Or, when you find yourself on the dark desert highway of entrepreneurship
Having been in the biz more than 20 years allows for a bit of perspective on how the market works. We started our careers during the dot com boom … followed by the dot com bust, followed by the housing market boom and the housing market bust, followed by the Great Recession, followed by the crypto market boom and the crypto market bust … you see where I’m going here … the economy ebbs and flows. So, you’ll forgive me if I didn’t panic when the pandemic led to a digital transformation boom … inevitably followed by a tech industry “downsizing” or “reorganization,” as they say. And so, here we are. Again.
To be honest, owning a small business this year has felt a lot like checking into Hotel California … it started out awesome, took a left turn, and now we’re trying to find that passage back to the place we were before.
Welcome to 2022 … such a lovely place
2022 started off strong. Our growth from 2021 continued at a solid trajectory and by the end of Q1, we crossed the threshold to 50 team members – a size we never imagined for our small, boutique business. We were deep in the development process on a new app that is going to disrupt an entire industry (more on that to come in 2023), our client programs were growing, and our content and digital marketing lines of business were at capacity. In March, our creative services team turned 400 deliverables in less than three weeks to meet a client’s budget requirements – and we barely broke a sweat!
As a leadership team, we were able to shift our focus from solely project-based work to really investing in the training and enablement of team members. Creating community. Sponsoring the Women in Cloud Summit. Developing our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives. Investing time and energy in book clubs and mentorship programs. Helping team members define their career goals and coaching them through their growth and skills development initiatives. There was plenty of room at Odigo for creativity, innovation, and exploring emerging technologies to enhance our internal processes as well as client solution offerings. Like a dance in the courtyard, if you will.
Running for the door
By the time mid-year rolled around, we felt like we were really finding our stride as a 50+ person organization. Bidding on global projects. Operationalizing programs at scale. Recruiting, onboarding, and training efficiently to meet demand and exceed client expectations. Showing client ROI on every project.
Our leadership team was able to escape to the desert for a deep dive on strengths assessments, brainstorming, and line of business goal setting. (There may or may not have been some pink champagne on ice.) We created long-term goals and short-term goals. Discussed individual team members and how we could set them each up for success. Identified areas where we could invest more heavily in business development initiatives or scale back on processes and tools that were no longer serving us well. In short, business was booming.
Then, in June, our contracts started to stall. Not stop. Just stall. We were fortunate that most of them landed. Except for one. One big contract that employed 12 team members … it made its way slowly through the procurement process. Until finally, the VP signed it. Our emails alerted us. The contract was signed. The PO was open. The team could get started. We all breathed a sigh of relief. Three minutes later, my phone rang. The client called to tell me “I know the PO just processed, but there are no funds. Do not execute against it. It’s been cut by 75%. I need to figure out what happened. Let me get back to you.” We inhaled a big gulp of air. We held our breath for a long, long, long time.
But eventually, we learned that just like every other vendor in the industry, we would need to navigate shrinking budgets, resource re-allocation, and team optimization. We did our best to land different contracts and move highly capable team members to other projects. We cut as little as we could, super strategically across the entire organization. Our goal was to minimize impact on the team, and also on morale. And for the most part, we considered ourselves fortunate to have such little impact across the team as a whole. For a team of 50 to be reduced by less than a handful of team members was testament to the value we add to our clients’ projects.
Unfortunately, we were also not immune to the Great Resignation. Naturally, some team members found other roles at other companies, and we supported them in their journeys. We’ve always considered The Odigo Group a step in the careers of our team members. Some stay for a while and plan to stick around for longer. Others learn what they need to learn, contribute what they need to contribute, and move on to the next steppingstone. Whichever path is right for them is right for us, and we encourage everyone to live their best lives – whether that’s at Odigo or elsewhere. Some of them we hope to see back. So, we sent them off with a fond farewell, and the reminder … “you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”
We will never leave
Look. The whiplash of the ebbs and flows is exhausting. Twenty (plus) years in, we’re deep in the grind, and we have learned to recognize the signs of growth and recession. We know when we need to gather for the feast, and when we just can’t kill the beast of a fluctuating economy. But as 2022 comes to a close, we have a clear view of the horizon. Like a long-term investment strategy, we know that downturns are temporary, and the economy at large continues to grow over time. We’re keeping highly skilled team members busy with internal projects so they’re on board and ready to catch the projects that will surely come our way in the coming quarters. We’re confident that excellent referrals lead to excellent opportunities. And we know the time, money, and resources we’ve invested in innovation, collaboration, and packaging for scale over the past several years will pay dividends in the coming year.
As we keep telling our team … we’ve survived the unthinkable over the past three years. And we’ve grown bigger, stronger, faster, and more valuable every year for the past 20. We’re in it for the long haul, and our clients know we’ll be here on the other side of their reorgs and budget freezes.
I’m an optimist at heart, even though that optimism is often tempered by a healthy dose of sarcasm. So, for now, I’ll leave you with this … we’ll keep you posted on how 2023 unfolds. Right now, it’s looking like “this could be Heaven or this could be Hell” …