For many years, I would hear the constant complaints from friends and colleagues about how people are treated in corporate America. I sympathized, but really couldn’t empathize.
Last month, our Glen Mills, PA studio was hired to photograph a few hundred headshots at a national bank’s local headquarters in Wilmington, DE. We understood an agreed-upon pricing structure and sent our team over for several days, spending thousands of dollars on payroll and technology to ensure a smooth running event.
Unbeknownst to us, an email went out to the entire company within days of the photography taking place stating that the images would be delivered to employees for free. When we requested that the payment agreement be honored to at least cover our expenses, we were met with a surprising reaction.
Incoherent emails were being hurled around with spelling errors and insults like arrows.
There was a relentless insistence to find who was at fault instead of attempting a productive solution.
My team was getting hour long phone calls from bank executives threatening us.
I was frustrated about the expense and being the “little one” in the situation and the financial loss for our studio.
But even more so, I am GRATEFUL.
For this company – this nationally known bank – using language intended to hurt is just “business as usual.” The people involved are so used to treating others so poorly, it didn’t even occur to them that power struggles are simply embedded into the fabric of their communication. It’s simply part of the culture and expected in a situation when you want to get your way.
I jokingly comforted our Studio Manager in a pep talk with “it could be worse… you could work there!”
When prospective franchisees come to us wanting to know how they can leave their soul-sucking corporate jobs for something more purposeful, and meaningful, I always heard it. But in the few days I experienced it – I can confidently state that I joyfully accept the uncertainty and risk of entrepreneurship any day over living it.
When I’m 80 years old, I want to look back on my life and be proud. It’s important to me that the many years I spent working went to a greater good of developing jobs for talented artists, empowering others, and creating heirlooms for families. Some people may never feel these feelings and proudly go through life figuring out how to one-up the person next to them. For me, our team, and the owners in this brand – our life aspirations go deeper.
For me, work isn’t just a job, it’s a way of living who I am every day. I understand that many traditional companies have fantastic culture and contribute to a greater good, but it must be just miserable for the ones who work in toxicity every day. While entrepreneurship can feel scary, there is nothing scarier to me than living a life under those conditions. For those of you who are, I would encourage you to believe in the possibility of joy at work.