In just a few days, the gaffa will be flying to the USA to transfer to our Boston office. And whilst I’m pretty used to him jetting off here, there and everywhere in the name of running ramarketing, this time it’s different. This time he’s not going to return after a few short days with sweets from the country he’s visited for me. This time it’s going to be longer than usual – he’s moving over there to get our US operation off to a flyer.
Whilst I’m incredibly excited to be on this journey with the gaffa and team ramarketing as we try to crack the US of A, for me personally it’s bittersweet.
You see, I was one of ramarketing’s first employees. And so for the first few years of my career, it was just me and the gaffa sitting side by side in a tiny office. Listening to Radio 1. Singing along to the latest Taylor Swift bop whilst sipping on Nespresso coffee and eating Sports Mixtures.
I’m so incredibly grateful for those early days, and for every day that’s followed. I’ve got to sit next to him every day for the last six years and help him build this amazing business. And as you can imagine, I’ve learnt an incredible amount. So quite frankly, when he jets off next Saturday, I’m going to feel like I’ve lost my right arm.
So, in true Raman fashion, I thought I’d take a leaf out of his book and share a few things I’ve learnt from him over the last six years…
1. Know your worth
In the earlier days of my career, I used to be terrible at asking clients for money. I’d hate having to explain to them what they wanted wasn’t in scope and that I’d have to charge extra. And as much as a ‘gesture of good will’ is nice from time to time, time is money at the end of the day and I can service a paying client with my time, or give it away for free. The thing is, I never really valued what my time was worth. I’d say everything was a quick five minute job to justify doing it for free (when in reality no job is ever a quick five minutes). As Raman put it, I’ve spent years working on my craft and finessing my skills to the point where, yep I probably could do it in five minutes, but the client hasn’t. And if they tried to do it themselves it’d take them a lot more time… time which is probably better spent on them growing their own businesses. So, over time Raman has taught me know my worth. To always put a price tag on my time and expertise.
2. If it looks sh*t, don’t send it
I learnt this one the hard way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent work to Raman to have it sent back ‘red penned’ because it wasn’t good enough. But after years of being asked “how can we make it better” this is something I live and breathe. In the fast pace of agency life, it can be tempting to try and get stuff off your list as quickly as possible. But one thing Raman has always drummed into me and the rest of the team at ramarketing is, if it looks sh*t, don’t sent it. The result? Taking pride in everything I produce. Knowing that once it’s gone out the door, it was the absolute best it could be. It’s probably why producing only world-class work is now ingrained in our culture.
3. Aim high
Six years ago, I could never have imagined we’d end up where we are now. With offices in Newcastle, Manchester and now Boston. A team of 30 of us, working with global clients. And it’s certainly not easy to imagine where we’ll be in the next few years. But one thing Raman has always drummed into me is aim high. Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars (cringe-worthy but true). In appraisals when I’d ask, what’s my next step and how do I get there? He’d answer where do you want to go? What to do you want to do? Literally the only thing standing in my way is my own imagination. A few years ago we were having a beer in a bar called ‘Tokyo’ in Newcastle and he said: “In ten years, we’ll have an office in Japan and we’ll be having a beer in actual Tokyo.” Back then, it sounded ridiculous, but it’s getting more and more realistic by the day.
4. If its urgent, they’ll ring
Raman is a big believer in work life balance. His one rule is family first, work second. But when you’re starting out your career, it can be difficult to switch off. Even when you’re at work, it can be difficult to do work as you’re constantly checking emails and Slacks and feel the need to reply immediately. You feel you need be online constantly in order to keep up. So you dip in and out of tasks and end up making yourself far busier than you needed to be. In the early days, I’d be checking emails all day and at all hours of the night and then I’d not sleep for thinking about them. I’d come in the next day exhausted because I’d end up working late to get things finished that I should have got to during the day but didn’t because I was too busy getting distracted by emails or starting umpteen different tasks. Raman’s response? “If it was that urgent, they’d ring”. Over the years he’s drummed into me that it’s OK to not be ‘online’ at all hours of the day. And that its far more productive to shut off your emails and switch off your notifications to focus on that one big task you need to get off you list. And that way, when home time rolls around, you can go home and not worry about work because you know you’ve had a really productive day and you’ve got everything off your list that you needed to. And in six years the amount of times a client has ever called me of an evening with an urgent request? Zero. Meaning once my working day is done, I can switch off and spend time with my family.
5. There’s no such thing as a stupid question
I’ve got to admit, I still preface a lot of my questions with “this might be a stupid question, but”, but the gaffa has always reminded me that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. I read somewhere (don’t ask me where or who to attribute the quote to) that the only stupid question was the one that never got asked and it’s so true. The thing is, a lot of what I know now I couldn’t have possibly learned without asking questions… even if a few of them seemed daft at the time. As a graduate going into my first ‘proper’ job, it felt like I should already have all the answers, and that by asking a question I was admitting failure or that I couldn’t actually do something. But you know what, a lot of what I’ve learnt from Raman lives in his head, so without asking questions, there’s no way he could have taught me as much as he has.
6. Pick up the phone
Or even better, go and meet people in person. I’ve got to admit, I’m not much of a phone person. I’m more of an email and text kind of gal. But the gaffa has always encouraged me to pick up the phone or get out and see people. The thing is, too much can get lost over email. You can’t read body language or get a good feel for the tone of the conversation. There’s been stacks of times when I’ve read too much into an email and come away feeling like the client wasn’t happy or there’s a big issue that needs dealing with. But, in reality when I’ve followed up with a call or meeting, it’s never as bad as the email made it seem. Now, before I send an email, I ask myself is this a conversation that would be better had in person or over the phone?
So, there you have it. Six things I’ve learnt from the gaffa in six years. In reality, I’ve learnt too much to even put on paper. Like how to choose a good beer at a bar, or to never skimp on decent food and good coffee. Oh, and that I will always, always, always regret eating that doughnut.
Gaffa, if you’re reading this, I am going to miss you immensely when you head off to the US with your gorgeous family . I’m incredibly proud of you and the business you’ve built and the culture you’ve crafted. I’m also incredibly grateful that not a day goes by where I dread coming to work… and that’s down to you and what you’ve created at ramarketing. Things won’t be the same without you at ramarketing HQ. But, I’ll be here, flying the flag for ramarketing in the UK.