Pandemic Silver Linings

Silver Lining Cloud

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In December 2019 I stepped into the COO role at Interaction, following in the very capable footsteps of a close friend of mine. I was excited about the new role, full of enthusiasm and blissfully unaware of what was coming. By March 2020 I was cursing my friends’ name, and we laugh now about how he dodged the COVID-bullet. You see, when COVID hit, Interaction was engulfed by an avalanche of cancellations and postponements, and long-term clients disappeared onto task forces and secondments. Nobody had the time or the budget to think about training, nor were they prepared to ‘pivot’ into virtual classrooms, accessed from personal devices and from home offices.  None of us were.

This is a good news story though, so I won’t go into the boring detail of what happened over the next nine months of long days, incessant worry and rolling with the punches. Let’s get to the bit where I tell you how well we ‘survived’ and what that means to me.

Sometime in March this year I suddenly realized that we had made it. Survival mode had been turned off and re-building was the new game in town. When I look back on what we achieved; what I had achieved, I felt a real sense of pride and job satisfaction, and I wasn’t expecting that. I expected to feel relieved, exhausted and desperate for a holiday, but instead, I felt energized, excited about the future and I could see possibilities that had not existed 12 months ago.

Let me share a few of the things we achieved.

  • When we first started offering training in virtual classrooms, our clients were adamant that their people would only sit for an hour at most. Now we deliver full-day (sometimes two-day) capability development programs, and it has become the norm. Most clients want to continue with a hybrid format, and many will never go back to offering only face to face programs. They save money on travel, and we can cover different time zones from our home offices.
  • We had two huge printers which inevitably sat silent for months. By the time we booted them out the door many of our clients had agreed to go digital. Our printing is outsourced now, we are spending a fraction of what our printers cost AND we’re saving the environment. So many wins.
  • We streamlined the hell out of everything and quit with the double handling of information. Our CRM is giving us more bang for buck than ever and can tell us interesting and detailed stories about the jobs we do. It’s quite a read.
  • Office 365 delivered more than it bargained for as we picked up and utilized more and more of their apps. We moved everything to the cloud and we became truly agile; we can work anywhere, anytime, on any device. It’s liberating and opens the world up for Interaction’s global strategy; next week we are delivering a program to a team in Tokyo which is super exciting, except for the part where we miss out on the travel.
  • We’ve realised that a traditional office no longer represents our strategic business plan. The past 6 months saw us inch towards a 100% home-based workforce and in August we’re going to ditch the office for good. Personally, I’m looking forward to frequenting a variety of (coffee-making and cake tasting) locations to meet with my team and our clients. Losing the ‘commute’ and being home when my kid gets home from school is another benefit.

These and many other changes have been realized with the help of the pandemic – yes, there was a silver lining! Interaction looks very different to the business I walked into in Dec 2019. We have a lot of the same people and a few new ones, but the environment we operate in has a new focus on innovation, collaboration and teamwork. We courageously stood side by side, made the changes we needed to (yes, it was hard and uncomfortable, but that’s another story) and now we are reaping the benefits of our pivot. Keeping our core value, to be ‘Of Service’ front of mind, we took our clients along for the ride, and their trust in us has enhanced our rebuilding game.

If you want to engage a team like ours to help your team realise their goals, then please give me a call. A quick conversation could change your perspective.

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