Looking back at 2013

Well, we’ve broken up for Christmas so it seems like a good time to look back on 2013 – it’s been a fairly extraordinary year: although, tbh, what year isn’t!  We seem to have reinforced our capacity to work across both creative and commercial worlds, the experience of each helping us serve the other better – I think, significantly, we’ve been learning to adapt to new ways of working, new markets and slowly seem to be making some headway.  The big change for CidaCo was when the RDAs were closed down  – we lost three contracts as a result, worth around £3 million over 2-3 years – and the recession meant that there was no match funding for EU contracts.  That was a horror and, boy, did we have to become ‘resilient’! So we’ve been on an adventure since then!  The learning has been extraordinary so I thought I’d just tell you three quick stories which I hope will be helpful and encouraging for you as you negotiate the madness of running your organisation in 2014!

Lesson No. 1 – Love people! Sometimes, the world seems divided into those people who love other people and those who don’t.  There are some people who just have the gift of being endlessly interested in others, even strangers, and who have a remarkable capacity to make even those strangers feel loved, even for a few minutes.  Keith (Evans) is one of those people.  At the end of 2012, Keith was invited by a client to talk part in a day’s golf competition –  he was paired with a chap he’d never met before and just went up to him, hit him on the back as men do, and, with a big laugh,said “So, we’re going to kick ass today, right?”  The chap turned out to be a very senior Director of one of the major banks in the UK, who knew no one else at the golf match, and was grateful for the friendly approach.  After 18 holes, they knew each other’s life stories, and Keith had agreed to take him on to develop his personal brand.  From there developed an extraordinary relationship which became not only a deep friendship but also a lucrative contract, providing an essential opening into a commercial market we may never have otherwise got into and which has served us well this year.  –  (to be honest, I suppose the lesson here could also be ‘Play Golf!’ – take your pick!)

Lesson No 2: – Be prepared for the long game:  in 2009, we brought our Silicon Valley partners to Leeds to work with us, including running a seminar on innovation for businesses in Leeds.  Nearly 100 people came and it proved a memorable day – although I don’t think any of us realised then how memorable!  Earlier this year, the phone rang in the office and, because he was the only one there, Keith answered it.  It turned out to be a call from someone whose husband had attended that seminar 4 years ago and had recommended us to his wife to help her company. Incredibly, he had kept the handouts from the seminar and, after a quick search in the attic, found the CidaCo contact details.  The company in question turned out to be a 1500-employee financial mutual society who invited Keith to run a one day workshop with senior managers – that turned into a running 12 month contract and we are now in discussions with them about the next phase.

Lesson No 3: – Don’t give up!:    About this time last year, an Invitation To Tender was published which really got my juices going.  It seemed made for us and involved working with a number of organisations over an 18 month period.  I spent a large amount of the Christmas holiday pulling together a first rate team and writing a 50 page tender.  With the help of my ineffable Dawn, we got the tender in on time and held our breath.  Rumours were swirling, including one that said that Very Famous International Organisations were also bidding.  Eventually, the letter arrived inviting us to a shortlist interview with four other companies (including the Very Famous etc!) We were cock a hoop; we carefully didn’t celebrate and thus offend the gods, but we were very excited.  We put the interview team of four together and prepared our pitch.  Then, on the day before the interview, the whole process was pulled – an administrative error meant that the whole thing had had to be cancelled. In shock, we had to pick ourselves up and carry on with other business.  About 8 months later, the tender was reissued – this time, the process was very carefully handled, which was great, but it also meant that it was sufficiently different that we couldn’t just ‘cut and paste’ from the previous tender!  So I took a deep breath and had another crack.  Supported particularly by Lara Ratnaraja in Birmingham, I rewrote the tender and we submitted in October.  I don’t think anyone else in CidaCo had much hope for it – the moment seemed to have passed – but I was determined that we should throw our hat in the ring.  Well, dear readers, it’s not really official till tomorrow but, in the meantime, we are, as they say, “the preferred bidder”!  Not only that, but there has been another twist to the tale which is still under discussion but which I hope to be able to tell you in a week or two – astonishing! So………never give up: you just don’t know what’s round the corner!

So, we end 2013 on a high as we go into next year with great expectations – in 2013, we’ve had a wonderful time working with a fantastic array of clients.  From 1-2-1 mentoring to one-to-many workshops, from change management to financial resilience, the work has been stimulating, challenging and rewarding – our deepest thanks to you all as our clients, we have loved working with you.. Have a wonderful 2014 and we hope to see you all again in the New Year for new adventures together!

Anamaria Wills