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CEO’s Reflection on 20/20 in 2020

As the Company 20/20 entered the year 2020 we decided to make it a year to remember.  We had planned a series of staff and Client events throughout the year, and fundraising activities ranging from Marathons to ‘Munro Bagging’ in Scotland.  As an Employee-owned Company our whole team were determined to celebrate the year that corresponded with our name and do some good in the process.  None of us knew that this year was always going to be unforgettable.

As March approached the first serious concerns were raised about what was to be named COVID-19.  Media coverage grew and we became used to watching daily briefings from medical experts and politicians. It became clear that a global pandemic was upon us and it was time to implement our pandemic scenario plan… except we didn’t have one.

In many ways we were well placed.  Our Facilitators and Business Development teams were already home-based.  We arranged a one day ‘pilot’ for our office-based Customer Services and Finance teams to try out working from home and the date was set for Monday 23rd March.  They never returned.  12 weeks later as the initial lockdown was eased the team had a Microsoft Teams call (now a standard part of all our working days) and decided they didn’t want to return to an office – ever.  Some of the positives started to emerge – we had all learned to work more flexibly and more efficiently.  Children, pets, and Amazon delivery drivers became a normal feature of our working lives together. Of course, we have more to learn, particularly about how to encourage creativity and collaboration in a virtual world, but we are getting there.

However, in many ways we weren’t so well placed. 90% of our business took place in classrooms across the globe. All our orders we cancelled in a 10-day period at the end of March.  The Business faced a stark choice – close the doors and furlough everyone or completely transform our business and quickly.  It took less than 24 hours to decide on the latter option.  Our Learning & Development team had already been gaining qualifications in on-line and virtual learning instructional design and delivery, so they began an urgent programme of course re-development.  Our Business Development Team engaged with our Clients and worked collaboratively to find new ways of delivering professional development. Our Customer Services Team engaged directly with our learners to keep them on track during a national lockdown, improving their skills and helping support mental health and wellbeing in the process.

Along with other training providers we were helped by the positive and focused interventions from organisations including The Engineering & Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) and Association for Project Management (APM) in a collaborative and creative endeavour to keep skills development alive.

As the year 2020 ends, the Company 20/20 has a better range of products and services that it could have planned for, is financially stronger, and has better employee-engagement and Client satisfaction than at any other time.  So, what have we learned?

1.       Collaboration

The collaborations that took place between the team at 2020, the professional bodies, industry bodies, our Clients and our learners were awesome.  Everyone had a shared objective – to enable people to keep learning.  Creative business models and the sharing of knowledge and expertise made it possible for everyone to carry on.

2.       Belief

The collaborations were only possible because of a belief in each other.  As an Employee-owned company we ‘came of age’ and our belief in each other and our business partners, when challenged by adversity, was rewarded.

3.       Communication

We couldn’t communicate enough – whether it was good news, bad news or, at times, when there was no news at all.  An open culture enabled us to share ideas and scenarios that led to the right decisions, implemented effectively because everyone played a part in making them in the first place.

4.       Empathy

Nobody knows the personal struggles that others may be going through, but we got a better insight into some of them this year.  We learned that people can be trusted to do the right thing by their colleagues and for the business. Flexibility, work/life balance, mental health and above all empathy help.

5.       Leadership from Behind

In such a fast moving and changing business world, a leader who claims to have all the answers is sure to fail. The lesson I learned was to Lead from Behind and unleash the power of the team – removing barriers and facilitating change led by them.

 2020 was a year to remember, but for different reasons than we had imagined. We hope that you and your families have a happy festive break and that 2021 is less challenging for us all!

 Tony Marks