This post was originally part of a longer post called Managing anxiety in times of uncertainty and decreasing revenue but it felt like a deviation from the point of that article so I decided to pull it out to a separate post.

George, our head of growth, said the other day that working through C19 is like living through an MBA exam question. We have just come out of our Q2 planning and with so much uncertainty, and our largest ever team size it is so important that we are aligned, and the planning went remarkably well (in my opinion). I don’t know if this is full marks for the MBA exam as we are not out the other side yet, and please excuse any business jargon, but here’s what we did:

Session 1: War room scenario planning
The core team got together, and with the help of Chris from Moreno Marketing (who very kindly volunteered some time to help us out), we ran a war room scenario planning session. I don’t know if that is the official term, or if we did it correctly, but, we came up with some specific scenarios (e.g. C19 will impact us for 3 months, 6 months, etc.), and considered what that would mean through different lenses (e.g. macro political and economic, the events industry, our competitors, our clients, and event goers). We all shouted out our ideas and Chris wrote them down on a central spreadsheet. Then we considered what those ideas meant for us. This session was not about committing to taking action, just getting the ideas out and pooling knowledge. I found this a really helpful, eye-opening exercise, and I think the team did too. We did this on a Friday afternoon so had the weekend to mull it all over and let it settle.

Session 2: Agreed hypothesis and SWOT analysis
On the Monday, we had a second session where we agreed on what we thought was most likely to happen — our hypothesis. If the war rooms was about free-thinking different scenarios, this was about anchoring on what we thought was most likely. We all quickly agreed on it, and decided we would revisit it at least every six weeks.

Our hypothesis gave us a shared idea of certainty, which was essential for coming up with a plan. Using the ideas from the war rooms planning we wrote up the opportunities and threats that are relevant to our hypothesis. For example some opportunities are:

  • we are a low cost service, and event organisers will be looking to save money when this passes, and so may move from more expensive services (like Eventbrite) to us,
  • we have an opportunity to reinforce our brand values and go the extra mile to support event organisers which, if not just a nice thing to do, should also lead to increased loyalty and more word of mouth.

And some of our threats are:

  • clients who are taking a hiatus from events may not come back once C19 has passed,
  • we could miss out on a longer term trend of online events,
  • the events industry could contract, meaning less business, and more intense competition.

Then we wrote up our strengths and weaknesses, which you can see in the redacted screenshot below:

We can’t follow every opportunity, or mitigate every threat, and framing them against our strengths and weaknesses made it easy to choose which ones we wanted to focus on. And that was our output from the exercise: key opportunities and key threats that made sense for us to explore further.

Session 3: Quarterly planning offsite

Every quarter we do an offsite to plan for the quarter. In normal times we book a meeting room somewhere, spend a whole day in it, go for lunch and finish up with a few beers. This year we decided to keep it as short as possible to keep zoom time to a minimum.

So, off the back of session 2, each head of department went away and came up with a plan for the quarter (given our opportunities and threats from the SWOT) and we brought it all together in a two hour session, to align on what we are actually going to work on.

Having a plan that we are all aligned on reduces uncertainty. Of course it’s all based on our best-guess hypothesis, and we have a fortnightly management meeting where we can agree to adjust this if we want to, and then assess what knock-on impact this has on the plans. The point here is, we must be allowed to change the hypothesis otherwise we could quickly find ourselves doing the wrong things.

This post was originally part of a longer post called Managing anxiety in times of uncertainty and decreasing revenue but it felt like a deviation from the point of that article so I decided to pull it out to a separate post.

Founder / director of www.tickettailor.com (@tickettailor).