As I write this at the end of July 2021, I feel a sense of cautious optimism. The agencies I talk to are largely busy, many are back in the office, at least part time, plenty are hiring and best of all, new clients and projects are being won.
And as we tentatively move forward, it’s tempting not to look back, to keep focussed on the road ahead. But buried there, in the rubble of our pandemic experience are some valuable lessons.
In episode 54, Sarah Yeats, Managing Director of live events agency Sledge, shared her experience of steering her team and clients through 2020. What do you do when the world shuts down, your events are cancelled and the pipeline disappears overnight? I found this a really inspiring and motivating conversation — here are the five things I learned.
1. Relationships are everything
Not the first time we’ve discussed this on the podcast but bears repeating every time. It was evident from Sarah’s experience the strength of the relationships with her team and her clients were a huge factor in being able to weather the storm. Establishing trust through clear day to day communication made the hard conversations much easier when times were tough.
2. Demonstrate your true value
With lockdowns in place across the globe, what clients really needed was strategic rather than production support — something Sarah and her team excel at, but a part of the service which can often get overlooked in fast paced, high production events. Going back to solving the fundamental challenge of communicating a message to an audience rather than a channel-first approach allowed clients to fully appreciate the agency’s true consultative value.
3. Never assume
How often do we simply get in the way of ourselves?! As Sarah points out, making assumptions that clients, or prospects wouldn’t want to hear from them would have been a mistake. As long as the approaches and conversations were sensitively framed, then people were more than willing to talk, and connect. Keeping it human, focusing on a relationship rather than a ‘sell’, kept the communication going and started to build back the pipeline.
4. Resilience is a skill
This really resonated with me. Resilience isn’t just something we are born with; we can learn to be become resilient; we can build our teams to be resilient. Through trust, communication and good leadership (specifically avoiding micromanaging!) we can allow people the space and permission to try new things, to look for answers and to find a way.
5. Everything is possible
They say necessity is the mother of invention — and I’m sure that expression has been used a lot in recent times, however the ‘everything is possible’ mantra, learned so early on in Sarah’s career has never been more appropriate. There will always be an answer, a way through the problem. We might not know what it is yet, but we will, we just need to keep looking, and keep going.
To listen to my conversation with Sarah in full, tune into the Small Spark Theory Podcast, EP54: Overcoming adversity.