OK, hands up. I’m not sure the good folks of McKinsey really know we exist.
But if they did, I wonder if they would consider us as a ‘Resilient’? As defined by how a business uses Speed and Discipline in the way they work, to not only survive the Covid crisis but thrive.
It got me thinking. Did we move quickly? Yes. Were we disciplined? Yes again.
One of our clients asked us if we’d had a ‘good lockdown’ – and I think we did, because we now have a more robust business as a result.
So, I thought I’d share what we learnt:
“If you don’t know your numbers, you don’t know your business”. If we hadn’t had our finger on the financial pulse of the business, there would have been many more sleepless nights.
Surround Yourself With Good People. We kept talking, listening and learning from our clients and our contacts. After years of reaching out, we were surrounded by some seriously brilliant people.
Use Tech Like a Pro. We used tech and created processes as if we are a much bigger business. And usually before we needed it. We often trial new ways of working ahead of the game (so when the crisis hit we weren’t scrabbling around.)
Fail fast. We’ve taken this agile philosophy of testing and learning from our mistakes and correcting quickly. Aiming for perfection is the enemy. But not learning from your mistakes is a crime. We made ‘marvellous mistakes’ (as my daughter’s reception teacher would call it). And we kept learning.
Spend time working ‘on’ not ‘in’ your business. This has never been more important, and possible more difficult for some.
Comfortable is not your friend. We could have started feeling complacent after all we’d been doing- but as soon as we got too comfortable, we knew we’d start losing ground.
The Tech, The Frameworks & The Specialists
Below is the technology we used, the frameworks we followed and the specialists we relied on to help see us through these challenging times.
Some are new and some are old favourites.
As you can imagine our clients were going through crisis so several of our programmes went on hold. And we weren’t certain if they would start up again because we weren’t even sure if all our clients would survive.
So we took drastic measures (just like everyone else).
We’d used Xero for several years but it’s not until we started working with our new account (Louise Coleman) that we made Xero really work for us.
Very quickly we re-examined every cost in the business and removed or put on hold anything not needed for our immediate survival – this included taking a pay cut.
We followed the advice we were giving our clients and calculated our runway – how long we might have, depending on certain assumptions before the proverbial money ran out. We painted worst case, medium case and downturn scenarios and ‘ran the numbers’.
We looked over the precipice and knew how far we might fall and when, which gave is the incentive to move quickly on the things that were needed.
We discovered Kanban Flow several years ago but it needs a mention because it’s so awesome. We use it to prioritise our workload and manage our time. And it shows up when a task has been hanging about for weeks. Is it a ‘frog’? (a task you’re procrastinating over that really needs to be swallowed). Or does it need to be culled?
Kanban Flow makes that decision making much easier. And quicker decisions means more gets done, and you move more quickly.
We use Team Gantt to run our programmes because it’s straightforward and easy to engage with. Once the lockdown crisis management dust had settled a bit we refocussed our efforts on communicating with our clients and subscribers. We realised that now was the time to invest in our marketing, website and content strategy.
We planned all these projects on Team Gantt.
If you know me then you’ll know I love a flip chart and a Post it note. So when we needed to do this in our remote delivery we found Mural. It’s Post it note heaven and works perfectly with Zoom breakout rooms.
It was clear some of our clients were grappling with key issues, like: how many people should they bring back from furlough, how to motivate remote workers, and how do we build our pipeline in the ‘new normal’.
We wanted to tune into this, so we used Survey Monkey to collect insights and used them to guide what we wrote and talked about. It also helped our clients to check and see what was important too.
Just as our clients were making tough decisions about furloughing returners, I was researching team coaching apps. I know, it might sound a bit crazy – but I knew our clients would be needing a lot from their people on the other side of lockdown. Our mentor introduced us to Marina Sancho from Saberr. Coachbot is software that helps our clients communicate with their people better and coach their teams to be more effective. Perfect for the silo’s and culture shifts that have inevitably been created following a stint of remote working.
OnePage CRM is another old favourite we are glad we’d invested in. It does exactly what we need it to and isn’t overly complicated. It helped us keep in touch with all our clients and contacts regularly and systematically, and it meant we ended up talking to some people we hadn’t been in touch with for years. Connection is king these days and this made things so much easier to manage.
