A friend of mine runs her own business. She used to have a big job in the City, then had two kids and has now decided to use the proceeds from her maternity leave and subsequent settlement package to start her own business.
She is founder, managing director and assistant brand manager all rolled into one. Compared to the daily drudgery of corporate life, it all sounds incredibly exciting to me. She is definitely a new woman, free of the corporate ties and on a mission to prove she can go it alone.
She has secured funding from a government-backed regional fund for entrepreneurial women. She described it as a Dragons’ Den process with a lot of paperwork, but having done a great impression of hard working new mum with a great idea (rather than a recently retired City hotshot) she got the start-up cash bonus she was seeking.
We were out to dinner about a month ago, when fuelled by Cabernet Sauvignon she decided that I should become a non-executive director for her new venture. In return for being her industry adviser on all things marketing, I get to talk about something more entrepreneurial than my day job and put my years of marketing knowledge to the test in the real world (her words not mine).
My real remit is somewhere between counsellor, friend and mentor
I have always envied these new wave pluralists who boast a raft of non-executive positions. It sounds incredibly grand, getting paid a nice sum for turning up at a few board meetings and sharing the occasional word of wisdom.
Sadly my non-exec adventure is nothing of the sort. My remuneration package consists of occasional cups of coffee and the odd flapjack if there has been a good sales week. My real remit is in fact somewhere between friend, counsellor and mentor with a few specific marketing tasks thrown in.
Sadly, my friend from the City has the same view of marketing as most people out there. We do promotions and produce leaflets. In our more strategic moments, we are also good at helping to set up exhibition stands and then standing at that trade show for a whole weekend doing a good impression of a sales rep when our employer cannot afford to hire a real one.
My next job is to produce a sales presenter. I can’t remember the last time I did a sales presenter. Disappointingly, I do not have an agency or indeed a brand manager to delegate the task to. I try producing it myself with a little help from Prontaprint.
Job done I thought, but I am also in charge of direct marketing, which involves stuffing envelopes and buying the stamps. Welcome to the real world as my friend now calls it. In a weird way, I’m actually really quite enjoying it.