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Don’t Wait for a Seat at the Table. Make a New Table!

August 11, 2014

In May of 2009, the sales manager at my employer sat me down and said, “I’m thinking about letting you go, Mark.”

My first thought looked something like this:

Little Girl With Wary Look

Then, after I visualized leaping across the desk and slapping him, I asked, “Why is that?”

His response, which I will reveal in full at the American Bankers Association Marketing & Retail Conference in September, was along the lines of me disobeying his directive to not better myself.

Well, at least that’s what I heard.

I was 34 years old at the time and had been in our industry for more than five years. I started as a copywriter before being promoted to creative manager and then been asked to move into selling strategic marketing initiatives. Selling under the watchful eye of this new manager.

My past promotions had come quickly and in large part because my previous manager was very good and because I couldn’t stop asking questions about why we did things the way we did. Many times I was given very insightful and interesting answers to these questions that furthered my understanding of customer acquisition and customer profitability. Other times I wasn’t given a good reason. It was in these times that I flourished.

“Was there a better way?” I’d ask myself or others. My good manager gave me freedom to explore the answers.

I eventually became the second youngest and second quickest promoted VP in the company’s history. And then I ran into someone who didn’t like questions. He probably didn’t like puppies either. Or Christmas. Or puppies as Christmas gifts. He probably kicked them even.

This person – who will remain nameless unless you buy me a beer – wanted things to stay the same. He wanted to sell like he did in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. Only this was 2009, a year after the greatest recession most of us had seen in our lifetimes.

Sh*t was broken. Ignoring broken sh*t won’t make it less broken. (Tweet that gem, I dare you!).

It became clear that this son of a bitc gun wasn’t going to make a seat at the table for me. This was his table. A table for one.

So I did what I knew I had to do. I built and set my own table. I bought the groceries. I cooked the dinner. I served the meal. I bussed the table. I…let this metaphor get away from me.

What I did was ask questions. I tried new stuff without permission. I begged for forgiveness when needed. Sometimes I hid in the toilet to get away from this manager.

Thankfully, I also discovered the power of LinkedIn at this same time.

LinkedIn gave me connection and insight into our industry’s best and brightest minds. It was there where I reached out and connected to Ron Shevlin, Jim Marous, Jeffry Pilcher, JP Nichols, and others. I did this so I could learn from them. So I could eventually join them as a thought leader in our industry.

LinkedIn allowed me to advertise webinars when I didn’t have any content designed. When people signed up, I designed the presentation.

LinkedIn and my blog gave me a platform to give away good information, not canned marketing solutions.

And it worked! I made sales, including the largest one the company had in 18 months.

I was on a roll.

It was then that I made my biggest strategic bet: I tried to better myself by doing something on my own time and on my own dime. When my “manager” found out, he told me, “I’m thinking about letting you go, Mark.”

So what did I do?

Please join me and Dan Swift from LinkedIn at our Keynote address at the American Bankers Association Marketing & Retail Conference on Sept 7-9 to find out.

Minor spoiler alert: He was a real asshole. How big of an asshole? Find out in Orlando! 🙂

2014 ABA Marketing Conference HiX


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