and I would make a damn fine meal to go with it. If I were going suffer from a hangover in the morning, I’d make sure there were at least some good friends, good bubbly and a sunset the night before to justify it.

Don’t go chasing after new clients.

I’m always amazed at how much time agencies spend on new business pitches vs time spent keeping an existing client happy. Yet it’s not rocket science to prioritise on keeping existing ones happy — not only do they have the potential to grow, but they also (as I have found to my joy) are a source of new business themselves — through happy word-of-mouth recommendations.

Follow your gut instinct.

It’s always right. I had a situation where, against my better judgement, I brought a supplier in on a job, because it had passed the work to me. Its work was shoddy, the client wasn’t happy and it was awkward all around.

When your better judgement says to change the situation or move on, don’t let your analytical head override it.

Be authentic.

In world and industry where everyone is trying to one up the other, there is something refreshing about people who are just… themselves. People are drawn to them and want to be part of their circle.

In business terms, I have learnt that this means not to try and be all things to all people — and that, by keeping it niche and marketing yourself for the audience and clients that YOU want, is ever more powerful than being the vanilla one-size-fits-all option.

Even the biggest asshole can become your friend.

We can’t avoid assholes in our industry; they are pretty rife. And, sadly, no more so than in positions of power — as bosses or clients. Our default response is to kow-tow and try to please, but last year I learnt that treating them like everyone else breaks down a whole lot boundaries, and surprising friendships can occur.

Sometime that asshole-ness is a front for shyness, insecurity or stress.

But that doesn’t mean you have to be friends with them.

Sometimes, however, it’s not a front for anything, and they are pure and simple idiots. And those kinds of idiots seldom change or get better.

How great it is to be adult and make the decision to remove them from your life and leave a negative situation — whether that’s leaving an uncomfortable job or walking away from a piece of business!

Make the call on what 2015 means for you, and let it manifest.

The first of January 2014 saw me sitting in a swimming pool, wearing a feather headdress and swigging champagne out of the bottle. I was surrounded by friends, it was a boiling hot mid-summer’s day, and life was notably fabulous.

I had the sudden realisation that life recently had not always been so fabulous and, on the spot, decided to make 2014 the year where I started living each day to the fullest, and making it as fabulous as possible — I declared it the #YearOfFabulousness.

It meant I stocked up my fridge with bottles of pink bubbly to whip out in emergencies; slicked on some red lippie just because; and got rid of a lot of negative people and processes that were niggling away at me.

The results were surprising — the amount of goodwill that came back to me was heart-warming. And it even resulted in me quitting a safe job and starting a business, because I decided not to be average any more.

The learning? Making a pointed decision to change something is often enough to start making it manifest.

And so, you may ask, what am I declaring this year to be? I’m thinking that 2015, the year of the #InternationalPlaygirl, has a certain ring to it…

Emma King (@EmmainSA) is the owner and MD of The Friday Street Club (@TheFridayStClub). Previously, she was head of PR at The Jupiter Drawing Room (Cape Town). She contributes the monthly “The Dissident Spin Doctor” column on PR and communication issues to MarkLives.com.