While many businesses during COVID suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, other companies thrived during the pandemic. Some like Amazon and Shopify benefitted from the lockdown restrictions by having the right business model, while others like Tesla had to battle lockdown restrictions to continue to grow their business and their value.
In the marketing and advertising sector, we have seen a pretty dramatic shakedown of players with network agencies like Dentsu consolidating and terminating 6000 employees globally (R.I.P. Grip as a distinct brand) as companies pulled back from marketing. Even now with signs of recovery, it’s a volatile world for marketers.
Which brings us to our story at theturnlab. At the start of the pandemic, we were less than 2 years young and still a relatively unproven experiment combining research based consulting, marketing and technology to help business leaders solve their most pressing problems. We had some key successes along the way, which allowed us to hire some great people and create some great outcomes for our clients, but COVID would prove to be our real stress test.
Like most companies in the marketing space, at the start of the pandemic, we felt a sharp and immediate pullback in spending from our clients as most marketing was put on hold and some key technology projects were scrapped due to capital cost cutting. Instead of doing a round of layoffs typical in the category, we leaned into our clients challenges by offering up free workshops and planning sessions to help them get a handle on how the pandemic will affect them and what they could do to thrive in the face of these challenges. We also reached out to some brands we thought would be impacted harder than most by COVID and offered our Strategy Hacks (short 90 minute problem solving workshops) with no strings attached.
The result was a realization from our client leaders that we were a valuable ally in the face of their mounting business challenges. As one CEO put it to us “Most partners tried to sell us their solutions, while theturnlab really fell in love with our problem and gave us research based evidence to devise the right solution for us”. And over time, these solutions turned into projects, which turned into new relationships, which turned into a dramatic growth period starting at the peak of the pandemic and has not slowed down since.
And fast growth can be hard. As a young, small company (we just pushed past 50 peeps) growth can be tough at any time, never mind a time when face to face on-boarding, mentoring, training, company culture and collaboration are all done through a digital pinhole. It’s also hard on cashflow as we hired up, bought equipment, licensed technology and invested well ahead of any work completed and invoices paid. So yes, we have stubbed our toes a few times in the past 12 months. We had some hires that did not work out, we had some projects that did not go as smoothly as we liked and we even had to postpone a major technology platform we were incubating with outside investors as the world changed. But in the end we were able to stress test and refine our business model to be resilient, reliable and relevant to our clients and the marketplace.
So where do we go from here? We will continue to lean in. We will continue to invest. We will find ways to move our client and internal projects forward using evidence based strategy, collaboration and curiosity because our business is about continuous learning and growth. We will also continue to push our culture of experimentation, which has yielded game changing innovation for our clients and ourselves. And we are excited to shortly be launching our new sharing economy platform which aims to be the “AirBNB of meeting places”. Stay tuned for news on that soon. And let’s all continue to lean in and remember what the economist Paul Romer once said: “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste”
We are one part ad agency, one part consultancy, and one part technology company. We provide 360° solutions for brands committed to turning their business around. Our lab team is made up of a healthy mix of industry veterans, entrepreneurs, innovators. We are business analysts, strategic planners, media experts, brand experts, content creators, digital strategists, interactive programmers and software developers.