Working On the Business – Meetings
It might seem strange in a business as small as ours to have ‘meetings’ – after all we ought to be able to just have a chat about something quite quickly shouldn’t we? Apparently not. We needed the discipline of Patrick Lencioni’s “Weekly Tactical Meeting” (See “Death By Meeting”) to ensure we worked on the things that mattered each week and to get things done. Accountability and progress checking at these meetings ensured we moved forward very quickly. It took discipline to do it though – a weekly calendar item and no excuses.
“What Went Well?” & “Even Better If…?” We introduce these questions to our clients when they’re reflecting on how effective their sessions have been. It became even more important for us to have the discipline to reflect on these questions after our meetings and client sessions. Even if it was a bit painful sometimes!
The lockdown has been pretty darn grim – but it did have its upsides. For me and many others it was about having more time. Among other things, I could research and trial new approaches to coaching.
Feedforward doesn’t just rely on feedback, instead it also helps you tap into the wisdom of your teams, leaders, and stakeholders. And can all be done remotely. We’re trialling the approach with two clients and the results are promising
We borrowed this term from agile methodology. We knew our journey to 100% remote delivery was going to involve iterations, improvements and mistakes. And we needed to move quickly.
We trialled the remote delivery of a team facilitation session with our friends at Dial a Geek. We had a range of tech and process hiccups, got lots of feedback and learnt a whole lot more. Thanks guys.
Launching our Content Strategy: Sonja Nisson
We’d read Sonja’s brilliant book about creating valuable content and then a few years later I stumbled on her again on LinkedIn and we got chatting. She has been crucial in our journey to provide valuable content for ourselves. Talking to her has been a treasure trove of strategic ideas, handy tips and connections with people who are getting their content stuff just right.
She gave us the idea of creating a Trello Board to structure our Content Meetings. And it works perfectly.
‘Covid adjusting’ our Marketing Strategy: Jade Tambini
We’ve happily partnered with Jade Tambini for a few years now. And just before lockdown she was managing a joint event we were going to run to help SMEs grow into the 2020s. That seems a looong time ago now.
She’s helped us adapt our marketing strategy to this ‘new normal’ in line with our redesigned strategy for 2021. And it still makes sense.
Making our CRM fit for purpose: Syed Sameer Rahman
With his head in data & heart in marketing, we started working with Sameer to refine our CRM system long before the lockdown. We wanted to use data to streamline and automate decisions about communicating with our connections and potential clients. Continuing with this work when our programmes were halted and it looked like the world was going to end took some conviction.
But this fits with our philosophy of working this stuff out when we’re not busy and then reaping the rewards when we are.
Better describing our ‘why’: Gareth Wood & Ian French
Our website needed to better describe what we do and why we do it. And who better to help us than one of our clients!
Gareth and Ian at Really Helpful Marketing know our ethos and with a few facilitated sessions they nailed it with the start of some fantastic copy that completely describes us and our ‘why’.
Redesigning our website: Leanne Witts & Alexis West
Leanne and Lex at Girl & Boy Studio converted the copy and design ideas into a completely new website. We’re thrilled with the results – please let us know what you think….
Perfecting our remote delivery: Si Bryant
Si is my right-hand man when it comes to business surveys and 360s. He has the same attitude to fail fast and innovation as we have.
He helped us move fast when it came to moving delivery of TPA Insight Surveys to remote delivery.
Also perfecting our remote delivery: Ian Robins
Our friend and client who knows more about marketing and making the tech work for you than anyone I know. He helped us think through our remote delivery model and made sure we had checklists for everything. And I love a checklist.
Keeping us focussed: Ben Clarke
An old friend of Steve’s he meets fortnightly (Zoom!). They keep pace with what’s happening worldwide, share wisdom and insights with each other and also support and listen when things have been getting challenging for both of them.
Challenging our thinking: Peter Hawkins
We continued having our mentoring sessions with Peter Hawkins – now was not the time to stop working ‘on’ the business with Peter.
So How Did We Do?
If you use the measures of Speed and Discipline – the features of being ‘a Resilient’ – then maybe we are one, maybe not. Either way we’re still here post lockdown and hopefully you found it useful for us to share what being a Resilient might look like in real life (“its not the knowing that’s difficult, it’s the doing”).
You might use our experience to inform and checklist what you could, or should, do yourself.
We’d love to hear how you’re getting on post lockdown – are you a Resilient?