I love you.
But I need to leave you.
For my mental health. I am sorry.
From the beginning
We go back a long way. I was a newbie, youngest member on the team.
I became the manager, mainly because I accepted the challenge of heading up a brand new site.
I relished the unique challenges of setting up a new site, employing new staff and establishing procedures and policies.
During this time, my relationship broke up when I did not want a long distance relationship. Work was a saviour – I gave everything to it, at first to dull my pain and loss. I am needed here, I am extremely useful.
Soon the main site wanted me back as manager – I had proven myself at the smaller new site. So I returned and handed my baby to another manager.
Over the years, the business grew and transformed. We renovated the premises, modernised it with technology. All the time, I was learning new things on the job; managing difficult people who resented the youngest as manager; introducing new services and technology.
I thrived in this role. One by one, the ‘difficult’ people left and we formed a very strong core team with the remaining staff plus new team members. I am still friends with this team 26 years on.
Then we burnt down
I will never forget standing across the road, in the middle of the night, watching my baby burn. Watching the firemen valiantly try to beat the flames engulfing the building.
All those hours of work. The planning and thinking behind the renovations.
Gone up in flames.
So we start again
This is when I learn resilience.
That difficult things in life come and they will go too in time.
The very next day, we as a team, moved down the street, set up shop in a garage and soldiered on.
While the bosses found new premises, dealt with insurance and rebuilding our old premises.
We work together, continuing to serve our local community and through it all, with no loss of institutional clients.
While this was an incredibly difficult and uncertain time, we forged stronger bonds among the core team – with our shared experiences forever defined as ‘before’ and ‘after’ the fire.
Rising from the ashes
Like a phoenix.
By this stage, I am an accidental workaholic.
Accidental because I did not set out consciously to be ambitious or career climbing. I just got into the habit of working very hard and love responding to challenges. I want to see results – not so much for myself, crazy as it sounds, but for the company.
The business grows and grows. To the point we ran out of room.
And so we deicide to split the business into two – one servicing retail clients and the other, institutional clients.
I always knew it would be hard to manage two sites, even though they were physically very close to each other. I resisted for a while but finally acknowledge we have no option but to split into two.
Once again, I am managing transitions. The team that is ‘left behind’ and the team moving to the new premises. More change for everyone. Some react to change better than others.
The new business grows and grows. Servicing institutional clients can be boring once systems are in place.
I decide to try my hand at my own business (in partnership with the bosses) in a totally different industry, while still working very part time in the core businesses. It flopped.
So I am back to managing both core businesses. Where I am seen to produce the most value.
By this time, the retail business is facing immense challenges with industry disruptors wreaking havoc. We struggle to respond. Revenue drops. Staff is not replaced as they leave.
Meanwhile. the institutional business is growing rapidly. Our energy and focus is diverted here. The team also grows rapidly to cope with serving all these clients.
But over the years, this landscape shifts too when the government change the rules and our revenue drops as a result. We still have to maintain our high level of service, with institutional clients expressly informing us they would leave if we reduce some of our costly-to-us services.
My day to day roles now revolve around managing staff – maintaining the roster is my least favourite part of the job. And as staff leave, they were not replaced, in an effort to contain costs. This put increasing pressure on my boss and I to shoulder some of the day to day workload.
It is just inevitable that starved of funds, we could not attract quality staff.
I struggle. To keep everyone happy – the staff, the clients and the boss. The more I take on, the more people expect me to perform miracles.
And I am still managing the retail business, encouraging our staff to adopt new strategies to counteract the distruptors. It was an uphill battle initially but I sense momentum is picking up in our favour.
I am always torn between the two businesses, frenetically juggling, juggling, juggling.
I am drowning.
Finally I cracked
It is time to say goodbye.
Heart wrenching as it is.
From the baby I help birthed. The business with institutional clients.
I have nothing more to offer, no more solutions, creative or otherwise.
I am trying very hard not to feel that I failed.
Trying to tell myself that I gave everything I had in me and that it is time to surrender.
To admit that I can no longer handle the beast we created.
I wish you all the best, with all that is in my heart. That someone else with more energy and an urgent injection of funds will rescue you.
And that you will continue to grow, to provide a valuable service to our institutional clients.
Where to from here?
I will be managing the retail business.
The smaller business.
With less staff.
There are still plenty of mighty challenges ahead.
Which I will meet head on.
But first I rest and heal.
Holidays, here I come
Have you felt overwhelmed at work? And burnt out?