Greater Connected Amplify
It started with a study trip to Copenhagen back in October 2018 and finished last week with a very nice buffet and a few drinks in Manchester's Corn Exchange. The Amplify program has been 9 months of training, learning, mentoring and strategising under the guidance of our Business Advisor Mark Harland, from the program's facilitators Form, within a framework supported by Business Growth Hub. Along with 13 other digital/creative businesses we were delighted to be selected to part of Amplify's first cohort following the 3 day Greater Connected program, which has now been completed by some 200 businesses.
The opportunity to spend some time working on the business, not in the business [apologies for the cliché] is always a valuable one in itself, but when that's supported by expert advice and supplemented by some excellent training materials, it's doubly so. The study trip was a great way to kick things off as we visited some really inspirational businesses, notably Ustwo in Malmo and Spring Summer in Copenhagen, but also to get to know the other agency owners. Sharing experiences and discussing issues with your peers is a kind of by-product of these things, but is also a very valuable and generally quite reassuring one, in that we all have to deal with pretty much the same issues!
Key to success is the pairing of the businesses with their advisor, as they spend a lot of time working closely with the senior leadership team over the following 9 months. Mark has proven to be a really good match for us and we're planning on continuing to work with him going forwards. He has a wealth of valuable industry experience to support his advice, but he's also something of an amateur psychologist and was able to identity our personality 'types' very quickly and to find the right combination of carrot and stick to get the best out of us.
As well as Mark's ongoing monthly visits and calls, we've received various 'content drops' along the way featuring videos from Form's other advisors on a variety of topics. The program incorporated a 2 day training session on design sprints from AJ Smart, who deliver their training to businesses including Google and it's largely the Google Design Sprint methodology. The process is one of those kind of logically simple ones, not dissimilar to the workshops we deliver, with lots of techniques to help stimulate creative thinking but then to channel it and prioritise. We've been using these techniques ourselves, starting with a HMW - 'how might we' exercise, and they've proven to be really effective so we've started to introduce them into our workshop processes.
Given that bd2 has been going for over 21 years, it would be somewhat alarming if there were any radically new ideas or areas we were completely unaware of, but there have been innovations and there is also value in affirmation. Mark's been very enthusiastic about much of what we do, the way we do it and our culture, which has been reassuring. We've often found ourselves talking about 'sharpening' and 'focus' and the ways we can improve what we're doing, across the board, rather than making radical changes. During the program we've refined our strategy and are working on 6 key areas of the business - people, process, clients, operations, reputation and partners - to make incremental improvements across them all.