Peel Back the label

My bestie, Tam, got married last month – yay! And I was obvs her maid of honour… or dishonour as she called it.

There were two bridesmaids; one of which was Tam’s closest friend at school, Eve. We all went to primary and high school together, but I hadn’t seen Eve in 18 years… and yes I am that old!

The day before the wedding, Eve and I reminisced about old times. She described her memories of me; Jeni the high school nerd, the head girl, the goodie-two-shoes.

Suffice it to say that when I dropped a F-bomb after my shot of tequila at 2pm, she looked shocked and confused. I felt her enjoying my company more and more as we gin bar’d and partied the night away, while we chatted about business, babies, boys and life.

You see the girl Eve saw in school was indeed all true, but that wasn’t all I was. Sure I did well, but after school I still went to parties and had fun. Yes, I was head girl, but I was still shy and insecure. And that girl had evolved. She now had another 18 years of learnings, loves, heartaches and hard-knocks. So why was she surprised that I was nervous to say a speech at the wedding? Why was she shocked that I sang so very badly at the bachelorette karaoke? She had really only ever seen part of me.

I was and have become so much more than her label for me.

I see this in work. JAW wasn’t always a team of unicorns. It started with just one. And that one worked tirelessly, eagerly and cheaply for a chance to prove her worth. It was at this point in my life, as a freelance designer, that I began doing work for a substantial, and much-love SA brand. I picked up the (what others might call) design scraps doing resizing and the odd internal job. They slowly started giving me more and more, but I remained the “get it quick” reliable freelancer. I dealt with them remotely and did the work as and when it came.

4 years on I still did work for that same company, which had now grown substantially and gone global. I loved the brand and loved the people. While the relationship remained one of trust and respect and my portfolio of work had grown, I couldn’t shake the label of the “get it quick” reliable freelancer.

You see, this was my fault. I had never worked hard at showing them all sides of me and my business. Just as I couldn’t blame Eve for judging me based on the ‘me’ I chose to show her, I couldn’t blame my client for judging JAW based on what they saw of me.

This is when I made a decision 2 years ago to actively show our worth. To not hide behind the screen, to pick up the phone, pop in, and proactively pitch ideas. And the key teaching, was that it’s no longer me, it’s JAW, it’s ‘we’. We are stronger together and capable of so much more than they thought. It has been an exercise of patience and tenacity in proving our worth for better work and better budgets.

This week this same client called and requested JAW to go on retainer for a susbtanstial and important part of their business. The client said “JAW knows our brand best and consistently gets it right” followed up with a phone call from the CEO telling me how proud she is of me.

I spent 2 years, not trying to change their perception of me, but trying to add to it. As you see, I was and AM the ‘get it quick’ girl and I was and AM reliable. My goal was to peel back the label that was ‘Jeni’ and reveal the label that is ‘JAW’, to ensure they saw the same jar of delightful goodies that was always there, just a bit fuller.

In essence I learned, that people will believe what you decide to show them.

Onwards and upwards for good people working with good people!

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