Imagine planting two sets of fruit trees. One you leave grow organically according to natural forces; the other, you tend to with constant intervention to shape according to your will. After ten years, would one be more productive than another, and how would they look and feel? Which one would be better suited to tackle the next ten years?
This may seem like an obscure analogy, but we at Orchard have recently undertaken such a journey - from nature to nurture - and this is our story.
If success were to be measured by growth in headcount, service offering, turnover and reputation, we had achieved a great deal in our first ten years. Our growth was healthy and sustainable, but up until that point, Orchard had expanded organically and had grown into a shape that was a result of saying “Yes!” to pretty much any work that came our way.
It felt good; we were winning clients and offering ever more services. We were also expanding the team and working harder than ever. However, we were like many other businesses - frantically engrossed ‘in’ the business rather than working ‘on’ the business. This was compounded by the fact that, as in many other small businesses, we, as directors, were hands-on - finding it difficult to extricate ourselves from the ‘in’ to the ‘on’.
We had also reached the point at which our existing structure could not just be duplicated to achieve twice the results.
However, before we could grapple with our structure dilemma, we were quickly staring at another rather more profound question:
“Do we even want to double the size of Orchard?”
Even assuming that business growth is both necessary and desirable, we didn’t want to embark on another journey without design. It was a crossroads moment; and it required a step change from us, which we were willing and ready to make.
With nine different service offerings - each having its own vision and client base – it could be said that we are a somewhat, complex company. With this in mind, and knowing that we had a long journey ahead of us, we decided to bite the bullet and engage with Patrick Lloyd-Bradley of BRAND iD. Having witnessed at first hand his ability to drive complex projects, we knew he was the right man to steer us in the right direction, offering us an alluringly simple proposition with his IP of a ‘Strategy On A Page’ (which we quickly shortened to SOAP for ease!)
1. Defining our brand
The process took us from defining everything from our vision and values to our competency groups and, ultimately to our initiatives. Setting your company vision, and wrestling with which values best suit your company is hard work if you do it properly. And by properly we mean - avoiding sinking into the ‘any other company’ territory. It was frighteningly easy to resort to the cliché elements that could just as easily apply to an accountancy firm in Ealing. Not that there is anything wrong with being an accountancy firm from Ealing at all – it just wasn’t us.
These were the fundamentals that we had been dodging because they were hard to nail down, and quite frankly we’d been doing ok. But, this process made us, quite rightly, continually question and challenge ourselves – making it a bumpy journey at times, but resulting in an Orchard that we are proud to take forward.
2. Agreeing on the strategy
Once our strategy was agreed, we obviously needed to test our approach – both internally and externally. Getting the backing of your team is just as important as, if not more, gaining the approval of the external market. Without your team's support, it is always going to be an uphill struggle from thereon.
Internally, we introduced our short- and long-term vision, and values at an internal company meeting, giving our team the opportunity to input and feedback. More than 60 individual initiatives were rolled out within this strategy, each one being championed by a different member of the team, thus creating shared ownership and autonomy from top to bottom - perfectly reflecting our culture of one team.
Externally, we went out to market, testing our new positioning piece with existing and lapsed clients to see if it resonated. Thankfully it did - and so thus, we had our SOAP!
3. Bringing our idea to life...
Looking back now is the best part of the journey. It is important that as a business, you know where you have come from, and where it is that you ultimately want to end up. For us, the journey confirmed and defined what we knew all along – it's not our services that define us, but it’s the experience of doing business with us that does.
The subsequent change in positioning represented a 180-degree shift from presenting ourselves as a list of service offerings to an experience and ideas based agency. Moving us from ‘what we do’ to ‘how we do it’.
The fact that we have ended up close to where we started doesn’t mean that we haven’t moved much, nor that the project hasn’t been a success. Far from it. It just means that we were always in the right territory anyway.
Our early days involved growing naturally; we are now nurturing growth with design, and purpose.