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7 lessons learned

Rationale has had a hell of a year – and certainly not the one we expected! As we look into 2021, we’ve spent time reflecting on what we achieved in our first 18 months – the challenges we faced, and the major lessons we’ve learned running a new brand purpose agency through a global pandemic and social and political upheaval. 

Although we officially launched Rationale in 2019, 2020 was our first full year. It goes without saying we knew starting an agency would be challenging and hard work, but we couldn’t have imagined what lay ahead.  

We had a list of the priorities that apply to any new business – building a promising client base; finding a team of proactive, smart, creative people; establishing a healthy cashflow; honing a solid proposition; building our marketing channels, working out our company ethos and values, and refining our methodologies and services. We knew what we wanted to achieve and had a defined roadmap and goals set out to achieve it.

“We were thrown into a whole new world of unknowns. And these unknowns were shaking the foundations of even the most established businesses.” 

Then, in March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic hit. And we were thrown into a whole new world of unknowns. And these unknowns were shaking the foundations of even the most established businesses. 

Creating a sense of team remotely

All of a sudden, we were forced to onboard and manage a team – in our case a fledgling team – remotely. Inevitably this raised a large handful of concerns about people’s mental and physical health, how we would cope with unpredicted levels of societal and economic upheaval, and the impact of the pandemic on client approaches and budgets. 

Altogether, as a start-up in the middle of this, we were facing a perfect storm. And we were daunted. 

But, happily, we’ve survived the storm. And even thrived during it, achieving more than we could have hoped. We’ve grown our team, won new global blue-chip clients, established a creative, fun and supportive staff culture – and, while all that was happening, moved into a new office. We have high expectations for 2021 and are aiming to double again in size. 

“But, happily, we’ve survived the storm. And even thrived during it, achieving more than we could have hoped.”

In our first 18 months we’ve learned a lot:

    1. People are the most important thing
      If you hire the right people, you can trust them to get on with their jobs and to support you. Hiring people virtually is a completely different game to hiring in person, though. You need to consider your approach and don’t rush the process – we look for proactivity, energy, positivity and curiosity.
    2. Cashflow is king
      This might seem an obvious thing to say for a new business, but establishing a healthy cashflow early on is key to finding stability when you’re thrown into uncertainty. Ours definitely gave us a stable foundation and allowed us to invest in growth at the right times.
    3. Get your proposition right
      Having a strong proposition is essential. Be super clear and consistent about who you are, where your value lies, your process and your services – then live up to it. Don’t bend your proposition to an opportunity – look for opportunities that fit your proposition.
    4. Remember to have fun
      Even when times are tough and the pressure is on. Prioritise your team culture alongside, or even over, revenue growth. After all, it’s your people who will drive the success of your business.
    5. Take risks
      Of course it’s important to keep your head, but sometimes it’s right to be led by instinct. When everyone else was giving up their offices, and moving to remote working for the foreseeable future – we got an office space. And it was absolutely the best thing we could have done at the time. The impact it had on productivity and morale was astounding.
    6. Referrals are everything
      You could do all the business development, pitches and marketing in the world but, if you’re horrible to work with, you won’t get very far. Do great work, focus on quality, be kind and patient – and the business will come.
    7. Tomorrow is another day
      If things seem tough or tight, we’ve found that – especially if you’ve paid mind to the previous lesson – there’s almost always a new opportunity around the corner. 

We’ve done well so far because we care about our team and we care about our work. We have been mindful, smart and done some things right. But we’re certainly not complacent. 

We know we need to continue to work hard, focus on what matters and do what we do best – support our clients with excellent purpose-driven, relevant, creative brand consultancy and content delivery.