During reading week, I took a brief trip to Toronto to visit friends whom I haven’t seen in a long while. In particular, I visited with a former boss, who had re-entered the workplace after several years absence.
The Boss is now working at a small package goods company, which shall remain nameless, for reasons that you will shortly see. She and I were having a wonderful time getting caught up, when I mentioned that I really missed being in the thick of managing a brand. I missed the problem solving, the immediacy, watching the results. I missed corporate life. My old boss was working on some really cool stuff. I was jealous.
That gasping you hear is the result of the bucket of cold water that was immediately thrown over my fantasy. The Boss began to share the inevitable stories of office politics, bad decision making and the usual collection of “mean girls”. I quickly realized that my blood pressure would be stratospheric in no time flat, and that the reasons that I left the industry still existed, and in fact, if anything, had gotten worse.
Package goods is notorious for promoting people in their late 20s with little experience to manage brands, and businesses. Typically, these people then develop enormous egos. As a result, those with 15 or 20 years of real world marketing experience generally get pushed aside or ignored. And the businesses suffer for it. These same people are always bored and wanting new assignments, so brands often have changes of managers on an annual basis, making it difficult, if not impossible to develop a consistent brand strategy. Its not surprising that the package goods industry is struggling right now. It was one of the first industries to pursue the “cult of the amateur”. Experience and wisdom are not valued in this industry.
So needless to say, I’ve been cured of my little fantasy to return to the excitement of the business world. I have to remember to be thankful for the opportunity to think deeply, in a place that values experience.