Lessons from a bumpy year

Thanks 2020, you've been weird...

As a founder it’s easy to think you’re a genius when things go well, and to take it personally when they don’t. In a year like the one we’ve just had that can be a very rough ride.

So, for the last newsletter of the year, I knew I wanted to avoid the usual tropes - complete with statistics and heart-warming messages of praise to all the team - that stuff is great, but real life isn’t always ‘up and to the right’.

I want to share a real story - all the ups and downs, as I felt them - that might give some insight to present and future entrepreneurs.

The Story

The story is of a simple phone call. I was calling one of our newest hires, Sarah, who was super excited to join our small team, having just handed in her notice at one of the largest firms in the world... It was the day after the UK’s lockdown was announced.

At the start of the year, I was buoyed up with optimism. 2019 was our first year in business, and as a result had been all about discovery. We’d figured a lot of stuff out: how we worked together best as a team; the service we should be offering; our ideal clients.

We’d made a new senior hire, signed a lease on our first ever office, and sent out job offers for new starters over the next few months. I was looking forward to taking 2020 by storm.

The Hard Bit

Now, it was April - a wave of uncertainty had swept through the economy and the startup ecosystem was no exception. Nobody knew exactly what would happen and everyone was preparing for the worst.

Just weeks after reassuring Sarah that it was safe to leave her Big 4 accounting firm, I was picking up the phone again to let her know we had no idea what the next couple of months would look like; How many clients would we lose? Where would we find the growth we needed?; Could we support another member in the team?

Now the success of her career seemed (to me at least) to lie with my ability to bring in new clients in the worst recession the country has ever seen... sleepless nights ensued. I’ve never chased harder and the next month was spent on the phone, searching in vain for new business.

The kicker

Suddenly one day a string of new clients started signing up. Approaching Ju-Vern directly, referred by other clients and colleagues.

Almost overnight we went from worrying about having enough work to urgently needing to recruit again. Sarah started with a whirlwind of clients onboarding, and more than a little overtime - my cautiousness and concern looked like madness.

All of that marketing and sales work that I’d dedicated myself to had led to nothing...

2020 never became an easy year, not for Quantico or for anyone else, but from what I’ve seen everyone has made the best of the situation. No moment of the year felt easy, but looking back I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved.

There were 21 of us at the Christmas party, fourteen of whom joined in 2020. We’re now part of fifty of the best UK startups, and we’re on the cusp of the top 100 accounting firms by revenue… But I said I wouldn’t indulge in that 😉

The moral

Know that you are your business are not the same thing, especially as it grows up. By all means remain obsessive about every detail, but understand that you can only control so much. Trust your team and accept that the rest is down to fate. Inevitably over the life of a startup you will have both highs and lows, and I think it's important to know how to react to both.

All you can do is find something you’re passionate about, work on it to the best of your ability and surround yourself with people who care as much as you do. Nothing else matters.

Stay humble and stay hungry! 😎