Bad Business (Part 2)

Well here we are again, I say this to myself knowing full well that no one is reading this besides my husband, my dear friend, and probably my mom…ha! It’s okay, this is therapeutic for me, writing always has been.

As I left it last, click here to read Part 1. I thought my career was over because a really well known blogger I was working for, dropped her marbles on my head and scared me so badly that for months after, I thought her husband was going to show up at our door and yell at me. No, that wasn’t realistic, but her over the top reaction to something we really could have figured out and made work, left me fearful and confused.

Again though the reoccurring theme is, too trusting and zero protected. My dad use to say to me, “Tiffany these people are not your friends” and it would really annoy me, because I understood that, but also, I still believed they thought of me as at least a human being? I can now confirm that, that is a resounding NOPE!

Enter the last bad business experience I hope to have for the rest of my life, because this one really left me bruised. It has been a year since it happened, and I still struggle with how I was treated…and how little it’s made me think of myself.

During the building of this freelance career of mine, and right after I sold my business, I started doing marketing for a small business that made children’s clothes called Winter Water Factory. I have mentioned that business several times here, and even taken pictures of my daughter wearing their clothing over and over (which was part of the job).

I stayed on and worked for them for 9 years. I decided to end all my other business contracts when Wallis arrived, but I wanted to keep working part-time, and I choose WWF to stay working with, because I was (well I thought) an integral part of their business. There was another choice now looking back I wish I had made instead, but that’s life.

I’d say for the first 4 years, it was a really good job. There were issues of course because it was just me, and the two owners, and one of the owners had a full-time job outside of the business, so it was really just me and her partner working every day on all kinds of things, not just marketing. I did countless jobs for them…they were very poorly organized, so I had to do so much more than I was even being paid for, but I felt important to their success and I wanted them to succeed, so I did whatever they asked me to. I never took vacations from them, and worked every day and through the weekends, whenever they needed me, I was available to them.

Again, I was an idiot. I did nothing to protect myself, and thought that they truly cared about me and what I was doing for them…but I started noticing our relationship changing the more money I made for them. In the early days, it was us figuring it out, as time progressed and the more I helped them become known and financially stable, the more they treated me like a doormat. Soon everything that didn’t work out the way they wanted became my responsibility to fix.

Even though their workplace environment only became more and more chaotic, everything was last minute no matter how much I tried to plan and figure out the best strategy, they never followed through or had it together, so when something didn’t go as they thought it should because they had once again delivered a last minute mediocre idea – it became my responsibility to fix.

I helped build their business with a zero marketing budget, just let that sink in for a moment. All of their social media, most of their press, most of their customers, and most of their retailers…I grew with a zero marketing budget. Absolutely dumb, but they felt paying me to do their marketing was their budget, and I should just make everything happen for them for free.

I worked so hard to do that too, I accepted the challenge believing them when they said, they didn’t have any money for marketing. It made my job incredibly difficult, but I am proud of myself for how much I accomplished for them despite having nothing to help me do my best work.

I was constantly stressed by the job. Even though I was supposedly working part-time hours, they expected full-time results, and the nonstop demands never ended. The expectations of what I should be able to deliver for them only increased (even though my budget never did). I had countless conversations with them about how to improve results that went absolutely no where, because they refused to improve. They could not understand that in order to grow we needed a marketing budget. It didn’t matter to them that we were in an extremely competitive market – they put all their expectations on me to deliver the impossible, and I stupidly complied. Leaving me beyond stressed, and feeling like nothing I did was ever good enough.

Not to mention the brand itself, the products made are ok. Now that I have kids, I realize their high price point is not worth the poorly fitted clothing. But because of their repetitive prints, color choices, and redundant themes – they were not a naturally popular brand. Most people called them pajamas, not even realizing they were outfits. 99% of what you see on social media are influencers wearing Winter Water Factory simply because it was free, they wouldn’t have purchased the clothing themselves otherwise. A brand like Fin & Vince on the other hand, are what I would consider naturally popular. Products that are easy to market and to a much larger base. WWF for sure has their fans, and do very well financially, but it is more an older core group. All this to say, it was a lot of work to get people outside that core to buy.

As most freelancers know, you are worried to admit you need help or there’s something you can’t do because you know your job basically depends on you being everything for everyone. But eventually I started saying, “I am one person, you are asking things that go above what I can do, especially with no budget -you will need to hire a marketing team.” Towards the end, they finally did that, and of course they fired them a few months later for not delivering the results they “thought” they should be delivering….that moment gave me some real clarity that the expectations they had for their business, were not based in reality.

I hesitate here, because I know bringing up the examples below will make me seem resentful, and yes, of course when someone has treated you badly, you tend to be, but this is also me looking back and realizing red flags that should have lead to me leaving so much sooner.

