Updated: Jan 24
Like so many, our small team faced down 2020 challenges including an apartment fire, homeschooling debacles, a non-lethal case of Covid, a re-planned wedding, a foreboding business outlook, and the stressful and serious emotional trials and tribulations of nurturing our socially-isolated children.
Despite the difficulties, we recognized others were experiencing even more painful realities and our employment status alone was reason for gratitude. While it sucked, we muddled through and on some level we realize as hard as it was, we survived fairly unscathed.
But our goal is not to survive, it is to thrive. Late last summer we could see “it” coming—the economic impact that would hit in 2021 which would threaten to push us off course. We had no illusions that advancing to a new calendar year would improve the economics of the situation.
At my team’s request, this is not a blog of wishful thinking about “doors closing and windows opening” with some theoretic nonsense about how mere positivity is going to make this a better year. Yes, research shows attitude is a component but as the cliché goes, “hope is not a strategy,” so I argue attitude, while important, is not enough.
We dug in. I looked deeply inward too (that’s another blog for another time) and share here some tangible things we did we did during the throws of our torment to pivot.
Selling and Storytelling
We have revisited how we tell our own story, and to whom, as we think about client acquisition—who are we and how do we articulate to others how we can help them. Conceptual purity has taken a backseat to considering possibilities of serving our purpose and advocating for change to improve human experiences through different channels. Essentially, we thought there was one straight line and had qualms about deviating from it, and we got over it.
Our core team grew closer and individual performance was high even with operational interruptions and work-from-home distraction. We are fortunate to have a strong team of contractors and suppliers surrounding us who share our values. Because we are always trying to expand that team, our culture generally extends grace and patience with contractors and vendors in our stable to deepen our relationships and allow time to learn how to work together. However, if we were navigating challenges with suppliers before the shut-down and they were not digging in as we were, we were forced to find solutions to serve our and our clients’ needs in other ways. It sounds brutal as I write this, but our business could no longer afford the investment. We had to gracefully kick them off the conceptual “bus.”
Iteration in a Real Time
We thought we were nimble, but working in health in this time means we are supporting those on the front lines who are truly being called on to learn and iterate rapidly. The speed and scale up of research and evaluations support has been critical to that end. For instance, we thought we’d be evaluating a “Healthy Schools” program, and we shifted rapidly to also support an evolving statewide COVID team. That’s another story in itself worthy of a blog post from Reggi Rideout, Vice President of Strategy.
I hate business development. I have since I founded Simply Strategy. I often tell the story on myself about naively going out my own, leaving an account planning agency that was moving me away from a planning role into BD so I did not have to do sales. Silly girl. But the time has come to put us out there. Certainly, with more than 10 years in business, team members with no less than a 2-year and some with more than 5-year tenure with the firm, a proven track record with consumer experience research for Fortune 100s, federal and state research and evaluation contracts, and partnerships with large non-profits and foundations because of our purpose-driven approach to the work, I shouldn’t be shy.
We have cultivated a sweet spot in market and human experience research, and community health program evaluation and management. While I have been shy about asking for business at times, I’m leaning in because we are good.
Gratitude + Connectedness
Gratitude plus connectedness equals happiness. Despite the challenges, we are happy people right now. I believe it is because we are intentional in expressing our appreciation of each other, our partners, and certainly our client relationships. The connectedness with each other and others is genuine. So one strategy, while unstudied by Harvard (so far), is the equation for happiness will also enhance our success through an appreciation of our quality relationships.
We close the door on 2020 and accept the changed reality in many respects. But the effort made to prepare for 2021 is coming to fruition. We are looking forward to it, however different it looks.
P.S. Our office is open yet occupancy is low because of home schooling and periodic quarantines. We miss seeing friends, so if you want get out of the house for a socially-distanced cup of coffee or just want to work in a different space for an afternoon, give me a buzz email@example.com.