How I left my comfort zone and changed my life…

I only have one spreadsheet now. This is so refreshing that I want to shout it from the rooftops. It really has had a transformative effect on my business life.

The last company I worked for was so process driven that you had to fill in several reports just to get to the main report! The admin part of my role was taking up the majority of my main sales role and you don’t have to be Space X engineer to know that doesn’t make good business sense.

Nothing against my old company, it was a great employer and for six years I learnt a vast amount about sales and negotiation, thanks to wise colleagues and sales courses they enrolled us on. But then, out of the blue, they made four of us redundant. Initially I took the news badly and it left me angry and confused. Hindsight really is a wonderful thing as two years on from the trauma of it, I can now see it for what it really was, the best thing that could have happened to me.

As I type this blog nearly two years to the day of being let go, I have also finally recovered from my liver transplant I had in May 2018 and I have started a new job (more on that later). I feel more than a little bit proud that I have come through these huge life events not only unscathed but as a more positive and circumspect person.

I realised a while ago that the career I was in wasn’t quite right for me, but I hadn’t dared look for another role or industry to move into. Who dares make the change when they have three kids to look after? It’s bloody tough to quit a role without having a new one to go into when you have mouths to feed! Too often we are pigeon holed into careers far too young and then get trapped in them. Thank goodness we live in an age where it is completely normal to have as many as eight jobs before you are 40 (yes dear reader I turn 40 this year). Certainly Sally from my school’s career advice office never told me about the pitfalls of being trapped in a career that you won’t really enjoy. I seem to recall that the test came out that I should be in the army or an airline steward! What a test that must have been to throw up two so diametrically opposed careers!

Anyway, back to the present day and after a heartfelt LinkedIn post in December 2017 that got a million views, I was inundated with well wishes and more than a few job offers. I knew then, by writing such a cathartic online missive, I had shaken off the shackles. I had taken the plunge and I was the one that was in command of my own destiny. I was the captain of my own ship and I was choosing the path I was going to sail. It felt so good! One of the people that got in touch was Will Stewart who wanted to talk about how someone with my FMCG experience could fit into his licensing agency team at The Point.1888.

As he explained the slightly surreal world of licensing, I admitted that up to then I only viewed licensed products as the latest Disney or Marvel movie character on a kid’s lunchbox or on their summer T-shirts or winter pyjamas. How wrong could I be! I really didn’t know what an all-conquering and diverse world it was. In the UK alone. It’s a £8.5 billion pound industry growing at 4.5% annually.

One of the mantras of Will’s business philosophy is that life comes before work and he positively encourages a life work balance. We are both fathers to two year old twins so like me he knows all about late nights and early rises. He is the model of a modern day entrepreneur. How my heart rejoiced when he said he was cool with me dropping my kid at the school gate (eldest is now six) and then starting work at 9:15.

Why is this all important? Well, it’s clear that too many of us are in jobs we hate. I have friends of mine who work in London and have to commute on overcrowded trains to London at 6am only to get back at 8pm when the kids are all in bed. Thy only time they have with their kids is at the weekend. I never wanted that life and I am so pleased that I’m in the fortunate position of being able to watch my boys grow up whilst working hard and providing for them.

My new role has allowed me to use the creative part of my brain for the first time in years. I am now sitting down dreaming up some of the most insane ideas for brands that might or might not work but I have loved every minute. Giving brands product extensions that are meaningful and can create extra revenue for them is a very cool job.

If you told me two years ago that I was going to become the brand manager on one of the most exciting licensed properties in the UK right now, The Met Police / New Scotland Yard I wouldn’t have believed you. We are creating something amazing with The Met and the money they make will go back into front line policing to make our streets safer for all of us. What can be better than that?

In theory I could be sitting having a coffee at Starbucks (other coffee houses are available) and be able to strike up a conversation with someone and I bet you anything that I would be able find a way to do business with them, either as a license to one of our brands we represent or representing them as a brand.  In licensing there is always a way to work with someone. As jobs go, it is exhilarating. I am able to work across all these cool brands and then draft in leading licenses to work for them.

I’ve always been the friend who is the one to organise the group get together for the old school friends I still have from prep school but I had no idea this skill would be so transferable to business. It turns out that in licensing, your ultimate swiss army knife is a big contacts book, a passion to matchmake people who haven’t talked before and some good old perseverance. I guess, therefore, I was able to neatly slot in to the industry. The lure of the deal is still there as, at heart, we are still selling, and we need to clinch licensing to be successful as an agency.

In the FMCG sector, licencing is interesting because very few brands do it well. There are some megabucks celebrity endorsements, think Pepsi. Licensing can offer a very attractive route for some companies to associate themselves with truly global brands they hitherto thought out of reach. We represent a number of iconic brands that could be epic in FMCG. Brands like Team GB or Jamie Johnson CBBC would be perfect for FMCG. If you are a marketing director in the FMCG world and want to hear more about how licensing works then let’s have a conversation. In the meantime I hope you don’t have to fill in too many spreadsheets this week!

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