The first time I spoke to Annie, CEO & Founder of Rock Candy Media in Austin, I was a bit hesitant to jump on board. Like most people, I (1) wanted to make sure it was a firm that actually would allow me to do amazing things for the clients without any bureaucracy to hold me back, but just as important: (2) I wanted to make sure it wasn’t some sort of “The Devil Wears Prada” situation – not that it isn’t #2, but it’s in a way that sometimes helps me do #1. I’ll explain, because I know you don’t believe it.
Working at RCM is like life on a tropical island.
Most days, all is going smoothly, the sun is shining, and we’re all pretty happy, clients and employees alike. We have free reign to accomplish what most would deem impossible. However, every now and then on a completely random schedule, a major storm hits.
Something happens, nobody knows quite what – but internal and external forces clash and a hurricane blows in and tears the whole place apart. Employees get fired and clients get dropped. Yes, clients. I have actually seen more clients get fired than employees. There are always good reasons, that you just have to trust me on, but we don’t always see it coming. Honestly, RCM should have a reality show the things we deal with — it’s a lot more out in the open when you have a boss like Annie that doesn’t put a single wall up. So, just like island life, smart employees and clients wait out the storm and proceed to the cleanup and rebuilding phase.
I know what you’re thinking: “That sounds stressful, why would you work in such an environment??” And it is. But here’s what we’ve noticed. Every time we rebuild, we rebuild it better. Dropped clients get replaced with better, more open minded, and trusting ones. Processes get simplified, leaving us with even more room to creatively achieve objectives.
Swearing is Caring
Most people might be offended or put off by the amount of times the F word comes out of Annie in a given breath. But to be honest, it puts me at ease… it actually makes me more comfortable.
Annie often says out loud what is on my mind before it is actually completely formed in my head. It’s like she’s in there. Except when it comes out of her, there’s no filter. Some may see this as stepping on a landmine while you’re just trying to work. I suppose if you’re on the receiving end of it, it feels more like stepping on a landmine than a “safe space to be yourself.” However, the F word is a more appropriate way to express yourself than more stodgy work environments give it credit.
One time I was on a call with her and someone must have wandered into her office to get her attention, and in mid sentence she yells “Get the F out!” (But not censored.) Then, a minute later – again in mid sentence – the same thing: “Get the F OUT!” And by the third time her voice got really high pitched and it was “Get out! I f-ing MEAN IT!” I wasn’t laughing, nor was I shocked or put off, because we were handling business on a call. In my head I was thinking, “Yeah, whoever the F that is, get the F out, we’re on a f-ing call for F’s sake!”
It All Works In Your Favor When It’s On Your Side
My boss realizes that we’re not making widgets – this is a performance marketing agency. Meaning, we’re not her “employees” really; we are her roster, her growth hackers. The intensity of “Hurricane Annie” when the wind is with you will protect and defend you to the ends of the earth. If a client gets disrespectful with a member of her team, that client is usually out. At the very least, they are going to be dealt with sternly. I’ve also seen her do what it takes to ensure clients get out of their own way and let us do great things for them. I can’t understate the importance of this.
I know you may not believe that the same boss that once asked me to do something, then yelled at me for doing it because she forgot she asked me to do it in the first place as if she assumed some sort of mutiny was afoot, is the same one that upon getting just a sniff that a client “might” not be taking me seriously, dropped everything to whip that client into shape. She does this consistently, probably even more times than I know about.
So if anyone asks, assuming they believe that Annie is real, why would I, and how could I, deal with such unpredictability? I did my best to try to avoid quoting Kanye, but I can’t – so to use a famous Kanye West quote:
“Cause my life is dope, and I do dope shit.”
Having the freedom to make the impossible happen is the #1 reason I work. My unbelievable, and possibly unstable, boss turns out to be someone to align with in order to maintain that lifestyle. Even if we destroy ourselves in the process, we’re doing amazing things together.