Long live the flexible

By James Golding

2020 has tested the survival attributes of many businesses, but one above all – flexibility. If you’ve been lucky enough to survive this year relatively unscathed as we have (and there is no doubt a lot of blind luck involved in that equation), there are some important lessons to take away around the ability to change, and change quickly.

It’s fair to say a lot of things we knew to be true at the start of this year, aren’t true now. In order to stay competitive, stay safe, and even survive, we’ve had to adapt very quickly, as have most businesses. Where we work, how we communicate, many fundamental systems and processes like approval and creative development, even the kind of work that we do.

Digging deep for our customers

Some of our clients have been hit hard, and been forced to drastically diversify. We’ve helped a private hire firm quickly become a courier, an events company move into developing cleaning products, to name a few. The new world has presented opportunities for clients to change their offering, and quickly adapt their products and the way they promote them, and react to changing demands. We helped a healthy drinks company fast-track their new immunity range, we helped a personal training company quickly adapt their signage and protocols when they were allowed to re-open, we helped a drinks company quickly develop a wide range of limited edition products, and across the board saw a huge shift into digital platforms.

For our clients to be reactive we have to be flexible. To bend and sometimes break our own rules and adapt our processes. But that’s not an issue, it’s simply a question of priorities and trust – if our client has a tremendous opportunity or mission critical requirement, it’s our responsibility as a partner to respond to that. We know when it’s time to shift our schedule around, work late if needed, and generally throw the kitchen sink at a job to get it over the line in time.

Bigger isn’t better in a pandemic

We’ve seen several larger companies struggle, being small and agile has been a huge benefit. Being small means low overheads, fewer layers to peel away from front line employees to the owner, and a more direct, personal and collaborative approach to change. New ideas can be implemented much more quickly, and with less resistance as everyone has been part of the process.

Like most businesses, our team have adapted brilliantly to working from home, working around children and family commitments. We’ve always fostered a culture of adaptability, and a willingness to try new things, modesty when it comes to learning and experimenting, but this has been brought to the fore over the course of 2020.

Be ready

For the next evolution in the way things work, anticipate and embrace the change. We can’t always be prepared for what’s coming, but we will be ready to tackle it. Going forward we will always be receptive to new ideas – never shoot ideas down before they’ve had a chance to grow. It’s never a no, it’s a conversation and development of an idea. A positive attitude to change is required – not looking for obstacles, looking for solutions.

We’ll always be open to new tools for working, whether that’s collaboration, communication, or job management. We were fortunate that most of our systems were already cloud-based anyway, but this year we’ve adopted:

  • Figma, a great tool for collaborative web design. It allows designers, developers, and project managers to interact and edit in real time, which is a huge benefit while working remotely.
  • Slack, which has always been used but now seems key for informal comms, and keeping in touch without burning too much of people’s time.
  • Zoom, a fundamental part of our daily working life, and a big part of our new effort to connect with people. The morning chat which always seems so casual and routine, is now something we have to schedule in and make sure it happens.
  • G-Suite, a more robust platform for email but has also been really useful for document sharing, again with multiple editors in real time.

Our clients have also introduced many new cloud-based tools which we’ve adopted in order to work effectively with them, including MS Teams, Notion, Wrike, Box, Jira, Float, amongst others. I think our ability to adapt our thinking and way of working with clients has been key to adopting these tools.

As a result of remote working we’ve been forced to look at many systems and processes, in order to make things like approval and review more digitised. We can no longer print designs off and leave them on peoples desks! This has naturally meant a closer look at these processes, provoked positive and productive conversations and undoubtedly improved the processes for the long term.

The new normal has enforced positive changes

This shift in perspective isn’t a bad thing. We expect the unexpected. We prepare for the worst. We cope with adversity. We dig deep when our clients need us to. We’re ready to change the way we work at a moments notice or seize an opportunity when it arises.

Yes, it’s been easily the most challenging year and been tough in many ways. But we’re comfortable being uncomfortable now. And will always be ready for change.

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