I think because I started with them so early, I had developed this loyalty that made me constantly reconsider how they were treating me. I would just tell myself not to take it so personal and my husband would even encourage that by telling me they were just thoughtless people, but that they needed me. Something he really regrets now.

Red Flags…

(1) – So as a marketing directory for WWF it was my job to not only create content, post, and market the content, but to grow their followers, press, newsletter list, customer reach and retailers. Over my time there, I was able to get WWF into a lot of magazines, popular blogs, etc…I was even the reason one of their products was pictured with Taylor Swift and then posted by Taylor on her Instagram account of what 130+ million followers and therefore picked up by nearly every celebrity magazine, all for free. However, when it came to them acknowledging my efforts, it was pretty much crickets from them, so I thought maybe I should say something. I had read that if you work remote, you should be more open about all you’re accomplishing, since they don’t see you in person. So I tried that once, after I got them into another blog that received millions of views…they replied, “yes, it was a team effort” which of course made me feel like an idiot. I joked with Andrew, how it’s always a “team effort” when it’s positive, and just my fault when it’s negative. And nope, marketing was rarely a team effort, that I can assure you.

2) Even though I had worked with them from almost the beginning, when they took on two more employees I started to see a stark difference in how they treated them verses me. I was still paying 50% for anything I purchased from them. They never sent me anything for free, unless they wanted me to photograph Wallis wearing it. But their new employees got everything for free, and were also encouraged (and did) give their friends and family lots of free products. One of the employees that managed their orders/shipping only assumed I received the same treatment, because why wouldn’t you? Started to cancel my orders and send me the items I ordered for free. It was so sweet of her, but I never knew what to say, because it hadn’t come from the owners and was due to an assumption. The owners never said anything, so it became a thing, but it always felt uncomfortable for me because it hadn’t been their idea, and nor did they say anything otherwise. There was an attitude because I was remote, that I didn’t deserve the same treatment, even though I was playing a much bigger role in making them money.

3) When I got pregnant for the first time, I thought it would matter since I had been working there so long, and it was a children’s brand…but they barely acknowledged it. When Wallis was born, I thought maybe they might do something sweet, but instead they sent me a ripped used baby gap dress with a card…it was sooo strange I didn’t even know what to say. Same thing when Loris was born, they didn’t do anything. It just made me feel like crap, and I felt embarrassed that I had any expectations of them caring about me having children at all. All the pictures I took of Wallis in their products was a lot of extra work for me, and those images often did better than the ones than they took on social media, but there was zero acknowledgment and they acted more like they were doing me the favor then vice versa.

4) When they decided to do an employee trip, I was so excited, since they were flying everyone I did assume they would include me. Nope, they never even mentioned the idea to me, but had me promote and market the employee trip. Yep.

5) When the owners decided the team should introduce ourselves to the all the social media accounts and customers that made their company possible, they took time to write everyone else’s job descriptions that would accompany the picture of that employee. They didn’t send me one, so I finally said something, and the owner wrote back my description as, “Tiffany sends us funny video clips.” Here I was their Director of Marketing a title they gave me and paid me to do. I was managing at least 15 different important aspects to keeping their business afloat daily, and they couldn’t even be bothered to write something about me. I know he thought he was being funny, because occasionally we did send funny YouTube clips to each other, but really? And it’s not like after his joke, he actually sent a description, nope, I had to write my own about myself like some kind of lunatic.

6) They were always late paying me. I had to remind them nearly every time that they hadn’t paid.

Yes, I feel really stupid and pathetic after writing those very obvious red flags.

There were obviously good days, and even the occasional compliment, I remember the one owner telling me once, that if I ever quit, he would die. Also, having that job meant I could stay home with Wallis, I am grateful for that. There were also several times that I showed frustration at the chaos and mistreatment I was experiencing too, but they had a way of convincing me to stay and they would apologize and blame it all on how busy they were. I would cave every single time.

Final Straw (as they say)…

If you’re even still reading, ha! The final straw was really awful, and it still makes me so sad and feel absolute shite about myself. To think the owners of WWF think of themselves as supporters of women and even more disturbing, working mothers, and then they did this…

They kept me as a “part-time” employee even though I was pretty close to full-time because it meant they didn’t have to pay me a salary or health benefits. So when Wallis was born I was genuinely shocked that they offered to pay for my maternity leave. It wasn’t at full cost, but I was really grateful. I gushed about it in an email to them, that I regret now.

The crazy part is that after only 4 weeks of this “paid” maternity leave. They had a breakdown over their Spring sales taking a minor dip, that they stressed me out and in my bleeding nipples, no sleep, postpartum delirium I started right back to work for them trying to “fix” the issue and boost their sales. Therefore, ended up back to work making even less, since they had already paid me the “maternity price”…it took me awhile to accept how truly awful that was of them.

When I got pregnant with Loris, it had been several years, and they had provided another employee maternity leave at that point, so I assumed that would still be the same for me and if not, I surely thought they would say.

