Go Daddy’s much-hyped 2014 Super Bowl commercial featuring a woman named Gwen quitting her job as a machinist to launch a career giving puppet shows may be an interesting TV drama, but it’s a poor idea.
Now, many of us have felt the urge to leave steady jobs to go into business for ourselves. I did it myself, nearly 20 years ago, when I left Sunset Magazine in 1996 to be a freelance publishing consultant, writer, and editor.
The difference between Gwen and me is that I left my job on good terms. I didn’t quit on national television, and if had been given a chance to do so, I would have passed. Why?
Because I knew that the job I was leaving—the company, the bosses, and my colleagues—was perhaps my most important asset once I left Sunset. In fact, Sunset became a client, and my former colleagues—many of whom left the company around the same time to get in on the first dot-com boom—got me some of my best early projects.
I have to assume that Gwen doesn’t think that her former boss or colleagues will want to book her for a puppet show. She’s not demonstrating strategic thinking: by burning bridges, she may be cutting off opportunities. If nothing else, by ditching her job in such a public way, isn’t Gwen setting herself up as a bit of a grandstanding jerk?
Some people will invoke Johnny Paycheck’s classic, “Take This Job and Shove It,” when thinking about this commercial. Go Daddy’s certainly encouraged that story line by titling the commercial, “Quitting Time.” Paycheck’s song may be a great one, but it’s an incomplete story. The song explains why the singer’s leaving (relationship problems, bad boss) but it doesn’t say what he plans to do once he walks out the door. Gwen has decided what she’s going to do—make and sell puppets—but by foregoing the support of her former colleagues, she’s handicapping herself.
All this is not to say that Gwen’s business won’t succeed. She seems like a nice and sincere lady, judging by her website. And by launching the business with millions of people watching her (and, ahem, commenting), she’s certainly getting valuable buzz. (And here’s a word of free advice: Make a John Turturro puppet and include it in your show.)
I just think she’s more likely to succeed if she has her former colleagues as potential customers.
Good luck, Gwen. Given what you did today, you just might need it.