The shockwave year that propelled us into 2021
It goes without saying that 2020 was a turbulent year. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, and the restrictions put in place by governments to stop it spreading, almost all the plans carefully laid out by businesses up and down the country went out the window. Growth plans were halted. Personal projects had to be put to one side. We all had to adapt and make the best of a very difficult situation. The virus had a big impact, and not just economically. It has had real repercussions for individuals and for society.
What we saw in spring 2020 was the way in which the laws introduced to halt the spread of COVID-19, as well as other factors, inflamed tensions and put social issues in the spotlight. For weeks, there were innumerable reports centering on the Black Lives Matter protests, while in the business world, there was a surge in appreciation for diversity and inclusion, and a recognition of the need to increase it.
Meanwhile, stuck at home and forced to rely on tech to maintain and forge new relationships, social media use increased more than 12 percent in the last 12 months, but misinformation abounded too. Agencies like our own had to help clients navigate this incredibly complex landscape, but our success in these efforts is clear to see in our year-on-year growth in revenue, by 50 percent, and in our rising headcount, which increased by 15 percent.
Within the agency in a more general way, it was a year of challenge and change. There were mental health battles but also brilliant personal triumphs. Away from the office, we collectively revisited our values and strove to embody them in everything we did. We aimed for progress, rather than perfection, always looking to learn. We strengthened our culture, treating one another as if we were family and looking out for one another even when we weren’t working. We used our tech expertise to help brands transform through social-first thinking, but we also used it to stay in touch with each other, to strengthen the bonds in the team and to collaborate professionally in a slick, efficient way. But the word that really comes to mind when I look back on this year, and this team, is resilience. It was our resilience that saw us through, and allowed us to keep doing our work to the standard our clients expect of us and, by doing that, generate positive real-world outcomes.
At an incredibly stressful time, when hospital access was limited, my buddy and business partner witnessed the birth of his first child. We managed to continue making progress in the personal and professional development of every members of the team, with longstanding members showing initiative and leadership to take up formal and informal management positions, giving those newer members a rock-solid foundation on which to grow. We have welcomed more new talent than we ever could have expected at the start of the year, even before the pandemic hit, and these new additions, like everyone else in the team, will now be able to enjoy the new employee value proposition, which covers benefits, rewards, reviews, and career progression, from the beginning of 2021.
On the client side, we can be proud of having supported global brands with community crisis comms. These brands include EIT Food, which is supporting the food system we all rely on, and Anglo American, which operates in high-risk, developing regions around the world. Our social-first digital transformation product, the root, has been an indispensable platform for clients such as Ink and our client airlines, including easyJet and American Airlines which, despite the pandemic, have been able to inspire and entertain their audiences through new digital and social formats. By supporting organisations such as QAHE and Nord Anglia, we’ve also been able to help thousands of students around the world continue to learn at an uncertain time. We’ve even worked with the inspirational Simon Sinek to spread the idea of ‘the infinite mindset’. Now, we’re privileged to be working with new clients, from Wenzel’s to Pentair to Uptime.
We’ve also had the opportunity to work alongside Waypoint, an agency-specific management consultancy, to illuminate the path ahead for the tree. The results have been outstanding: an effective systems overhaul and a refinement of the company structure, as well as a growth vision focused on acquisitional growth in the New Year. This will support the scaling of our core business areas: Strategy, Creation and Activation.
And, as we close the door on 2020, we can look forward to the roll-out of a rebrand and positioning piece. We can get excited about having a new technology project on the horizon, involving a partnership with one of London’s leading business universities and the development of new extensions to the root. And there are plenty of commercial opportunities we are in a position to take advantage of, despite the gloom of the last 12 months. Social media is taking a higher percentage of marketing spend than ever, digital is pushing globalisation, hospitality, tourism and leisure are poised to bounce back, and there is also a huge DTC opportunity we’re poised to exploit.
And all this is why we’re quietly optimistic. We don’t know what the future holds, and if we’ve learned just one thing this year, it’s that things can change quickly. But so long as we put values and quality at the heart of everything we do, as long as we really exemplify the interesting-and-interested mentality that makes the tree such a special place to work, we can be confident that whatever happens, we’ll not just survive—but thrive.