The last three years have been quite a whirlwind. The mayhem started the day Searchspring was acquired in May of 2019. This was my first day at Searchspring. Following quickly at the end of June of the same year, we acquired Nextopia. Then lastly, two years ago was the acquisition of 4-Tell.
Over these three years, we have endured a lot of changes and I am very grateful to all the original employees that have been with me through what I think has probably been the hardest three years to lead a business, as well as all the new employees hopping on the boat.
The amount of changes have been significant, and at times they have been extremely difficult. For me personally, it has been exhausting at times, and now is not really very different. Things never really get easier, they just get different.
Looking back, the first year was about merging two companies. This is never something easy and we prevailed strongly in February 2020 with one brand and one mission. We successfully cleared the first hurdle, meshing together two unique cultures and companies.
Only one problem, COVID was staring at us and 2020 was mired with all the things that came with COVID. In the early days, we shifted to a business preservation mode. The assumption was we were heading for a recession, or worse, a depression. None of us had managed, or lived, through governments shutting down businesses. This meant we were measuring cash flows and monitoring churn daily. We paused hiring and a bunch of other tactics ‘just in case’. None of the fears played out and we only monitored and didn’t fully react. As it turned out, we were in the perfect industry for such an event and the second half of 2020 and the first half of 2021 was one of the best times for our company and growth. But managing through was the second hurdle, especially the shift to remote and leading a team through an unknown.
The second half of 2021 was the third hurdle as we started seeing the ‘great resignation‘ enter into our company. Unfortunately, we didn’t appreciate the movement and our high survey scores personally made me less concerned until it all started. It wasn’t that we were grossly underpaying or not providing good benefits. Looking back and talking to other business leaders, it seems almost no business was immune to turnover, each having varying reasons why.
Fast forward six months into 2022 and we are now at the gates of what is likely a recession. Technically (two consecutive quarters of negative GDP) we are likely in one now, but without digging into economics and how GDP is derived, it isn’t now that it is of concern, it is the forward six months and beyond. What is likely ahead is the fourth hurdle in leading Searchspring.
Recessions are not all equal and are not necessarily bad. If mild they tend to allow a reset and better growth and productivity going forward.
Undoubtedly, a lot of companies are 10-20% inflated on labor. This is pretty typical while in hyper-growth mode, you are hiring ahead and if growth slows, you have a lot of slack. This slack will have to come out and, as CEOs talk about recessions and “prepare” for them, they are creating their own self-fulfilling prophecy.
Am I scared for the next twelve months? Not really. The 2008 recession taught me a lot about fear and is a constant reminder as I watched so many of my competitors react early only to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. The key is to be well positioned financially as well as operationally and come out on the other side better.
Additionally, I am personally lucky as I lead the best team to endure all the changes and just about anything, and that allows me to sleep at night while all the external uncontrollable forces swirl. That is the true moral of this blog, hire the best team and you will rest easier!