2020 Reflection: A 4-phase Rollercoaster

Yekemi Otaru

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Yekemi Otaru

22/12/20

2020 Reflection: A 4-phase Rollercoaster

“If we make half of what we made last year, we’d have had a good year.”

Those were my words to my business partner, Sarah when the pandemic hit the UK and we went into a lockdown. After many months of planning, juggling and hard work, we hit a point in the road that we didn’t expect.

Of course, we were not alone in this rollercoaster year. Like millions of people around the world, I’m in reflection mode at this time of year. I looked to our revenue trend for some inspiration and you’d never guess what? It looks like a rollercoaster, no joke!

Here’s my 2020 reflection on how the last 12 months played out for us at Doqaru.

2020 reflection doqaru

2020 Reflection: There’s a method to the madness!

Last December, we were planning DoqaruCon, our first-ever sales development conference. It was a big dream and many people thought we were crazy to plan such an ambitious event. We often questioned our sanity, and some people questioned it to our face!

So, December 2019 to February 2020 was fast-paced, full of tactical planning and the most stressful time in our start-up till that point. We juggled the day-to-day operations of managing a small business with event management. I recently read somewhere that event management is one of the top 5 most stressful jobs on earth. I believe that!

In the midst of it, we were deeply excited as we saw our vision take shape as months went by. Much of this time is a blur to me. I only remember being mentally exhausted but knowing that it will all pay-off in the end.

Then it happened! On March 5th of this year, 200 delegates and 29 speakers gathered at P&J Live in Aberdeen. It was an energised atmosphere as the speakers tackled sales, marketing, leadership and resilience topics.


Video by: Suz Bird of Bird & Emmy 

The delegates came from across the energy industry. They were sales and marketing professionals and business leaders. By the end of the conference, we’d almost forgotten the chaos that ensued hours before. Flybe went into administration at around 5 pm on March 4th. Then some of our headline speakers could not travel to Aberdeen as COVID-19 restrictions began to impact the UK. I remember the sheer panic and frantically making phone calls in a quiet corner of the café at TECA. The whole team was up till 3 am working on new flight plans and finishing touches to the conference agenda.

 

2020 Reflection: A surprise slope after the highest point!

The next morning, we could hardly believe that we pulled off DoqaruCon. The multitude of messages flooding in from delegates thanking us for an inspiring event was the pinch we needed that it was real.

“Fantastic to have this type of event in Aberdeen and can only grow from here. Well done to Sarah and Yekemi and all the Doqaru team, you should be proud of yourselves. Thanks to all for the great conversations and your time today…”

 

– Jamie Hutcheon, Business Development Manager

Two weeks after DoqaruCon, we went into lockdown. Enter another form of panic. We assessed our financial position and worked closely with our accountants to understand what we needed to do. The government’s loan scheme and the local business grants helped us to manage cashflow. We continued to serve the clients that we had. One or two paused their contracts for a few months and we worked double-time to deliver the very best service to those that remained. As a thank you to our clients, we created additional marketing collateral for them to use as their digital communication ramped up.

We started a series of webinars to engage the wider business community. Each webinar had anywhere from 10 to 50 people in attendance, leading to brilliant discussions on how to ride the Covid-19 tide. People needed support and we were delighted to be there for them.

Yet, the month of May brought our worst month ever, with hardly any revenue and a sense of exhaustion that was starting to show across the team. Our daily tea breaks with the team acted as a pulse check and we could spot weariness and offer inspiration. Sarah and I worked the hardest we had ever worked in our professional lives for what felt like the least reward we’ve ever received.

 

2020 Reflection: Look, there’s hope!

Something happened in June. It may have been a renewed optimism or the slightly warmer weather or alleviated COVID-19 restrictions, but things felt better. We secured six new marketing projects in quick succession. We started having more advanced conversations about new services and capabilities that we developed in April. Our sales pipeline came alive and we began to see opportunities for significant growth in the second half of the year.

Clients that paused their contracts came back. Vibrance emerged in the marketplace as businesses started to “unlock their front doors”, “peer through the glass” so to speak.

2020 reflection doqaru

By July, our revenue crept back up to reasonable levels. It was becoming a healthy mix of retainers and projects. Our team are energised by projects as it’s an opportunity to work with a new client on a focused objective. Retainers bring ease because we tend to know the account very well and the work becomes routine as we have rigorous processes in place.

There are pros and cons. I find that we can be super-efficient with retained work and it becomes second nature. But the routine can be boring for some, yet it provides comfort for others.

One of the best things about these months was that Sarah and I firmly moved from tactical planning to be more strategic in our discussions.

“What brought us here won’t take us there,” we commented to each other.

We went from looking at checks and balances to what we could be in the next 12-36 months. We knew that we’d come a long way, built, in my opinion, one of the best small teams there is and developed a suite of services that are highly valued by our marketplace. Nonetheless, the future required us to change in some way.

 

2020 Reflection: Things are ramping up, yay!

The positive trend from June to August continued into the next quarter of 2020. We got busier, though we were really never NOT busy. All our staff worked throughout as we didn’t need to furlough anyone.

The increase in business brought the need to hire so we set about doing this in September this year. We wanted to separate the marketing function so that we could focus more on our social media presence. As we have a heart for welcoming fresh graduates, we designed the new role to suit someone with a media, marketing or design background and less than 2 years of experience.

Fresh talent brings a chance to teach and develop a young person with great potential. For us at Doqaru, it also allowed us to promote existing staff, which has a motivating effect.

In October, we welcomed a Social Media Co-ordinator and at the same time, we created a new role of Marketing Team Leader and promoted one of our own. Within a few weeks, we started to see more consistency and engagement across our marketing channels. We had made the right move to hire and promote!

As 2020 drew to a close, our pipeline opened even more. November became our highest revenue month and it happened when we weren’t really looking at the numbers as we often did at the start of the pandemic. We have focused on listening to the market, sharing insights around sales development and marketing excellence. We share insights through our channels in the form of articles, monthly masterclasses and our podcasts.

My 2020 reflection wouldn’t be complete without telling you that I was wrong.

We ended this year with the same revenue as 2019, double what I thought we could achieve.

Who knew 2020 would be such a rollercoaster?

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