August

Well that was a month. It has been a few years since I have been quite so overwhelmingly busy in a single period. I mean like Marlo said that “sounds like one of them good problems” but there is no doubt it has taken its toll. As I write this Saturday morning I am pretty broken – unwell and exhausted.

Whether it was Boris, Brexit or just people clearing their desks for summer the floodgates opened for opportunities on DOS and elsewhere during August – which is brilliant of course. Also we got short-listed for a much higher % of those things we went for which is even better of course. The thing is everything we got short-listed for needed proposals and pitches though and it was August so people were on holiday of course which means when you have a small team you end up stretching to breaking point of course. Not that potential clients want to hear this of course (I certainly never did!). 

Writing proposals at 05.30 in my New York hotel room while on holiday was suboptimal it has to be said. So was scrambling back to said hotel room from an exhibition to hit submit on something because nobody else was available. Not for the first time my attempt to have a recharging break lead to more drain on my batteries and I really must learn to do better (to be clear this is all on me – I put myself in these positions nobody pushes me into them – or anything really.)

I’ve said before that I have learned to enjoy the proposals/pitching side of the work and I do – but when it starts to feel a bit more like a conveyor belt it is less enjoyable. I like to craft the proposals and pitch decks and that takes time – not loads of time but too often there is just not enough of a turnaround from getting notified to the deadline to really deliver your best work – as Giles (or Russell) once said – great presentations take one hour to prepare for every minute you are up speaking and I kind of think great proposals need even more thought.

We do have a couple of great clients at the moment and this is also keeping things lively as we are growing…fast. We have new squads in London and York at the moment – which is brilliant. As is the fact they include folks from us, Human+ and Futuregov so they are real group plays. Not to mention they have old friends (hi Jag) and long-standing partners (waves at Team Gulp) in the mix as well.

I’ve also been hiring permanent staff – we need talented people to provide some stability and sustainability to our squads so Lucy has joined us – someone young, smart, energetic and ambitious with real empathy for clients and a desire to learn. She’ll be a real boost to the whole crew. I’ve also got offers out to two other potential hires who will bring new skills, perspectives and experiences to the company.

Hiring in a start-up (which I still consider us to be – even if it is more complicated than that due to the group stuff) is complicated – the timing is really hard. You need enough runway of work to justify it but you also have to be willing to take a bit of a bet on the future because you need people when you have the work – not months later. Fingers crossed I have got this right.

I haven’t done a lot of blogging this month – a couple of pieces that are essentially promotion for the Disruption Summit [here and here] and a slightly downbeat post about the retreat from working in the open happening across central Government. The disclosure since I wrote that post that GDS have made a bunch of repos private is another example of the problem though not for the obvious reason. I suspect they have a reason for doing this and have every intention of it being temporary….but they have not said that or explained the decision anywhere. This lack of openness breeds conspiracy theories and sets unhelpful precedents. 

Oh I also wrote a review of the TWA Hotel at JFK New York if anybody is interested and my post about Dominic Cummings got published at Apolitical

One weird thing that happened this month is I have developed this weird mental tick – I can’t introduce my role (CEO) without either making a joke about it or essentially apologising for it. I suspect it is some kind of weird impostor syndrome reaction. I can say Director, even Managing Director with no adverse reaction but try to say CEO? I become a stumbling, mumbling fool.

What else?

Watched ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ – it is a strange movie. There is a lot I enjoyed, some things that left me feeling really uncomfortable and some choices that totally befuddled me. In the end I think I enjoyed it but with reservations.

GLOW season 3 on Netflix might have been the best season so far. There are few shows where you root for so many of the characters despite their flaws.

Four Weddings and a Funeral – the TV show – was OK. I liked the cast and it had its moments but it was pretty mediocre and cliched at times – well most of the time. I suspect because it was trying to present an American view of the UK.

Kano released a new album (Hoodies All Summer). Consistently my favourite UK rapper/Grime artist – he is a thoughtful, clever lyricist who also takes the beats seriously.

 

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