We all couldn’t wait for 2021, remember? There was such uncertainty and unsettling in 2020 that 2021 felt very much like the Promised Land. As a business owner, we looked forward to coming out of a slow, guess-ridden business environment. I wrote about my 2020 reflections, likening it to a rollercoaster. 2021 delivered on some of our aspirations, but it had surprises. At Doqaru, we delivered more sales enablement projects than ever before, and the fast pace led to a pause to hone our core. As they say, sometimes, you must slow down to speed up.

2021 Reflections: From Listening to Enablement

This year, we focused on developing our capability around supporting sales teams to perform better. We’d started leveraging data-driven tools to measure sales competencies, which took off in the first quarter of 2021. Along with start-ups, we started working with larger SMEs and corporates to develop their sales team. It felt like we’d found a natural fit with our services and the market.

We listened to feedback and the problems discussed by the C-suite. The message was similar regardless of size, location, and industry. The pandemic had dealt a blow to traditional sales approaches, and it was getting more challenging to grow a sales pipeline. Sales cycles were longer, and it wasn’t enough to rely on a handful of customer touchpoints.

So, the end of the first quarter to the middle of the third quarter was a hectic time for our team. We took on over 20 sales projects and five marketing retainers.

Our work became more than “doing sales and marketing.” We were bringing real enablement, allowing salespeople to prepare, prospect and build better sales pipelines.

2021 Reflections: Growing But What Are We?

By June 2021, we’d doubled our monthly revenue, hired two new staff with plans to have a record year in turnover.

With the growth came some revelations. For example, we saw a glaring gap between how we saw ourselves and how part of our marketplace saw us. To many, we were a marketing agency or consultancy. But over 60% of our revenue comes from non-marketing activities. We do exceptionally well by applying our industry knowledge to sales problems then using strategy and data to find solutions.

Frankly, we’ve struggled to articulate our evolution. We all agreed that we were becoming something cool and different, but what are we?

2021 Reflections: Feedback As Clues

There were more manifestations.

Amid the buzz, we realised that we needed to spend more time building a solid core. We’d gotten used to saying “yes” to most things and being that open, exposed gaps in our vision and positioning.

Here we were growing and achieving service-market fit. But we were in danger of losing ourselves if we didn’t focus on what we came to do.

It’s possible to grow quickly and absentmindedly, missing crucial clues.

The other day, I gave my son’s friend a ride home from football. My son sat in front, and his friend was in the back seat. I drove and chatted with the boys. At one point, I noticed my son showing me his phone. I look. He’d opened an Instagram story and written, “His name is Lewis, not Mark.”

Oh, dear. I’d called Lewis the wrong name, and this was my son signposting me back on track.

We can be off with our messaging but not notice the misalignment unless we look. Look in the metaphorical mirror, ask for feedback, listen, measure, report. That’s the only way to build a strong core, even in busy times. You may have missed something important to your customers.

2021 Reflections: Building on a Solid Core

Thankfully, I had a chance to correct myself and apologise for calling Lewis Mark. Imagine how many businesses are getting it wrong and don’t have an opportunity to fix it.

As we build, we need to hone the core. That’s what we did in the final quarter of 2021. We grew revenue by over 70% compared to 2020, and our team worked harder than we ever have.

Our reflections led us to work on “what we are” and “what we came to do.” As a team, we’ve crafted our vision, and there is personal buy-in from every team member.

There is more work to be done.

Over the next few weeks, you will see a relaunch of our website, an articulation of our vision, and a reinforcement of our market positioning.

So, 2021 was the Promised Land. We evolved in ways we hadn’t anticipated. We focused on what we could control and slowed down when we saw signs of needing to pause. As well as becoming one of only 40% of businesses that make it to a full three years.

In 2022, we will continue to build a business that makes us proud. Our pride comes from solving real problems, providing trusted, high-quality service, and being true to our values.

What were your triumphs, reflections and surprises in 2021?