My colleague Matt is the most enthusiastic, energetic, up-for-a challenge person I have ever met – but there was a point during the day when he admits he thought “That’s it. I’m done.” It was 1.30pm and he was standing on the Strand, back aching, feet throbbing and some cheeky upstart had just told him to ‘**** off” because Matt had asked him if he’d like to buy a Big Issue. It takes a lot to stop Matt in his tracks, but when we all got together to debrief after our Big Issue vendor day I saw something I’d never seen before – telling us the story of his day, Matt looked almost defeated. Almost.
We have embarked on a great many team awaydays in our time – we’ve made film trailers, written advertising jingles, built tiny racing cars out of vegetables and even had a school sports day in Regents Park last year – each was memorable in its’ own way (anyone who saw me attempting the wheelbarrow race won’t forget it in a hurry and my biceps still hurt a little) but our day selling the Big Issue on the streets of London is something that will stay with many of us when our memories of other awaydays have faded.
We started the day with an excellent briefing session and when we were asked to write our feelings on a Post-It and stick it on a flipchart (classic team awayday stuff, we knew where we were with the flipchart bit) there was a lot of fear and apprehension expressed and just a little bit of excitement.
We didn’t know what to expect but Steve and Serena from the Big Issue Foundation told us everything we needed to know and gave us some key messages to keep in mind to help us deal with some of the things we might see, hear and experience.
We were divided into small groups, assigned to a vendor and off we set to take up our pitches. We spread out across central London from Covent Garden to the Strand all the way up to Piccadilly.
We’re a Human Resources team, so sales isn’t a huge part of our day jobs, but we like to think we can usually turn our hands to pretty much anything – and being HR types, we’d be good with people…wouldn’t we? Even so, for a lot of us, our comfort zones were but a distant dot on the horizon. Mine felt so far away it was in a different time zone.