I think I made a big mistake moving to a bigger company

Tell Me About It: I moved my team to a well-known brand and lost them all in the process

PROBLEM: I think that I have done something really stupid. Since I left college 10 years ago I have worked in the clothes design industry. I ran a small design studio and employed a small group of like-minded people where we had great fun, enjoyed each other’s company and made a small but viable income reaching a small market of well-regarded local boutiques. We always dreamed about making it big, but were more or less satisfied with our lot.

About two years ago, while at a trade fair I met an agent for a large design label. He told me lots of amazing things about my designs and promised me the sun the moon and the stars. I paid little heed; I had met his type before and guessed that he was looking for a bed companion for his weekend in a foreign city. About nine months ago he made contact and said that he had been following my work online; he loved my progress and thought that my designs would have mass commercial appeal. It was at this point that I started to listen; he asked for a number of samples and set up a series of meetings.

To make a long story short, he secured me a lucrative contract with a well-known brand. This meant that I would have to move to London and give up the leasehold on my work premises. The new company made the choice very easy for me as they promised a relocation package that would include taking on my team of workmates. We all excitedly moved to London got a shared rental and started to work in a completely different environment. Within three months my team had all either been fired due to difficulties keeping up with the pace or quit as they were disenchanted with the industry. I have lost my best friends who believe that I have abandoned them in my search for wealth and fame. While my new wages dwarf my old income, I have given up a good business in a place that I loved. I am now at the bottom of the pile in terms of my peers. I work up to 12 hours per day and my work is often rejected or sent back. I am worried that my new bosses will find out that I am really not that good at my job and that I only occasionally or accidently hit on a good design.

It is not all negative as I have just started to see lots of different people in nightclubs and at parties wearing my clothes, which is a good feeling. But I am not sure it compensates for the insecurity and loneliness that I am experiencing.

ADVICE: As the old saying goes “be careful what you wish for” – of course you wanted to be successful in your career, but this includes change and challenge and it is unlikely that things will stay the same when you move into the bigger pond of London. However, you cannot be to blame for your colleague’s decisions and choices, but you are suffering from the grief of the loss of a shared dream. It sounds as though you need a strategic plan for yourself so that you have a guide to direct your decisions over the next five years.

The danger is that if you do not have this, you will make decisions on emotional grounds and this might be something you regret later. All new projects have a cost factor before they take flight and you are now in this phase, if you believe in your designs then you must champion them particularly at a time when others are not so enthusiastic. Your plan should be reasonable and Smart (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) and you can get help with this from a business coach. You will then have given your business the dedication it needs to flourish and at this point you can review your position in the overall terms of your life goals.

Change is inevitable and if you had tried to keep things exactly the way they were before the move to London, it would probably have resulted in stagnation. But there is a huge loss for you in terms of shared aims, friendship and loyalty and this is going to take some time to work through. It is unlikely that you will have the same confidence and creativity while you are coming to terms with this loss and so this might not be a good time to make any huge decisions until you are feeling more grounded. Loneliness and insecurity are normal responses to upheaval, and you might need to tolerate these feelings while you find your feet again – think of a pupil moving to the bottom rung of a new school and what you might advise them to do.

Give it time, engage with the community you are living in, find good relaxation activities and have some faith in yourself and in your creations. If, in time, you have given it your best and you still feel disconnected, review your situation and make your decision based on what is best for your life with the knowledge that you committed fully to your business for a reasonable amount of time.