Category: Switchboard Stories
Happy International Women’s Day: Thank you for fighting for us. We promise to fight for you, too

As a woman-led (not women-only) business, we at Switchboard hold International Women’s Day in high regard. We’re thriving at the intersection of two of Vancouver’s most fast-paced, dog-eat-dog industries – public relations and technology – and we’re doing it with a woman at the helm. What’s womanhood got to do with it? That’s a question of context. On one hand, we’re careful as a team and as leaders within the PR and technology spaces to not pigeonhole ourselves into roles that highlight our womanhood over our expertise and our professionalism. After all, why should female leaders in their fields be reduced to tokenistic positions at events, on panels, at meetings and in the media when their male peers are positioned simply as “leaders” universally?

On the other hand, to ignore the fact that sexism has been, and continues to be, a barrier to recognition in our area of knowledge would be unfair to the women who made great sacrifices in hopes that someday we would have an equal place at the table. It would also be unfair to other women who are currently disadvantaged by existing in a sexist world and to the women and girls who need us to trailblaze to make room for their future accomplishments. To ignore how inequality impacts us wouldn’t be truthful, and to be in the business of storytelling without being grounded in the truth erodes our ethical foundations. That being said, we have two things to say this International Women’s Day: “thank you” and “we promise.”

Thank-you to all the women who pioneered on our behalf.

Our female team members enjoy and appreciate the benefits of your hard work: we can vote in elections; we not only can have a career, we also choose from a broad range of career options; it’s not perfect, but we can challenge being paid less for work of equal value; we have places to turn if we are experiencing violence; we are no longer turned away from educational institutions; we can own property; having a child is no longer grounds for dismissal from our jobs; we can look at the boards and executive suites of businesses and see other women represented there; we are now considered “persons” under the law.

We have a long way to go, and we promise to continue fighting for the women who come after us. 

We promise not to accept lower budgets than our male peers; we promise to address condescending advice; we promise to challenge sexist jokes; we promise to give women credit for women’s work and ideas; we promise to stay on top of issues and current events pertaining to women’s equality, even if those issues don’t impact us as individuals directly. Most importantly, we promise to boldly and unapologetically step up in our industry – not just as “women leaders” but as “leaders,” in hopes that someday in the near future, gendered distinctions in business will be obsolete.

Thank you to our friends, Justin Sabarre and Jae Yu, from Pushr and Kathleen Jayme for their help with this project.

We Are Switchboard.

After two years as Kathleen Reid Consulting, it became clear that we had outgrown our name. We’d evolved into a team too dynamic, too diversely talented to work under a single person’s name. We needed a new brand that reflects the spirit of the team we’ve become.

So we got to work. We had two long brainstorming sessions — just like we do for our clients, only this time it was us in the hot seat. Junk food and beer were consumed. A dusty old thesaurus was used and a dictionary, too.

We jotted ideas on whiteboards until our markers ran dry, then sat back, bellies and brains full. Immediately, one name stood out.

Switchboard. An apparatus that facilitates connections, that enables communication.

That’s us. We are Switchboard.

In spite of our new name, not a whole lot has changed around here. We’re still the quirky go-getters who will show up at your office with food, beer and pages-upon-pages of ideas. Kathleen Reid has not absconded to a beach chair in Cabo; she’s still at the centre of Switchboard’s day-­to-­day operations.

All the important things are the same. We’re still us.

We just have new business cards.

Lessons Learned

In October, KRC celebrated its two-year anniversary. In February, we rebranded as Switchboard. Both anniversaries and rebrands are occasions for reflection, so I’ve been reflecting a lot in these momentous few months. It’s hard not to marvel at how far we’ve come. I left my job in corporate PR and started the company that is now Switchboard with no clear direction, no clients, no safety net — nothing, really, other than a desire to consult on a variety of projects that made a difference. Turns out that sheer will can be enough to start a successful company.

After taking the plunge, I was fortunate to be able to take three weeks to reset. I crafted, I did yoga, I reflected on past achievements and failures — that’s a big one for me. I set goals for myself and my new company. Then I got to work.

I went to Small Business BC and got set up with my terribly original company name: Kathleen Reid Consulting Limited. I consulted my mentors, including my parents, all of whom are entrepreneurs themselves. One thing I learned from talking to them is that you can often learn a lot more from hearing about people’s failures than about their successes.

In that spirit, I am going to share with you the lessons I’ve learned from failing hard and failing often during the first two years of KRC. I’m not one to give unsolicited advice, but I would prefer that anyone reading this not make the mistakes I’ve made. Learn from me, and make different mistakes!

Behind each of these lessons learned, there’s a story of a mistake, a mishap, a misfire. Buy me a beer, and I’ll tell you my stories; for the sake of brevity, today I’ll just share the lessons:

  • Hire slowly, fire fast.

    It takes a lot of time to find the right people to work with you. When you find good people, invest in them and listen. On the flip side, when you know someone isn’t right and you get that gut feeling, fire fast, like ripping off a band-aid. It sounds callous, but you want to avoid holding onto people or worrying about what will happen. Believe me. Pull the plug.

  • Trust your gut.

    The feeling you get when you first meet people is usually a pretty reliable sign of whether they’re a good fit. For example, our office is a bit of an ongoing construction zone. If people are visibly turned off when they see our space, we know they won’t be a good fit. Better to know from the get-go.

  • Get a good accountant.

    This is especially important if you’re not good with the financial stuff. Keep your books up to date and your receipts in order, and get your invoices out on time. If you don’t, you’ll regret it. Trust me on this one.

  • Take accountability for your mistakes.

    This goes for mistakes made with employees, vendors, clients, whomever. Address them right away, come up with a solution and don’t dwell. I used to be the worst dweller; I’d spend night after night ruminating about a project after it was done. Replace rumination with meditation. Yoga has done wonders for me.

  • Build a team that has the work ethic you need.

    It’s cliché, but I’m a work hard/play hard type. The business I’m in isn’t 9 to 5; it requires people who are willing to stay late, come in early and put in time on weekends sometimes. I’ve been fortunate to build a dedicated team that’s willing to do what’s needed, and I do my best to reward them by being flexible. Work/life balance works differently around here.

  • Network.

    This can be exhausting for many people (myself included), but it works. You never know who you’ll meet, or what amazing opportunities you’ll stumble upon.

Luckily, it hasn’t been all mistakes and misfires, but failures always make for better stories.