I need to make clear from the outset I am writing this blog entry under duress. I returned to our room carrying our early morning coffees to be greeted by one of Rebecca's telltale sweet smiles. The one that says, "I need you to do something." This is not an unusual event. In fact, she needed me to do two things today. One, was write this blog - the 'his' part of our 'his and hers' recollections of the year past, the year that Hobeck Books took life, shape and on occasion, a will of its own. The second, was put some preparatory work on our new Hobcast podcast, which we plan to launch in the very near future.
This morning's vignette was a microcosm of the way our work partnership has settled into a pattern. Rebecca is both the engine room and the conscience of the company. A year ago you could argue that things were the other way around. I was the one impatiently pacing around, ideas buzzing in my head waiting for the right moment to approach her to focus on the company, rather than the myriad freelance publishing projects she was juggling, combined with bringing up three wonderfully bright boys who naturally struggle to recognise where family life ends and work begins.
Now that balance has switched. I still contribute many of the ideas that drive the business, but Rebecca is very much in command of the details. Put simply, her work output is truly astonishing. Don't get me wrong, we both live, breathe and sleep Hobeck, but I cannot match her focus or maintain the work hours she does. Not seven days a week at least. I am in awe of her, truth be told. She has mastered so many new skills in the past year to list them would bust this blog. What we have worked hard to achieve is an understanding of where our skills overlap or compliment each other's.
Together, as a team, we have become pretty formidable. Sure, we've had plenty of bumps and troughs, and that will no doubt continue to be a feature of our work together. No small business owner can claim to get things right every time. It's impossible. What we strive to do is anticipate and avoid as many issues and mistakes as we can, learn from the ones we do make, and continue to apply ourselves to making Hobeck the success we believe it already is and will be in future.
Above all we are focused on staying true to our core values: every book we publish will be the best it can be. We will build a reputation for publishing great stories so that when you see the Hobeck cat on the spine of a book, you know it will be a great read. We will work openly, collaboratively and creatively with all our authors and ensure they have the support and inspiration to produce their best work, and we will have fun doing all this!
If you've detected an imbalance between the productivity levels in our business partnership, I would have to confess you're right. 2020 was a year of enormous personal challenges for me, that continue to influence my work and productivity. If I may, I'd like to explain them and put them in context.
Hobeck Books marks a huge change of direction for me professionally and personally. As you may have read elsewhere on this website, I worked for 25 years for the BBC. I left in March 2020, after two very difficult years in which I suffered from workplace induced anxiety and depression. Broadcasting and journalism can be brutal environments. In short, I was burnt out. I couldn't deal with the demands of managing forty people, or summon the resilience to negotiate my way through the politics that course through the organisation. The legacy of this period is that I rarely have a night without a nightmare related to my latter years in the BBC.
Switching from a daily commute to the office in Salford, anxiety building as I approached the gleaming glass of Mediacity, wondering what provocations and challenges awaited, to the calm and quiet of our countryside Hobeck HQ hats been an incredible contrast. Rebecca and I, to a large extent, can set our own agenda each day. We have chosen this life. That is both a huge freedom and a huge responsibility. We owe it to ourselves and our partners to make Hobeck a success. The past year has been in many ways, for want of a better word, a 'journey' in learning to live simply, without the false and artificial deadlines and targets that working in the media demands. To be frank, much of the truths held onto in my old working world are B.S, and it's only when you escape the bubble that you can truly see through them clearly.
The challenge I've faced is creating a structure of my own in the absence of one being forced upon me. I'm still finding my way through that, so Rebecca's focus on the tasks and targets we need to meet is welcome, even if I sometimes kick back!
A few weeks ago I made a discovery which helped frame my battles of years past. I chanced upon an article by Adrian Chiles in the Guardian, in which he revealed the impact of his recent diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD. Within a few sentences I felt the scales fall from my eyes; everything he related chimed with me. It was as if fifty years of frustration, isolation and under-achievement suddenly made sense. You see, my battles at work and at home have always stemmed from my 'otherness.' One of my key issues at work was my unchecked impulsiveness - the desire to challenge and shock. In this newly 'woke' world, surrounded by younger generations who take offence as easily as they sneeze, I was quickly out-of-step and seen as an issue. ADD also explains my inability to harness my intelligence in a traditional academic environment or structure. Exam grades never reflected the potential my teachers saw in me. The truth is, I simply could not conform or concentrate long enough to achieve. I still can't.
That's what Rebecca is so good at. She knows how to harness the moments of lucidity and focus I do have, and how to wait for them to appear. She understands that I need to flit and pursue sudden enthusiasms for the few weeks they matter to me, as they provide the energy and fuel for the more formal areas of life. She knows that patience will be rewarded by short and intense bursts of creativity where I can achieve things that take others hours or even days of focused effort to achieve. She holds the bottle and waits for the lightning to strike.
My target for 2021 is to understand how to live with and manage my ADD. We have found a way of collaborating and working together that has already achieved so much. We have ten brilliant authors on our roster already, some superb books in the market, a growing subscriber base and a brand we're very proud of. Hobeck means so much to us both. It is our mission and our passion. I am extremely fortunate that I am working with a truly unique and wonderful partner, who has the patience and vision to understand me, and yes, the ability to twist my arm so I play my part in the growth of Hobeck Books.
2021 should be quite a year, if 2020 was anything to go by.