Graceless Under Fire


“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it’s just possible you haven’t grasped the situation.”

-Jean Kerr

Marianne and I deal with stress very differently. She tends to stomp around and pull faces and make a noise, and I withdraw into myself, grimly determined and stoic. Or so I think – apparently I have a glass face, and everyone can tell at a glance what I am feeling. So I think I’m being all noble with a stiff upper lip, and then I realize my staff are creeping around me, and sliding me extra strong cups of tea and playing the music lower. So when I asked Marianne what she was feeling stressed about this afternoon, she said, surprised, “Well you are so stressed that I figured that I should clearly start stressing too”. Sorry, Kipling, Jean Kerr clearly had it right.

What a total ballsup nightmare of a week. Truly aggravating stuff happened: our beautiful, expensive churn broke for the second time in two weeks, and it took two technician visits, two new parts, a sales rep, approximately twelve phone calls and 24 wasted hours to fix, we discovered today that the CTICC has summarily chosen to include another frozen dessert vendor (frozen yoghurt) along with us at this year’s Design Indaba and there’s nothing we can do about it,  and we had to redo for the third time an Ice Cream Club flavour that just wasn’t working, which included recalling and hand delivering pints to members who had gotten it prematurely.

The difference between this and the hundreds of other fires we put out as a matter of course each week as part and parcel of running a new business, is: I let it get to me. I pretty much had a meltdown over the churn breakdown, feeling torn between the desire to physically hurt the sales rep who sold it to me and the technician who wasn’t fixing it fast enough, crawl under my desk and not come out, and my automatic, self-hating instinct to be polite and friendly to businesses I work with, even if they are screwing me over. In my mind, I could see a for-want-of-a-horse-shoe-nail scenario stretching forward in time, a domino-effect of disasters through which the broken timer on my churn would lead to the departure of my staff and clients, public humiliation and finally the total breakdown of my business (I know, it seems a bit silly now in retrospect, sitting on the couch with my feet up and eating olives out the jar with a spoon. At the time it seemed a foregone conclusion). So. Not my proudest moment ever.

But I guess not the worst, either. It sort of all came to a head when the sweet but often ineffectual sales rep showed up at my office with the second timer of the day, and had to wait for the technician to return and install it in the machine (he’d left hours ago). I couldn’t bear to be in the kitchen with him, I was so angry. But when I wandered back in half an hour later, I found Harmony and Progress having their break, drinking tea and snacking on peanut butter sandwiches – with the apologetic, unreassuringly panicky rep nibbling at his own sandwich, sipping tea along side them. I guess this instinctive show of hospitality towards my least favourite person of the moment could have made me even angrier, but it totally deflated my fury. Progress silently got up and brought me my own carefully cut peanut butter sandwich and cup of tea, at the exact strength and sweetness I like it, and I ended up breaking bread with the enemy, so to speak.

The churn is working again, Progress is doing an overtime shift this evening to try and get us vaguely back on schedule, my staff don’t seem to hate me for my moodiness, and my customers have been tweeting very supportive comments over the course of the day. The day is over, things feel strangely ok, and tomorrow will be kinder. I hope.


Kate is a company director. She spends her time on mentoring our leadership team, product development, new systems, finance, and business strategy. Her favourite ice cream flavours include raspberry choc chip, cookie dough, nectarine, jasmine blossom, toasted almond and berry cheesecake.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. The Local Bag

    I love that your staff live up to their names. Hope next week is smooth sailing!

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