Next week I have been invited to an award ceremony to celebrate the 100 most disruptive, innovative and remarkable new businesses in the UK, my company being named one of them.
We have also been nominated for an award on the night – Micro Business of the Year, which celebrates big things in business achieved by small teams like ours.
(Small plug… if you could vote for us here that might be nice!: http://www.smarta.com/smarta100/2013/bluebird-tea-co/)
Ironically, coincidentally or perhaps poetically it is on the evening, exactly to the day, that 3 years ago I walked out of an appalling work situation that added a whole bucket of coal to the fire burning inside me to start my own business.
Although I am not sure I realised how valuable the experience would be at the time.
I came out of the situation knowing that I could start a successful company that would make a positive impact in people lives. I gained a confidence that I could do what they were doing and that I could do it better, with more passion, more skill and more caring.
I walked away with valuable industry knowledge and learnt to build a team of fantastic people to help me on my own journey, but it was much more than these things that I learnt.
I asked myself for many months afterwards how it was that someone with genuinely good intentions could have ended up in such an appalling situation and being treated so badly in my place of work.
And to make it worse, in my opinion, by a small independent.
At points during these last few years whilst setting up my own independent business, I have thought that I might grow to see it from a new point of view or that I might learn some inside secret that sheds light on where they were coming from.
It has taken time and reflection to realise that, although truly awful at the time, it helped me and the experience remains incredibly valuable to me now. ( I really should write to them and thank them!)
This is what I learnt:
In life there are two default human behaviors when you find yourself in difficult situations. You either immediately blame other people or you look inwardly and blame yourself.
I tend to fall into the latter category, but not in a lack of self worth way, more in a trusting in other peoples humanity sort of way. My default position is to presume other people have the same good intentions and attitude towards their fellow human beings as I do and therefore there must be a simple misunderstanding and a rational resolution.
The worse thing was that because I presumed they were decent, rational, caring human beings and because they continued to either dismiss their behavior as acceptable or, later when I didn’t accept this, started blaming me for it, I began to question my own self belief that what was going on, the way these people were acting towards me, wasn’t OK.
I’m sure there are many others who will recognise this feeling too. They either act like their behavior is completely normal or that you are in some way to blame for their bad behavior.
The valuable lesson I learnt here is no matter how many times you give someone the benefit of the doubt and try to resolve issues in a friendly, professional, caring and helpful manner, sometimes, people are just not nice.
The other part of the lesson I learnt was to accept that I just cannot change that.
In business it helps me to identify quicker who isn’t approaching their business (or their life for that matter) with the same people-first values I do and I make sure that I acknowledge to myself that no amount of my time or effort will allow me to be able to form a trusting business relationship with them.
It also keeps me driven to prove that my attitude of treating others, be that customers, staff members or peers with respect for their general happiness is an acceptable and profitable way of running a business.
I honestly believe that great things, like this award, will continue to happen to our business, because I have faith that my people-first, happiness-spreading values underpin every business decision that I make and that that is the way to build a successful company.
If this resonates with you at all, please give us a vote. Or at least check out the appalling homemade video on the voting page!
Love + Tea