For the bulk of my career, I worked for a corporate entity. At one point I managed six stores in a chain of 300 locations. It was the epitome of corporate – a private jet and multi-level corporate office with a gym, eatery, and private garage. We had elaborate training events, and lots and LOTS of rules.
In the time I spent in this corporate environment, I learned how to be PC. Like super PC all the time.
I didn’t talk about my personal life as to not reveal too much. I didn’t tell employees they “look great today” as it might be taken as too forward. I didn’t shake hands but instead gave high-fives so someone didn’t think I held too long or touched their wrist too high.
My MySpace page (yes, that dates me) and then my Facebook page even used an alias. This way, I could skip the conversation with staff who looked for my profile about why I hadn’t accepted their friend request. Mixing business and personal? Not a chance!
These are the things a corporate environment taught me. I learned to suppress my personality at times so I fit the company mold. Their flag was my flag ALL the time. I was on-call 24 hours a day, after all.
My corporate experience also taught me to manage by numbers; goals had to be met, profits had to be made, loose ends had to be cut. I began to feel like we were all pawns in someone else’s game. Every day I was focused on hitting our goals, making sure my district performed at an acceptable level so my 40-some staff and I all had security.
I had seen before that when people failed, made a mistake, or disappointed the “higher ups” that they were gone in the blink of an eye. No matter how many awards they had won or milestones they had passed, it became clear that we were all disposable. It was just a matter of time.
This is my confession…
I had a decision to make. I was making good money, had more influence than a lot of 20-somethings do, had won several awards, and was a respected leader in the company. But I wanted out.
My climb up the corporate ladder taught me invaluable lessons, some that I still employ today. I learned to be a professional and work with all types of people. I learned to be a leader, not just a manager. I learned to understand both people and business. And for all of this I am grateful.
But after a decade or so, I decided I didn’t want a corporate job in my future. I didn’t know where I was going but it wasn’t going to be there.
After I moved on, I worked for a couple mom and pops, then for an educational institution. After a few years, I realized that my corporate days had taught me the skills I needed to run my own business. I no longer needed to work towards someone else’s goal. I was confident I could manage on my own. So I did it!
It has taken me YEARS to drop my corporate guard, becoming comfortable being my authentic self and a respectable business person at the same time. I slip back into my corporate mindset from time to time, but I am learning that it’s okay to say what I mean and mean what I say. I don’t work in fear anymore that today could be the last day if I don’t just grin and bear it.
Now, I can share things about me, reveal a little to people I don’t know. No matter what they think, I still stand for WHAT and WHO I am. I am wrapping my head around the idea that I can be Allison the business owner who works hard, is sassy, and has a sense of humor. I am no longer defined by my work. I am my work.
This is my confession about breaking up with corporate. And it feels good.
To read Confessions of a business owner: Part 4: click here.