Jen Smith's 2013 JCI Manchester Review
Jen Smith's 2013 JCI Manchester Review
I don't actually know what happened in 2013 - it really was that much of a whirlwind. One minute I was hosting a board meeting in January telling the directors that everyone was expected to bring a plus one to each event to fill seats, by February we had waiting lists! We outgrew venues, outgrew mailshot companies, outgrew membership deals and in the best possible sense, we outgrew ourselves.
I'm a lawyer. While this means a lot of things, it critically means that my working life is made up of 6 minute units. 6 minute units that I have to record 7 hours of. There is no time for JCI in your working day; it has to happen before work, during lunch, after work or at weekends. I had no idea what life would be like as a local JCI president. I knew from my time as charity director that it was going to be a huge commitment, but nothing really prepares you for the challenges that you are faced with... However, every challenge was worth it and every moment where you want to scream, "why am I doing this??" was worth it, so here are some of my highlights to share with you from my year:-
Top 5 highlights
(1) The New Members Evening - Our flagship event for the first half of the year sold out within 6 hours and there was a tremendous buzz in the community. 140 people filled the Great John Street hotel and we had an amazing kick start to the year. What I was most proud of was being able to send the following email to my board the night before the event:
"Finally, thank you so much for everyone's hard work so far this year in JCI Manchester. I can't tell you how proud I am to be a part of this team and I hope you are all too. Tonight is a celebration of everything we have achieved so far - record breaking sell out events and the chamber that has gained the most new members in 2013, to name but two. Make sure you enjoy tonight, be proud of your organisation and proud of what you have all achieved as individuals to get here".
(2) The mid-year review - The success of JCI Manchester is absolutely a team effort. I was conscious that the organisation was developing and evolving at such a pace that it was consuming more personal time than people anticipated. I wanted the directors to see that their efforts and hard work were really appreciated. I arranged as a surprise for everyone to go to the private cinema room in Media City and showed a short film that one of the directors had produced of everything that we had achieved so far in the year. Without the voluntary efforts and dedication of the board, JCI Manchester would not function and would not be able to compete at the highest level of professional development in Manchester. It was so rewarding to see everyone's reaction to the film and have the opportunity to reflect on what we had all achieved.
(3) The EWord and Studio North working in partnership with us - I will always be eternally grateful for Al Mackin and Dan Nolan from the EWord for building us a website and also designing a logo for the MYTA, on a completely pro bono basis. It was recognition that we had raised the bar as an organisation and to be associated with the EWord, did an enormous amount for our brand and the MYTA. Similarly, working with Michael Di Paola and the team at Studio North elevated JCI Manchester to the next level and catapulted us to a position in the community that we had not previously enjoyed. I'm most proud of the fact that I can genuinely call Al, Dan and Michael, friends.
(4) MYTA - anyone who attended the MYTA will know why this is in my highlights. Bias I may be, however, it was one of the best award ceremonies I have ever attended. We recognised 10 outstanding young individuals who had achieved phenomenal success, both from a professional and personal perspective and to see the difference winning such an award has made to people, really makes it all worthwhile. We received some feedback recently from an individual that hadn't attended the event herself, but had spoken to somebody that had and said it was apparently "too professional, too slick". I'll take that. I'll take that feedback every day of the week.
(5) My personal development journey. I had always considered myself to be a follower, not a leader but I suddenly had no choice. During my 12 months as President, I learnt so much from a personal development point of view and as both a manager and leader. Being a leader can also be an incredibly lonely place - especially when there is nobody else above you. There is nobody to mentor you, or tell you where you are going right and perhaps more importantly, where you are going wrong. 2013 was one of the best years of my life - that may sound sad, but when you commit to something as much as I committed to JCI Manchester; when you allow something to consume your life as much as I allowed JCI Manchester to, I think it would be a very sad day if I looked back and felt indifferent. There is one quality that will really set you apart I believe as a good leader and that is self-awareness. Without self-awareness, how can you understand your strengths and weaknesses? I constantly reflected on decisions I made throughout the year and if I was a good manager and moreover, a good leader. Self-awareness is crucial when building a team and effective teams are made up of people who both understand and complement each other.
Finally, I cannot end this blog without doing a bit of a sales pitch for JCI! As I said in my MYTA speech to our members and prospective members - get involved in an organisation that will actually make a difference to you as an individual and to your CV. Don't get me wrong, like most things in life, JCI is meritocratic - you will only get out of it what you are willing to put in. However, it can help accelerate career progression and empower you to make a positive change to not just yourself but to your business, and moreover, our city and community. Manchester is unique and in the words of our charity, Forever Manchester "if you were born here, ever lived here, were educated here, worked here or just came to party and stayed, you'll know what we mean". This is the place where the atom was split, Mr Rolls met Mr Royce, the Industrial Revolution was born...we invented the computer! It's the home of Oasis, Elbow, Take That, the Hacienda and now the Warehouse Project. Manchester is brimming with talent and a place where anybody with an idea can change the world. So get involved with an organisation that will challenge you to leave your comfort zone and encourage you to use your skills and talents to help contribute to this great city.
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