Sometimes, it can be doing something you enjoy and find fulfilling that keeps you from doing what you really need to do. And then along comes fate and turns everything on its head. Welcome to one of my many discoveries from 2020.
Wind the clock back a year and there I was: well established as a director at a successful web agency in the South West. It was my first employer after leaving teaching and after 10 years I was an established and pivotal member of the organisation – or so I thought.
I was leading a team that I had helped to mould. I felt I had a sense of purpose. There were developments being planned in the business that I was really excited about. The future looked full of opportunities to do interesting things.
With spring came Covid. Uncharted waters for all of us. ‘Furloughed’ was a new word – and a new experience. It was one with some bright spots and, frankly, some quite dark corners.
The fact that I got to spend a couple of months at home with my young son was a bonus and time I will always cherish. But if anyone thinks that furlough is a long paid holiday I have news for you.
But being furloughed came with a big side helping of uncertainty. Will I have a job to go back to? Why me? So I’m more dispensable than I thought I was. Will anyone else see any value in my skills? And possibly worst of all: I’m in a situation that I can’t control. These are not comfortable thoughts to grapple with.
For any employer out there with staff still on furlough all I’ll say is this: don’t underestimate how much support they might be needing right now. An occasional call to ask how things are going and just to show that they haven’t been forgotten will make a difference.
Space to think
Being furloughed gave me space to think – a luxury you don’t always have when you’re working long hours and chasing project deadlines. At the back of my mind I’d always assumed that I’d end up running my own business. Maybe this was the time to make the leap?
I have a basic philosophy that says that life is short. Getting bogged down in introspection and wondering ‘what if’ is wasted time. When furlough evolved into talks about possible redundancies I was ready to put my name forward. One of the realities of being furloughed is that you start to detach yourself. Making the decision to step away from perceived security didn’t seem like such a big one.
There was also an element of ‘taking one for the team.’ I don’t want to make myself out as being noble or heroic, but volunteering to leave helped to protect the positions of a team that I’d recruited and nurtured. This too, played a part.
So from the end of July I was out on my own. Innatus Digital became my new focus. Maybe I was lucky, maybe it was a case of right offer, right time, but I had my first work offer within a week. And it was for long-term retained work rather than a project, which perfectly suited my ambitions for the new business.
I now help several businesses with analytical UX work, digital strategies, scaling up operations and server infrastructure. It’s the type of work I love doing. I’m helping businesses to get better value from their digital investments and the agencies they work with.
Now – despite handicaps such as not being able to get out and network – at the end of 2020 I am recruiting. The ambition to achieve steady growth through the happiness of clients seems to be working out.
Innatus Digital is all about giving hands-on expert support to businesses that want to make sense of digital. I get the impression that many are fed up with empty promises, quick fixes and the lure of the new and shiny. They just want help from people they can trust, delivered in a business context that they understand, and which delivers long-term value.
Looking back there are things about 2020 that I would change. But I wouldn’t change the outcome. Life is about looking forward and that’s exactly what I’m doing.
If you’ve had a year anything like mine, or if you’re still trying to find your way forward, I’m always open for a chat. Or even if you just want to talk through some ideas without somebody trying to sell you something, just get in touch.
Founder – Innatus Digital Ltd.