Steve Ackerman's bag of 'Nos' is his secret work weapon

Steve Ackerman: the managing director at Somethin' Else
Steve Ackerman: the managing director at Somethin' Else

Somethin' Else's managing director keeps a bag of rejection letters that remind him to keep going when everyone else is saying "No".

In my attic there’s an old, green John Lewis plastic bag. Inside are 200 letters from the early 1990s that all begin "Dear Steve" and go on to detail why (insert name of senior person) at (insert name of radio station) won’t be offering me a job as a DJ at the aforementioned station.

Long before I ended up sitting behind a desk, my dream was to be a radio DJ. And long before email, good old-fashioned letters, with a demo tape included, were the way you tried to get in the door.

As my early demo tape attempts deserved to be rejected, I would send out these letters of optimism and, not surprisingly, receive back the blunt letters of rejection, confirming that my tape was currently not good enough but they would "keep me on file".

I kept every one of those letters, putting them into the John Lewis bag. I’m not sure why I did this but maybe there was a subconscious voice saying, "I’ll show them." So rather than sapping my will and energy, these rejection letters did the reverse, urging me on with a logic defying persistence that meant I did finally get that job – at Signal Radio in Stoke.

I’ve kept that bag of letters all these years. It’s provided me with a constant reminder to never let "no" get in the way. And it’s served to remind me that if that enthusiastic, radio-obsessed boy could have a bucketload of resilience back then, then the older, greyer version certainly can now. Resilience and not accepting "no" – two aspects that are crucial in all the aspects of running a business. From winning and losing, to handling clients and projects, looking after staff and talent, and keeping a focus on the main goal, the green bag has helped in all these challenges.

I haven’t got the bag out of the attic for a few years now, but I know exactly where it is, and the thought of it is enough to remind me that persistence, drive and focus will always pay off, though admittedly, a good demo tape can help you get there quicker.

Steve Ackerman is the managing director at Somethin' Else.

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