i remember the day i should have quit.
it was a monday, a day like any other day (hold on that is a bad start as i am quoting foreigner lyrics), but it was a monday and it was like any other monday. i was running a little late (nothing new there), i knew i had a lot of time sensitive stuff to do: the weekly mail out, stock lists and look at what needed to be ordered. a fair chunk of work, nothing unusual. nothing a few cups of coffee wouldn’t get me through.
i clocked in. checked i had no post. walked to my office.
i had to pass my manager’s very neat and very precise desk. he stopped me and told me not to start anything as there was a meeting in the conference room (a grand term for just another office with a lot of tables in it). he gave me the look that said ‘no arguments’. he didn’t use the look very often. i had no idea what it was about.
i made a coffee. strong and black.
then went to the conference room.
there to be greeted by cindy, our american vp of operations; john h, our general manager (both of whom had come down from warrington); john n, my manager and ros, our books consultant.
and little old me.
they were all seated around the table; i sat at the head of the table.
a little bit of background: diamond had decided that it couldn’t just rely on being a comic distributor to comic shops, a wise move, and so had embarked on a plan of diversification. on the one hand they established diamond select toys in order to manufacture and source toys that would appeal both to comic fan and to the high street buyer.
they also set up diamond book distributors (dbd) the plan was to sell graphic novels into the high street and to the online retailers. it was a bold move. though to be honest it was nothing new, back in the days when we were titan mike lake (the owner) had hit upon the idea to sell this stuff to bookshops. it was a simple idea that hit a large number of complications.
move forward a few years and we are now diamond. we are still discussing how we get graphic novels in the high street. a few of us do some investigating and get some answers. it doesn’t really move on from there. we do the london book fair. i go a little ott on the books we take along. steep learning curve.
dbd has established itself in the states. time to roll it out over here.
they decide that they don’t want to go in house looking for people to run it. they are going to hire experts. fair enough.
interviews are held. two people are chosen. one is going to be the lead off person, going to set up base camp and break new ground. the other is going to join later and is going to be the second in command who once the whole thing is up and running will take over and forge ahead with it.
ros is chosen to be the instigator. she is on a 6 month, very lucrative contract, to establish dbd in the uk. you can see why she has been given the job: cut glass posh, very confident and very much in with the book crowd. she is to be followed by simon; again you can see why he has been chosen very much the young go-getter brimming with cocky confidence and a love of comics.
ros was quick to tell us how the book market is much more sophisticated than the comic market as it has process in place for the forward ordering of books. she set about learning a little bit about how diamond worked, she had her ‘day book’ in which she wrote down things that she learnt, or seemed important to her.
about a month later simon joined a gung-ho bundle of energy. all smiles and enthusiasm and rearing to go.
now dbd in the states had set up a rather nifty database that collated all the information for the books they could sell and also provided you with detailed breakdowns of sales made. compared with what we had i was frankly very jealous.
this is when the problems started to become apparent. it seemed that no one in the interview stage had bothered to discover if either of them was computer literate. they weren’t. ooops. ironic really when you consider how much more sophisticated the books market was. simon, to his credit, made the effort to learn how to use excel and the dbd database. ros was very happy to rely on others for all the pertinent information.
as the months rolled by not much was happening, to quote ros there was a lot of sizzle but not a lot of sausage. what little we did find out both nick w and i had already told senior managers many months ago.
after awhile even simon was complaining about her.
i am not sure what it was that triggered it. i was probably rude to her or it may have been that i didn’t give her the answer she wanted. i don’t remember. either way it resulted with me being in a room with four people.
so there i was confronted with the two johns, cindy and ros.
i was the villain of the piece.
it was couched in terms of how i was trying to undermine the dbd effort. now i am the first to admit i wasn’t overly keen on how dbd customers were getting a much better deal than our core customers, who were in effect subsidising the dbd project. our customers bought firm sale and most of them on 35% discount. dbd customers bought sale or return and at 50%. i was annoyed that any returns ended up counting toward diamond’s figures. i was told we were all one company – but it never seemed to be one company when it was dbd’s success – then it was just the wonderful work of ros and simon.
this went back and forth. i told them it didn’t matter to me as this was all stevie g’s money (steve being the owner of the company) and he choose to use it how he liked, i was just here to do my job, and i pointed out that at no time had i not done the work required or asked of me by dbd.
in the end i said it wasn’t a case of not liking dbd or not wanting it to succeed it was down to the fact that i didn’t like ros and i didn’t like the fact that everyone else was doing the work for her.
that pretty much ended the meeting.
i went back to my office and tried to get on with my work.
what i should have done was tell them i am going home because i have a migraine and i will be back next week when it is better, you have till then to work out a redundancy package for me and then left the building.
because i expected more from people i had worked with for years.
cindy i had known for quite a while – she was a vp who came over to england every so often to see how things were getting on. she was doing her job to make sure everything was worked out.
john h was the general manager – i had worked with him for a number of years. i had a lot of respect for him because of the way he had handled a bunch of redundancies from the company – he had gone into bat for the staff against the americans and got a better deal for them. on a personal note when my mum died he was gracious in the time he let me take off and no trying to rush me back to work.
john n i had known for over 15 years. i wouldn’t say we were buddies but we shared a number of likes and over the years had lent each other music and film, had gone to a few gigs. most importantly he was my manager.
both the johns knew the meeting was going to happen because they had to arrange for cindy and john h to be in london for it. both of them had listened to ros, both of them had chosen to believe ros. neither one of them had bothered to speak to me first, to hear my side of the story. i was pretty much guilty before proven innocent. ros had her say without being on trial – me i just got to respond to accusations.
as i sat in my office trying to find the desire to do the day’s work i realised i no longer respected my managers: they hadn’t even done me the courtesy of speaking to me first. i realised that i no longer trusted the company.
i have to doff my cap to cindy – she alone came into the office after the meeting to see me and to ask how i felt about it all. she had no need to, but she did. credit to her.
from the two johns? nothing.nada. zip.
it was as if it hadn’t happened.
that was the day i should have quit. it was also the event that was in the back of my mind when i did eventually quit when i perhaps made the worst decision of my adult life.
but hey – you live and learn.
(oh and if you want my opinion the book market could learn a hell of a lot from the way the comic market works, because from what i saw sophisticated it ain’t).