Don’t fight the old, build the new

October 2020 marks my 5-year anniversary at Magenta Associates, and my 1-year anniversary as MD (what a crash course I’ve had!), so I thought it was a good time to look back as well as forward. So much has changed since 2015, but the last seven months have been particularly changeable and challenging – no doubt a side-effect of the world turning upside-down back in March.

I smile when I think of all those conferences when speaker after speaker addressed the crowd and confidently declared we’re on the cusp of a workplace revolution. Well, they were right. But I’m not entirely sure this is what they had in mind. It’s a change we weren’t prepared for. But here we are, still standing. And from the conversations I’ve had with our nearest and dearest clients and Magenta friends, it feels like the industry is slowly but surely building back up.

I’m going to level with you. Before I joined the M People, I spent the summer of 2015 worrying I was making a mistake. I’d worked at my previous agency in broadcast PR for four and a half years. That was a record as my career prior to then had been fairly… let’s say colourful. And despite resigning, I couldn’t imagine leaving. I’d become willingly institutionalised. I was good at my job. When people came to me with questions, I had answers. I loved everyone I worked with – colleagues, clients, even some of the celebrities (the ones who weren’t divas). I felt like I belonged there and I was comfortable. It was easy.

Change is the opposite of comfortable and easy. And even though I knew it was time for something new, I felt anxious about venturing into new territory. I didn’t know anything about facilities management or the built environment (and I didn’t have a clue what the hundreds of acronyms or abbreviations meant!). I’d spent close to five years managing quick-turnaround B2C PR campaigns, not long-term B2B integrated comms programmes and so I wondered if I was up for the job. I kept questioning my decision in the run up to my last day, but I listened to my Dad who said, “Jo, what’s the worst that can happen? Give it a go. It could be the best decision you ever make.”

As usual, Dad was right.

Making the move wasn’t easy. But there’s no thrill, no progress and no magic when things are easy. And without unleashing my inner hippy, I can honestly say I’ve found the magic with Magenta. I love what I do. What we do. What our clients do.

Meeting Magenta Associates founder Cathy Hayward changed the course of my life, for the better. And while some of that’s due to Magenta being an awesome place to work (the best place I’ve ever worked, in fact), I think it’s also partly because I was able to focus my energy on building the new, not fighting the old. When I arrived on the scene, I was all in, you see. No turning back. All or nothing. Boom.

I believe we need a fighting spirit to get through this crisis. We need to be able to look forward, not back. We need to focus on what we’ll gain, not what we’ll lose. While I’m not going to pretend that Covid is going to bring with it a whole new world, shining, shimmering, splendid, I actually think it may help make life better in the long run. For everyone. To find out why, check out my LinkedIn article on ‘The Secret of Change’.

Jo Sutherland