This hurts me a lot more than it hurts him
Last week my father published a blog about his first 100 days working with me, which he assures me was very humorous. Obviously the vast majority of this blog was nonsense so I thought I would share my own observations of the same period.
He frequently referred to me as “The Millennial” while making sly comments lamenting my inability to pay my own tuition fees. Apparently, his Blairite utopia is now crushed and his hopes of a chateau in the Dordogne are now as much a fantasy as my hopes of an affordable mortgage. What’s more, my brothers’ tuition fees have banished all thoughts of an early retirement for him, and so I have been tasked to help him launch his new business and keep him from destitution.
How’s it been? Believe me, this hurts me a lot more than it hurts him. He may see me as a mild financial inconvenience, a parasite 20+ years in the making that is refusing to let go of his host, but it is nothing like my pain.
Firstly, no one believes this counts as real work. Even my mother. To her, I am always “supposedly working”. Friends try to hide their smug grins, convinced it is just a glorified handout. And what does the old man do to dispel any sense that this is the case? Nothing, in fact he encourages it, his eyes twinkling as he senses a gag coming on.
President Truman once said “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit”. As my Dad persists with his jokes, I try to remember to heed Truman’s advice. Yes, I did make the website. Yes, I did make the videos. Yes, I did develop the marketing plan. Yes, I did fix the research questionnaire. Yes, I sourced the logo. Yes, I sorted out the SEO. Yes, I saw the value of cute kitten pictures in establishing a shopper insights business. And yes, I tell him he can’t play golf today as we have things to do. I don’t get any credit but I’m sure it is all crucial to the development of our business.
And to be fair, our partnership is an exciting and equitable business opportunity for both of us. I get some great experience and the potential to takeover a successful, growing company in a couple of years, and he gets shown how Twitter works.
So what have I learnt in the first 100 days? For the purpose of consistency I will forego my considerable creative literary talents and copy the old man’s lazy bullet point style to present my reflections:
• I was unaware that certain things were group projects. When I got a kitten at university, my Dad called me an idiot and said she can’t come to his house. Fast forward 12 months and she’s now his main topic of conversation and a “distinctive asset” for the company.
• I have become a master of understanding implicit communication systems. When he scrunches up his face and says “we need to think about what we are trying to achieve” that means he doesn’t like it, then he will have “it’s getting there” meaning let’s play golf and sort this later, and finally no response means excellent job, Tom, you have once again surpassed expectations.
• I’ve decided that old people shouldn’t be allowed to have social media. He keeps asking me how many likes does he need to get to be insta-famous.
• While I don’t hate my Dad like I did when I was 15, it is still a depressing thought to think that in my early twenties, the person I see most often, both socially and professionally is him.
• Apparently I cannot be both a partner and moan about my lack of workers’ rights.
• I’m scared he thinks this whole working together thing means we’re friends. I had friends over for dinner, we went for a drink afterwards and he asked if he could come. He was politely told that he could not.
• Nothing is more important than golf. Offer him either multi-million pound turnover for the next five years or to become a scratch golfer (for those of you who aren’t middle-aged men, that means super good at golf) and you’ve got yourself a scratch golfer.
While the shame of everyone (incorrectly) believing my Dad is my boss is a painful blow to my self-esteem, I do begrudgingly concede that there are some benefits to working alongside my father. He does seem to have learnt a couple of things during his 30 year career, and, incredibly, clients seem to find him engaging and think he’s developed a smart shopper concept around which our business is based.
I guess the nicest thing I can say about this arrangement is that I’m still talking to him.
Tom Lemmon is the owner of Leia, and is the driving force behind First Purchase Research.
First Purchase Research is a shopper insights company changing the way brands think about targeting shoppers for growth.