Earlier this week I was announced as one of SmartCompany’s ‘10 entrepreneurs to watch in 2017’.
Cue shock, excitement and asking myself: what is there to watch? It became a helpful exercise to reflect on my top 10 goals for the year (hint: not all are about work 😱).
1. Pivoting from a digital strategy agency to a digital transformation agency
ntegrity is four years old. Our success lies in continually evolving to deliver services that make our clients successful. In 2014, it meant shifting from a digital marketing agency to a digital strategy agency because our clients needed a strategic long-term approach over tactics in isolation.
By 2016, we had learnt that the digital success of an organisation is inherently internal, as world-leading strategies can stay ‘on the shelf’ if the internal conditions aren’t right. So, we launched our digital transformation services (lead by our new Transformation Lead Sarah Forsterling) to address gaps in skills, leadership and technology using digital maturity mapping, culture hacking workshops and more.
In 2017, transformation will be integrated into all our services, moving us from a strategy agency to a transformation agency that considers all conditions, marketing, people and culture.
2. Launching ntegrity academy
One of the reasons I began ntegrity was because of the lack of integrity in agency world: agencies kept their knowledge under lock and key and in doing so, kept clients in the dark and dependent. ntegrity’s difference is our model of ‘empowerment’ where we equip and upskill our clients with the digital skills until they don’t need us. And in 2017 we’re taking this to the next level by launching ntegrity academy, so that anyone and everyone can upskill in digital.
Our doors open in March and we’re already at 75 per cent capacity. It’s a one-of-a-kind course in a market dominated by generalist teachers: each session at Academy will be lead by one of our eight in-house strategists, each sharing expertise on their particular specialty. I can’t wait to teach our first class.
3. Releasing Australia’s first research on digital culture
We know that organisations that succeed in digital have great leadership. However, there is limited Australian research to back this claim. In 2016 we kicked off research into the digital culture of Australian businesses, and in January, having surveyed over 150 organisations, the early findings suggest that most organisations are not built for digital success and that there is an inflated market for digital skills in Australia.
A report and insights will be released on March 9th, but it’s not too late if you want to participate and be the first to hear the findings (plus we’re giving $5 to Make-A-Wish for every survey completion!).
4. Growing the business through growing the dream team
I learnt a hard lesson in 2016: too much time spent on performance management is a business risk. My desire to see everyone grow stopped me from realising that my investment would reap far better returns if it were focused on those who were the best long-term fit for the business.
In 2017, I have my dream team: staff with extremely high technical skills but more importantly high soft skills – emotional intelligence and self awareness.
So this year, my biggest KPI is not our revenue targets. It’s the growth of our team into well-rounded autonomous leaders that lead the growth of the business. At the core of this is a customised personal development program that helps staff track against their professional and personal goals, as well as giving each staff member responsibility for a particular business priority from growing revenue to increasing national influence or optimising operations.
5. Planning our 2017 reward trip
In 2016, we went to Thailand to celebrate hitting our bold stretch goal. This year, we’re continuing to grow in leaps and bounds and have kicked off our 2017 trip dream list. Unlike last year where we had one location in sight, this year it’s a scaling list depending on how far we exceed our stretch goals: Gili Islands, Sri Lanka and Madagascar are at the top!
*Watch this space*
6. Defining how we are “good”
We are a values-driven business. We are transparent and always aim to do what’s ethical. Sometimes that means making the less profitable choice, but ultimately this has made us more profitable.
Our biggest asset is our people so we spend significant resources investing in personal, professional and remuneration growth. Unlike other organisations, we encourage discussions about mental health, success and failure and about love and family.
We work with many not-for-profits but just as many commercial brands. We do pro bono work for charities and run free events to help entrepreneurs. We give money away. All these elements make it hard to express what makes us ‘good’ so this year our aim is to better define this.
7. Solo Retreats
At the end of 2016, this meme just about summed up my year.
I was managing a growing business, working strictly 32 hours per week, spending Thursdays with my beautiful little toddler and prioritising my marriage. Balancing these goals takes relentless focus and hard work but ultimately putting yourself last.
I was exhausted.
I needed some time to recuperate and figure out how to strategically take on 2017. So after Christmas I went on my first solo retreat, spending one night in country Victoria. I am an extreme extrovert so I thought I would hate this. But the time away gave me space to be able to see and think clearly, to listen to my heart, and to nourish my soul with sleep, encouragement and time to plan. I came back a new person.
My goal is to keep this going, ideally monthly. But in order to escape work regularly, I have to work less hours than usual (24 hours instead of 32 😱), so every minute needs to be directed toward our big goals and ensuring my team has the skills and authority to lead without me – not “pick your brain” coffee dates.
8. Figuring out a scalable way to mentor entrepreneurs
While I’m not a fan of those aforementioned coffee dates, I do find so much purpose in mentoring people who are hungry for real growth. Recently I’ve received an overwhelming number of requests specifically from entrepreneurs. Many come with the same questions on juggling relationships, avoiding burnout, dealing with imposter syndrome, how to handle rejection and how to remain ethical while being profitable.
Professional mentoring has helped me immensely but in order for me to stick to my strict working hours, offering 1:1 mentoring is not an option. So in 2017, I’m working with my mentor (a mindset expert) to create a scalable model which will help founders navigate the ‘soft side’ of entrepreneurship. It may be workshops, mass mentoring or something completely online. If you have an idea please pop it in the comments below as I’d love to hear it!
9. 12 New Year’s Resolutions
A few years ago my husband and I did a 12-month New Year’s resolution challenge (giving ourselves a resolution for each month) and it changed our life.
This year, the challenge is back and we’re aligning it with our family mantra: ‘create more, consume less’. Whether it’s 10 date nights for under $50, not buying anything new or training for a half marathon, each month is a challenge that we’ll enjoy. Ultimately, the goal is to make our life richer by investing in doing things we love together. (Kyle if you’re reading this thanks for being the best husband in the world.)
10. Writing a book
Over the last year I’ve written lots of articles that have little to do with digital but everything to do with personal growth. This wasn’t a strategy, it just happened naturally as I started to write about what was on my heart, from love at work to sharing failure to overcoming fear. It’s been amazing to hear how sharing has helped people and it’s been surprisingly easy to write. So I’ve set aside a couple of hours a week to put more words to paper.
These 10 things aren’t what make me “someone to watch”. They’re more an insight into what’s important to me and how I get there. For me, the key to growing sustainably is to give to yourself and empower those around you, which ultimately lead to growth.
What did you learn in 2016? What are your goals for the year ahead?