2nd Birthday Lessons Learned

100%Open was exactly two years old yesterday. For our 1st birthday we wrote a previous post (here) talking about what we’d learned so far and the headlines were as follows:

i. Trust your Instincts | ii. Authenticity is Everything | iii. Keep it Simple
iv. Communicate Constantly | v. Connect & Collaborate

All of the above still applies in spades, in particular the first two points. I’m currently fortunate to have a little time to reflect and thought I’d follow up with another post about some of what we’ve learned since then.

1. Articulate your vision and your values
We are seldom asked to do work because of a specific tools or technique or service. Rather I believe it is because we have a vision, an attitude and a dogged determination to make a better future one way or the other. The difficultly is always being clear on what that could be and try to articulate it as much as you can. It will only become more clear with practice. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves and others to have faith the process and keep on responding with relentless enthusiasm. One of our newest recruits asked us before she joined what our values are, which I thought was a great question (thanks Simone) for which we only had half an answer at the time, but I think we are getting there.

2. Make a feature of your flaws
Learning new stuff and boosting your skills is obviously great but at the same time it’s really hard to change your true nature. So make the most of it. We did some really interesting work with LEGO last year in partnership with the Graham Bishop from Hidden Gorilla who is a great guy and can’t help himself but challenge the status quo constantly. This can at times be difficult but I admire how he has transformed this into a new service he calls ‘Strategic Sparring’, basically allowing him to do what he does best. We haven’t branded our “flaws” but I think what made us square pegs in a round hole for the previous organisations we worked for, is now exactly why people want our help> So it’s back to point two from last year (above) about bringing your whole self to your work.

3. Give people (including yourself) a chance
As we’ve grown, we’ve started working with lots of partners and associates. I still standby the ‘trust your instincts’ point from last year when it comes to working with other people/organisations, but also have been surprised again and again that people have surpassed my expectations when we’ve asked them to work with us. And whilst it’s always good to refine your craft, it’s also great to scare yourself silly and keep on trying new stuff as well.

4. Don’t sell yourself too cheap
Brits don’t like talking about money. I don’t know why but it must be in the water or culture or something. But I’ve definitely learned that it is in nobody’s interest if you sell yourself too cheaply. A bargain or a fast buck can be seductive but neither work if you want to build long term value and relationships. It’s important to know your worth and be able to justify it. And fundamentally it comes down to naming a price and not undervaluing yourself or your client. Everyone will feel better for it in the long run and you do better work.

5. Stop predicting – build & iterate instead
Certainty/Schmertainty – prediction is so 90’s so beware the snake oil salesmen who promises you answers and solutions. David likes to say that at 100%Open we are deeply shallow in that we know a little about a lot (rather than vice versa) and are fond of a catchy title. Whilst we need to know enough about a subject to understand the context and some of the jargon it’s liberating to tell people we don’t know the answer to their questions. It feels almost heretical to say it, and yet it’s true. Instead what we offer is an approach, the confidence to ask Big Dumb Question and some good tools.

6. Take time out to reflect
This year, I’m determined to take more time out to reflect on what we are learning. I don’t book holidays early and I really should*! However I’m pleased that David and I (the co-founders) are off to the Do Lectures in April which I’m really looking forward to and it will be the first time since before xmas that we’ll have had more than a snatched conversation between meetings or deadlines. We don’t do this often enough. And a top tip re holiday’s I got from Rohan to allow you to take proper time out is to get your partner/friend to change the password on your computers/phones/devices whilst you are away else you’ll never switch off.

Anyway, that’s it for now. We are understandably experiencing the growing pains of a still new business and are both figuring it out and making it up as we go along. I’m sure there are lots more lessons bubbling through but thought I’d share where we are at right now. And I’d be interested to know what have you learned in the past year that surprised you?

*This is just a reminder to myself and a public indication to my family that I intend to do something about it this year. Hi Ju 🙂

by Roland

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