Posts Tagged ‘Trinity Mirror’

Make yourself redundant, it’ll be a good thing

9 May, 2011 2 comments

This post and all other business-focused posts are now being held on the Seven League blog.


It’s Friday afternoon. The page has been prepared, it’s live on the web, only no-one knows it’s there.

Maybe I could just quietly leave it there for a while, unpublicised, and no-one would ever see it… then I could go on working here, having a fine time, and I’d never get replaced. Hold on… that’s not the plan. So I write the tweet and hit send.

“This is a very good job. Really. I should know, I’ve been doing it for 6 mths. You want it? #jobs”

<gulp> The I go to linkedin and do the same. <gulp> There’s no going back. I’m making yourself redundant.

And…. breathe.

Once, twice, three times redundant…

Making yourself redundant is a bizarre experience. Even though each time it has been part of my plan, it’s always weird.

I’m not talking about the “looking for a payout” redundancy that The Idler so deftly advises, nor the “I’m a Director, how can I make myself redundant” advice that’s needed for financial and legal reasons when you’re shutting down or selling a company.

No, I’m talking about when you make the “Right” move because it’s right for the business… and because you’ve done your work, delivered what you planned, and now need to take a step backward.

At Magic Lantern Productions we decided to restructure the company and as the MD I was in the odd position of planning to reduce headcount – including getting rid of my own position. Felt odd, and (of course) it was a move full of concern for my financial future – but without a doubt it was the right thing to do for the business.

At Trinity Mirror, I was the first Web Publishing Director in Regionals… so on an interim role to see if it worked, set up the strategy, be an agent of change, get things going… and then hand over to someone so they could run it full-time. It was supposed to be for 6 months and ended up being for 20.

And now, at the wonderful Manchester City FC I am going through it again. City is at a wonderful point in its digital growth and the job is, quite genuinely, the best I’ve ever had… good people, clear decision making/focus/audience/subject matter, passion and a load of good business to do around the club. What’s not to like? Only one thing… I think you need to be in Manchester and run full-pelt at this stage in the company’s growth. And I’m going to become a father in London very (very!) shortly… so I don’t want to be spend nights a week away from all that. (or maybe I’m mad and it would be the perfect way to get some sleep…hmmm..)

Let go, be happy (and effective)

Management books often say you should aim to make yourself redundant – and it’s often credited to Henry Ford – but whoever said it, I believe in the epithet. It means you train people to do what needs doing better than you can do it as part of your role. It means you hire people who are brighter than you and work hard to make their work easier. It means you set yourself free to look upward and outward and to spot the next new, exciting thing to work on.

As Bre Pettis of MakerBot said to me the other day:

“If I spend more than an hour a day on it, then it should be someone’s full-time job. So I go get someone.”

Of course, the downside is that you have to be live through the insecurity and the network’s reaction.

Friday evening saw a deluge of tweets, emails and texts from people saying “so, you’ve decided to move on? why? what’s wrong?” or “Why aren’t you doing it, if it’s so good?”. It’s easy to see how people get the wrong end of the stick. Which is why I thought it would be a good idea to write this up. Although I hope to stay involved with City from a distance, I don’t have the next (non-parenting) project lined up. I have no doubt that I’ve done the right thing (again) but that doesn’t stop me being jealous, already, of the person who gets the job.

10 years experience – too much?

Speaking of which, let me give a little context on why I’m asking for 10 year of experience in the role profile. City’s inestimable HR director asked the question :

“Why is it so important to have 10 years experience… with technology moving so fast, does it really matter?”

To which I answered:

10 years is important because …
1) everyone claims more experience than they actually have – so if we set the bar at 10, then people with 5 will still apply but also, much more importantly,
2) ten years ago the .com bubble burst… so what i’m asking for is people who were around *before*. Why? The people who were involved in the first wave of growth of new technology then had to live through and deal with the aftermath of over-excitement. they were the ones who learnt to adapt and be flexible with creativity, technology, commerciality. the people who came later didn’t learn those skills of adapting which are so key to the stage this business is in.
3) Ideally we want someone who has similar skills and experience as I had 5 years ago… and I’ve been doing this 16 years, so 10 is about right.

You’re right, the technology changes fast. But that’s why it’s essential you get someone who has long and hard-won experience of driving a business while dealing with / adapting to change.  It’s not that there aren’t good people out there who have 5 years experience – it’s just that there are lots of charlatans and I wanted to set the bar high.

If you’re applying for this role, thank you and good luck.

Full role profile and job application details here:

In case you arrived at this page looking for some good advice on redundancy, then here are some useful links:

HMRC Advice on redundancy How do I make myself redundant

Phil Gyford’s excellent guide to being a freelancer

Employment lawyers I can highly recommend: Audrey Onwukwe at Levenes (UK, London and Birmingham offices)

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