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Dispelling the Myth of “Grunt Work”

Sometimes I find myself embarrassed to be working. It sounds ridiculous but its true. I’m not talking about coming to the office and running LeadMD, or managing our team or building revenue models or planning for future growth or analyzing quarter numbers or any of that stuff executives are expected to do. Don’t get me wrong, that’s squarely what my job entails – but it also entails consulting with marketers and customers. I find myself de-duping databases and building lead scoring methodologies for clients, or coding HTML for a landing page. This is basically, well, “grunt” work. That’s not my term; a client actually used it the other day while describing some areas where they needed help. They wanted someone to do the grunt work. On the next call I showed up again on the web meeting attendee list and the client was taken aback. She thought someone else from our marketing services team would be performing those tasks. This happens often.

I routinely scope projects, I pride myself in personally managing a handful of accounts and I touch pretty much every account that comes in and out of the company. And I’m often found helping with very routine tasks. Most of the time when a client sees my presence on their project with a bit of surprise, I feel a twinge of shame. Does my interaction there send the wrong message? Will we seem like a small organization based out of someone’s living room? (Note: – when I started LeadMD we WERE based out of my home office) Are we not sophisticated enough? Will we get a reputation that prevents us from winning larger accounts? The truth is, it’s become much more acceptable for executives to supervise from afar and leave the execution to “lower level” employees. I think that’s BS. Every time I feel that moment of insecurity about how a CEO working on a client project will be perceived I want to slap myself. Frankly, it’s time we all remembered what rolling up our sleeves means – it means we care.

Admittedly I care too much about LeadMD. I get emotional over things – I’m sure anyone who knows me will attest to that. That seed was handed down to me, it germinated and has grown into an overgrown tangle of thick branches and roots. Ever so often I have to remind myself to prune that overgrown bush and control what can easily overshadow the good. Controlling how much I care about this business in my greatest challenge and I learn from that struggle each day.

The fact is I love all elements of marketing. Marketing Automation, for me, has become synonymous with the skillset of marketing and therefore I love it too. I never want to loose the proximity to our client base. As a service-based business the clients’ success is our product. Another of my endeavors is an organic farm that I own with my father. Just like that farm, the only way to maintain quality control over that product is to interact with it daily, let your fingers run through the soil, prune the vine and taste the produce. I’m proud to apply this same level of care in a BtoB environment.

One of my favorite sayings is that perception is reality. One of our core beliefs at LeadMD is that we can change perception. The perception that execution and strategy have to be mutually exclusive is not a theory we subscribe to and therefore we attempt to impart the same thinking within our client organizations. The reason we have no “grunts” at LeadMD – not even our entry-level employees — is that marketing simply is not “grunt” work. With the adoption of Marketing Automation and the rise of Revenue Performance Management, EVERYONE in the marketing department needs to be highly skilled and also highly productive. That reality is upon us.

The point that struck me as I reflected on the insecurity I felt while rolling up my sleeves and getting dirty was that it was MY perception that needed to change. I should feel pride that the skillset of my team is such that the work they do each day is challenging and fun for me. I’m blessed to be able to work with a group of individuals who make an enormous amount of impact while battling the notion that executing campaigns is any less challenging than strategically formulating them. I hope never to loose the desire to participate in all areas of the marketing process and moreover, to be effective at it. So, the next time you have the chance to dive into something that may on the surface seem out of your job scope or even “beneath you,” give it a try, or ask to learn how it’s done. Likely you’ll find a new appreciation for those who are responsible for the “grunt” work, and that new perception will form a better reality.

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