We talked in length about my maternity leave many times. They told me they wanted me to “really take this time” and I thought they were owning how bad it had been last time and that really made me feel good. They hired someone to manage some of what I did, I helped train her, and I worked with them to explain everything they would need to know while I was gone. There was all this time and effort on my part and theirs to make sure this maternity leave was possible, and then I’d come back.

I actually left for maternity leave feeling positive about the job for the first time in 3 years. Well a month went by and no check came…and as the second month was approaching the end (as I mentioned above they were always late with my paychecks) I finally reached out, and asked about it.

I received the most aggressive email in reply. It was as if they had been waiting for me to ask, so they could tell me how I didn’t deserve it the first time and how I was surely not getting it the second time. How generous and wonderful it was of them to have even give it to me in the first place, since I was not a full-time employee. They switched the entire narrative and told me what they had called “maternity leave” was really just a generous bonus from them?

I was seriously stunned…I wrote them back as I always did feeling like an idiot and apologizing. I told them that they should have let me know, that I would have never just assumed had it not been for before. That I had only taken the leave on their encouragement, and could not actually afford to NOT work for 3 months! That I would have happily done half hours or whatever it took to remain working.

Then I got angry…I looked back at all the shite, all the crazy, disorganized insanity of working with them, and their constant thoughtlessness and poor management. Now I was going to lose out on thousands of dollars that I had not planned or saved for because they didn’t take 10 minutes to tell me they decided not do give me maternity leave??

As you might remember from this post, our lives were slowly falling apart and landing in a big dumpster. Not only had I just had a baby and was trying to recover, but things were bad, really bad. So to have been so deceived by them, and then to have them react that way after NINE years, I had enough, and told them I quit.

I do not recommend quitting a job when your life is falling apart by the way, but you know what, they didn’t even care, and the one owner who I actually had a much more developed relationship with remained silent – the other did her typical passive aggressive reply and that was that. I guess it was my own Jerry Maguire moment, it was for sure tragic and humiliating.

And it wasn’t just about the loss of 3 months pay that I thought was coming, it was also that they thought so little of me that they didn’t even communicate that they had changed their mind about maternity leave pay. They didn’t once think how a decision like that could impact my life – their attitude was “not my problem” and that has been hard for me to accept after 9 years of working with them.

I had shared and they had shared a lot with me over the years, from the lost of my dog, to my baby, to the lost of their loved ones and their marital issues. Despite how they treated me above, those years held significance from building that business together to just our lives growing and changing. I really didn’t see it ending the way it did, or them thinking so little of me to react that way.

What I’ve Learned…

1) Don’t stay too long, I clearly overstayed and should have left years ago, but became stuck due to circumstances at that time.

2) Don’t work for/with wealthy people who own small businesses, if you can avoid it, ha! Most of them are the absolute worst, and have no real understanding of reality. All 3 of these moments were tied to people with a lot of wealth, privilege, and zero empathy, except for themselves.

3) You have to actually value yourself to be truly valuable, and that’s never been easy for me. My low self worth impacted the way I was treated for sure. I allowed myself to be treated poorly, and allowed myself to be unprotected, because I accepted what I was told to be the truth. There are a lot of liars out there, even the ones that appear to be committed to doing good…trust me on that.

4) Life can change drastically in a moment. Since losing my job we have experienced some serious financial hardships, so putting your everything into a job really doesn’t add up in the end. Put that effort into your family and see your job for what it is. As long as there is money involved, no matter the size of the business, there will never be a true genuine relationship between you and them. Do your best work, but don’t give yourself away, keep that for those that truly love you.

I have grown from these experiences but have also suffered a big blow to my esteem. There wasn’t much there to start, ha, but it’s made me feel all those awful things I already think of myself must be true…that’s a daily battle for sure. I don’t know how this ends for me, as I am older to have had this career breakdown…but I do have hope, that there’s at least one more opportunity out there for me. Thanks for listening.

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  • Reply
    October 27, 2020 at 2:23 am

    I hesitate to comment here for fear I will need to use too many expletives! 😳 I’m so sorry you had those experiences and were treated so poorly for so long. Hearing the gritty details makes it all the more clear how truly thoughtless these people were. The maternity leave issue alone ought to be enough to put them out of business should it be made known. Truly a joke from a children’s clothing company.
    But it’s also clear you have learned so much, and you ought to be proud of what you’ve come away with, rather than feel foolish. Trust me, I’d be more than bitter if it were me, but I hope that one day the thought of them will only bring you satisfaction that you did finally say no more and took the opportunity to value yourself. As far as other opportunities, I know there are loads ahead of you! 😘

    • Reply
      Tiffany King
      October 27, 2020 at 6:31 pm

      Thank you sweets! It’s funny how you can’t really see the toxic work environment until you pull back, I am so glad I finally woke up…though embarrassed it took me so long 😬🤦‍♀️

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