leaving LEWIS

A new challenge

After twenty years, I am leaving my PR agency, LEWIS. That’s a long time to work with one firm, especially in an industry where average tenure is about three years. So I thought I’d take this chance to talk about two things – the importance of tenure, and what’s next for me personally.

Loyalty – overlooked and underrated

Loyalty to a company is rare in today’s gig-centric world. We all have different paths, but the one least taken is to advance your career with one employer, gradually building the company and moving up the chain. That’s not surprising since there are strong motivations to change firm – a pay increase, new experiences and often more status/authority.

You can’t get to the top of the ladder without demonstrable results. And that’s one of the main reasons to stay at a good employer. It takes 12-18 months to get fully immersed in a role and to hit peak productivity. Not to say you can’t deliver value from day one (you must), but it takes some time to learn the role, the power structures, the seasonal nature of the business etc. That time is an investment from the firm and from you – so stick around to get returns.

But 20 years is way out on the extreme end of tenure. In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking it starts to count against you. I mean – aren’t you ambitious? Are you sitting in your comfort zone? Can you even get another job? Those are fair questions – ones which I asked myself regularly to make sure it’s a conscious decision to stay, not a default.

The fact is, my company changed enormously since I joined – from ten people in one office to 600 people across 27 offices; from a media relations company to a full-service marketing firm. During that time, I’ve had several new roles, including founding and leading the US operations. On that first day in the US, there was just me, my hugenormous computer, a dial-up internet connection and a prospect’s phone number scribbled on a piece of paper in my back pocket. Today, we have over 200 staff, four offices and $35m+ in US revenues. So things have changed – and so has the role.

What hasn’t changed is my employer nor a group of colleagues who are lifelong friends. We’ve been to each other’s weddings and christenings (and divorce celebrations). We’ve beaten the Dotcom bust and Great Recession, and ridden the booms together. That builds a level of trust, intuition and togetherness which most of us only get from a few relationships in our lives. Work needn’t be a simple transaction of salary for labor, it can be emotionally fulfilling too. And who better to share that journey with than with friends?

So let me take this moment to thank my colleagues for this journey together. This is my stop, but you’ll go on to great things.

What’s next?

I’m setting up a new communications agency called Firebrand. It’s still in development but will be at the intersection of PR and content marketing with an emphasis on influencer relations and advocacy – encouraging target audiences to take action. Those audiences might be prospects, customers, media, analysts, influencers, employees, partners or investors – they all play a role in an organization’s success, and we’ll help them move up the ladder to desired actions.

The new firm will launch in the Fall. I’m looking forward to working closely with clients, to mentoring staff, moving fast and being entrepreneurial. I love all that. Meantime, I’ll be tapping you for advice, contacts, and potential clients – armed only with an enthusiastic smile, a plummy accent, and a much lighter laptop.

To LEWIS – so long, thanks and good luck. And to the future – buckle up.

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