This post was originally published on LinkedIn by Will Smallman, VP of Business Development. Here, Will shares how Fifteen4 confronted the past year’s challenges by evolving our business model for the better.

When I was twelve years old, my father gave me a book called How You Are Changing (the book has since been reissued with the subtitle “For Boys 9-11” so he was a little late on that one). No description of the book’s content is necessary – I imagine you can guess the changes discussed. But its overall message is relevant if predictable: You are changing and you can’t stop it. Understand that change is normal, embrace it, and go forth with confidence (or whatever version of confidence you can muster in middle school).

Fifteen4 has gone through changes. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise. The havoc that 2020 wreaked on the business world is now as familiar as the ravages of puberty. But as the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter and we plan for a post-pandemic business environment, we’re entering the second quarter of 2021 in a position of strength. The pandemic forced us to work smarter, so we did. We’re a better business than we were in 2019, and both our clients and our staff are benefitting. Unless I’m just reacting to some strange new sensations (because of my first vaccine dose, not… you know), I’m looking to the future with extreme optimism.

The pandemic forced us to work smarter, so we did. We’re a better business than we were in 2019, and both our clients and our staff are benefitting.

In the interest of transparency and openness with my tightly knit Linkedin community of friends, colleagues (past and present), clients (past and present), and total strangers, I’d like to describe how we’ve thrived over the past year by adapting to change.

  1. We increased transparency through project management software. What’s the schedule again? When is feedback due? Where is that file? Through the magic of Monday.com, our beloved clients and staff now have one destination to review all project details. They can collect files, monitor changes to the project schedule, connect directly with a project manager or creative director (see #2), provide feedback, view upcoming tasks, and see a log of recent activity. We are held accountable by the transparency of our own PM system – and our clients have access to the same information we do.
  2. We opened up access to our creatives. I am a “business development professional” so I’m a great hang. As soon as my immunization kicks in, I will be using my company credit card to buy you lunch (and a beer – I’m game from noon onward if you are). But at some point, you’re going to want to speak directly with our creatives. So you’ll use the aforementioned Monday.com to interact directly with the creatives who are doing the work. They’ll even give you a call if you want. We’re about transparency and efficiency – not gatekeeping.
  3. We connected with talented creatives from coast-to-coast. Do we want to be on 14 zoom calls a day? No. That’s why we’ll reopen the office when it’s safe to do so. But #zoomlife did create opportunities to find contractors outside of the DC-Baltimore metro. We’ve got a great in-house team, but if your project needs an added creative boost, we can pull from a large rolodex of video producers, animators, designers, copywriters, web developers, and strategists. And we can do it without increasing our fixed costs, meaning we don’t have to raise our prices. In the words of Pam Beesley, that’s a win-win-win for Fifteen4, our clients, and our new network of creative talent.
  4. We learned to say no. As we’ve learned to work more efficiently, we’ve eliminated the need to stretch on projects or clients that may not be an ideal fit. In other words, we’re pretty busy these days. So it’s not you – it’s us. Sometimes it’s just not going to work. But if we do commit to a project, you can be 100% confident that this is the right opportunity for us to team up.
  5. We rediscovered the power of great relationships. When times were at their worst last year, the strength of our long-term relationships enabled us to continue booking business. In truth, that’s the point of Lessons 1-4. We want to be better so that we can honor our clients’ trust. And so we can make more of that sweet, sweet cash. But mostly it’s about relationships.

TL;DR (if I’m not mistaken that means – ‘Tediously Long, Don’t Reach out’): Though change is hard, it pushed us to create a better experience for our clients. And that makes us excited about the future.

Will Smallman

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