When to Quit? (6/7/06)
I earn tons of money but hate my job. I work for a company that asks me to help promote products that I think are harmful to whoever consumes them. I'm talking selling sugary soft drinks to teenagers. I'm having nightmares about graveyards filled with rotting teeth and teenagers. On the one hand, I have a big mortgage payment every month and on the other, I have a conscience that won't let me sleep. Give me some of your solid canine advice Zelda.
Drowning in Indecision... Alligators at my Ears
Dear Drowning in Indecision,
Swamp land isn't the best real estate, and alligators sure don't make the best neighbors. It sounds like your conscience is telling you it's time for a change. But however much you'd like to get out of that moral swamp, without doing your homework first, and with that big mortgage breathing down your neck, you could go straight from the swamp to the street!
So, before you quit your job, sniff around and see if there is another job in your company where you would feel better, for example if you were promoting a different product. (Do they also distribute natural juices or healthy foods?). If so, go to whoever makes decisions about assigning positions and products, and let them know your interests and your concerns. Before you go, make sure you have a concrete series of suggestions about how you see resolving the situation by switching to an account that excites you and that you would be proud to promote. Me? Every night I drool about promoting a dog food company: I'm already their test market!
If, however, you are stuck in your present position for a while, don't burn any bridges. Fend off those alligators with a friendly smile while looking outside your company for a job that reflects your beliefs and interests. You must meet the mortgage payments, and finding a new job is a lot easier if you are "presently employed," especially at a high salary. That said, go online, go to a head hunter, and get in touch with companies you admire. Make a wish list of "if only I worked at _____ I'd be happy," companies. Keep looking and don't be afraid to ask. If you don't ask, the answer will always be "no." You are well paid now, and that means another company is likely to recognize your talents and abilities. Sometimes you just have to look and wait for the right opportunity.
Once you've found your new home, try to leave your old one on good terms. Even alligators like to party, so throw a "moving on" party with lots of appetizers, and try not to tell your colleagues how morally reprehensible you think they are. At least you know there will be plenty of soft drinks at the party! Better to leave the alligators well-fed than fed-up.
About a year ago I launched a greeting card line. Your story inspired me and so I put my cartoon designs on paper and printed several thousand cards which I sold to local stores. While the sales started slow, they have improved. I've learned a lot, and friends are encouraging me to keep going. The thing is that I don't want to continue producing and distributing the cards myself. There just aren't enough hours in the day for me to design, produce AND distribute. Also I'm running short of cash and I've learned how difficult it is to sell my cards to stores that only buy from the 'big dog' greeting card companies, and you know who I mean. Should I quit, call it a good test, but not good enough to continue? You run with the "big dogs" so what's your advice?
Back in the Pack
Dear Back in the Pack,
You are so right, it's never easy to run with the 'big dogs,' and this is especially true in the greeting card industry. Statistics show that 97% of the small start-up greeting card companies fail in the first two years. Now before that statistic makes you go out and build a greeting-card bonfire in your back yard, just remember that 3% DO make it, and everyone, even the big dogs, had to start small at some point. For us, it took a lot of hard running, and while I'm not exactly built to be fast, I am definitely tough, and certainly stubborn. In addition to working hard, you also need to work smart.
First, I'd suggest you look closely at your card sales. Did stores re-order, and if so, how much and how often? If there was good "sell through" and store owners are telling you that your cards are "flying off the shelves," then, and only then, should you consider the next step, which for us was taking a booth at the annual New York Stationery Show.
The Show is held in May at the Jacob Javits Center http://www.nationalstationeryshow.com, and thousands of large and small greeting card companies set up booths. Gift, department, chain and card store owners and buyers come to order cards and they are always looking for the latest and greatest new card lines. Also, the 'big dog' greeting card companies browse for card lines they might license and add to their own.
I, like you, was dog-tired trying to do everything myself, and wanted one of those 'big dog' companies to come sniffing. The good news is that's what happened. I think we stood out because my cards weren't like any of the other new card lines, and we were overwhelmed with orders and opportunities. The best news, however, was that I was invited to join a 'big dog' company, which I did, and which made all the difference. Hence, no more licking envelopes for me (except for fun).
So now it's time for you to sit down and get the opinion of a very tough critic: your calculator. If your numbers aren't good, it's time to quit. Sell your inventory and start thinking about a new opportunity. If your numbers look good, and the comments from store owners are even better, then it's time to try your lot running with the 'big dogs.' Entering the race is up to you. If you have the passion to win, and the numbers show promise... go for it! Good luck and let me know what happens.
Remember, even the 'big dogs' had to start small.
This last year I joined a bulldog club with my bulldog, Otis (not his pedigreed name). Everyone told me that Otis should be a show dog and that by becoming a member of my local bulldog club I would meet other people who show their bulldogs and that I could pick up some tips and get help on how to enter Otis in competitions. Well when I joined, what I found was a cliquey circle of people who don't want anyone competing with their dogs. Basically they turned their backs on me and when I entered Otis in a local competition the judge ignored us while he spent a lot of time laughing and being 'chummy' with the people from the bulldog club. Zelda, I don't want to be bull-headed, but this makes me mad. What would you do?
It's no fun being on the outside and looking in, especially when you want to be inside too, when your intentions and your interests are genuine, and when you just want to be relax and join the party. I'm really sorry that you didn't feel more welcome at the club... most bulldog clubs are really nice places full of warm and friendly dog lovin' folks! But before you and Otis walk away, I say "paws" to reflect on your feelings, then give the ol' bulldog club one last chance. Bulldog club members are there because they share a love of their dogs. Sure they may be competing for prizes and Best of Show, but they're also there to talk, socialize, and share their interests with others. I suggest you give it one more "bulldog try" before calling it quits. After all, we are known for our determination.
My suggestion is that for the next meeting you come armed with ideas for the club... perhaps proposing a new kind of 'FUNd' raiser, or making plans for a hot summer party for cool bikini-clad bulldogs. Offer to bring 'pup-cicles' made from frozen chicken bouillon on rawhide sticks. Be enthusiastic, and your enthusiasm will be contagious. Volunteer to be in charge of the event. We all love to party, especially when someone else puts it together. All this will give you an opportunity to meet and interact with the other members, and will let you know once and for all if this group is for you.
If your summer party plans, or any other plans you present are met with a cold front by the club members, or if you continue to feel snubbed by the club, then it's time to move on. Life is too short to waste your precious free time on stuck-up people (or dogs!). Start your own club with your friends, or look into other canine clubs in your area. I'm sure that with some dogged determination you and Otis will find the perfect pack.