5 Lessons From Having The Boss From Hell

June 9, 2021 Katja Presnal

We Turned A Nightmare Career Situation Into A Book

We took our first steps in our Big Rich Money entrepreneurial journey after learning important lessons from the worst job we’ve ever had. We hope that by sharing, we can help others to break the 9-5 and to build their own profitable businesses.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you. My business partner Candice and I had the boss from hell last autumn, and it finally made us take the Big Rich Money step forward. Let me explain.

I took a job as a Chief Commercial Officer of a new media company based in London last summer. It was offered by a consulting client of mine after I had just helped them by making their first business plan that got the funding to launch this new venture. It was in the middle of the Covid pandemic (obviously), and I felt like I had to take a job that was basically built for me, even though it meant sadly letting go of my other, amazing, clients.

Who can say no to a great job during uncertain times? And starting a new media company from scratch with an important mission that helps the environment and improves health? It was exciting and something I’ve done before so I felt confident that it would be a big success.

I immediately hired a friend of mine, Candice, as an Editor-in-Chief. We had worked together multiple times before and built other media properties together, and she even used to be the front page editor for Yahoo!, so she was just the professional needed for the job. The founder of the company, our new boss, immediately liked Candice and offered to pay her to move to London. Candice gave notice on her apartment and sold her furniture and even some of her daughter’s toys to get ready for the big move from New York City to London.

She never moved to London, and the other promises made to us were not kept either.

We started seeing major red flags, including that I was asked to pay some of the company expenses with my own money, and even as a CCO I was not given a budget nor any financial information. I admit, I was stupid, and paid the expenses, because I was determined to make the company a success, and trusted that I would be paid back. Then some of our salaries were withheld, and we were asked to invest in the company, even though just a few months ago we were told we got an investment big enough to last 18 months as recommended in my original calculations (or so we were told).

In addition to the lack of financial planning, there were major challenges in getting the business strategy done and communicated for us. We were asked to do work, and days later told none of the work was going to be used. I was even asked to recruit more team members, went through a recruiting and an interview process that lasted for weeks, and the day the founder was supposed to give his final say on the top two candidates, he told us we are not hiring anyone.

We were told not to launch the company website – not until I received an email at 2 AM on Christmas that it was imperative that we speak ASAP, still during the Holidays. We had a call the next day, and we were told the company needed new branding, and the website should be redesigned and launched ASAP. We delivered within days and launched the online magazine at the first moments of 2021, sending a Happy New Year message to our boss about the new site. He never gave us any feedback about the site or even acknowledged it was done, and he stopped participating in our team calls.

We were astonished but continued doing the work we were hired to do. Finally, we were told that all of the money was gone, our salaries or invoices would not be paid, because the founder had used company money for his personal life, including his move to London and posh lifestyle, including buying gifts and hosting parties for his girlfriend. I recommended that the founder would nip this kind of rumor mill immediately, and we should have a team call where the company’s financial situation could be communicated to all in the name of transparency. The founder said no, and later on, we found out that the rumors were true. We never spoke on phone or met after that, and he still owes us money.

5 Lessons From The Worst Job Ever

  1. Working for someone else is not always financially any more secure than working for yourself. You can get laid off or fired or like in our case – salaries just stopped being deposited to our bank accounts. So why not work as an entrepreneur?
  2. Getting a great job title does not always mean that you get to use all of your skills or that it will benefit your career, even when you work at the C-level. While I was excited about the Chief Commercial Officer title, I even removed the job from my LinkedIn later on, because I don’t want to be associated with the company, and my work with them also is not visible, because we were not let to execute most of it. Professionally, the job had not offered me any growth opportunities.
  3. People don’t have their shit together, even if it looks like it. Some take the “fake it ’til you make it” little too seriously, and focus only on building a fraudulent image of themselves as something they are not. After months of working with him, we realized that he isn’t even using his real name, and even he told us not to believe what we see on his social media feed.
  4. You can turn a bad work experience to your benefit. We analyzed every mistake our boss was making as a business founder and realized they were normal mistakes many founders make. We had seen many of them before with our other clients and made some same mistakes ourselves too. We had just not seen anyone make all the mistakes at the same time before. We turned the lessons into a book, and are now publishing it worldwide in August.
  5. Don’t believe everything people tell you. This is hopefully self-evident for you. We were told multiple times how “smart men make decisions”, even when our ideas were presented as theirs. When we were hesitant doing some things and recommended other options, we were asked to do things in a way we knew would not bring the results wanted – and when they didn’t work out, we were blamed for following his lead. The entire work situation was a classic gaslighting situation and we fell right into it. That’s why even though we witnessed all of the bad decisions made by the founder, but because we were constantly told by him how superior and smart he is, it made us doubt our own judgment.

Big Rich Money Journey

It was such a wild experience, but since Candice and I had done so much work together for this company in such a short time, we started questioning why aren’t we doing all of this for ourselves. This was by far the worst boss we had ever worked for, and yet, we were going above and beyond.

We realized we had mental money blocks and our mindsets had not been focused on making money for ourselves. We have been more focused on helping our clients make money than building the smartest scalable business models for ourselves. This is why it had also been so easy to leave our own consulting business on the side and take on a job opportunity when offered.

We enjoyed working together and realized that we both had had similar type of ideas for creating online courses and membership programs. As things started going bad with our boss, we were equally sad about the possibility that we could not work together anymore if something happened with the company and our jobs.

So we started a backup plan called Big Rich Money.

We started cataloging all of our business ideas in a joint Google Folder, and we named the folder “Big Rich Money”, as a joke, but also as an anchor to manifest our money path. It brought us so much joy working in our Big Rich Money files, we realized maybe we could help break the stigmas many people have about making money. We especially have a heart for women who might have had similar types of bad career situations and who want to break through with their own business now.

Big Rich Money means that you think of money as a vehicle for good and a tool for fulfilling your purpose in the world. 

Big Rich Money means you are in charge.

Big Rich Money means you finally make your business intentions into a profitable company.

Learn more about our upcoming book Big Rich Money: How To Turn Your Business Intentions Into A Profitable Company at www.bigrichmoney.com.

Katja Presnal

Katja Presnal shows how to live Nordic inspired life to the fullest and plan your dream life. Katja owns Presnal5 strategic marketing intelligence agency and wants to help marketing professionals to combine a dream career and dream life via freelance work. Katja is an award-winning marketing strategist, and a well-known speaker. Katja has lived in five different countries, and seven states in the USA. Her three children were all born in different countries within three years. When not working or jet-setting the world, Katja is at home cooking big family dinners. She has been featured in NY Times, Glamour, Redbook, Fodor's, Forbes and Woman's Day magazines among many other national and international publications and written for MTV3 and Lifetime TV networks.