365 days of life at an Innovation Agency

I initially wanted to write a follow-up piece to my 4 Weeks at a Startup insights at the 6 month mark — but here we are, 12 months later celebrating my one year anniversary. It’s been a wild ride and I’d like to take a step back for a moment to reflect on my biggest lessons learned and successes achieved to share them with you. I was planning to include my top failures too, but there were too many of those to count.

Here’s a brief list of facts about the company to paint a more complete picture for you:

  • On-Off Group is a 5-year old consulting firm in Makati, specializing in Design Thinking & UX Research
  • The team is made up of 15–20 people at any given time, depending on how many freelancers and interns we have per quarter
  • We work with some of the largest companies in the Philippines to bring innovation, product design and user experience research & training to the local business landscape

My job title is Client Engagement Specialist which is a our catch-all title for sales manager + business development manager + accounts manager and consultant. Together with my teammate Dhiren, we’re largely responsible for most of the client-facing interactions until a project starts.

Here I am, pretending to be thinking deep and meaningful things in the office while we’re producing marketing content… it’s part of the sales life, really.

The most impactful lessons I’ve learned in the last year are:

  • You need to love what you do. I’m a big proponent of loving the work you do, and it’s been so impactful in my time at On-Off Group. There are many factors that can determine your overall quality of life at work — from your boss and team members, to your job description and compensation — but it is absolutely worth the time to find a place you genuinely enjoy working at and cherishing that for as long as you can.
  • Find a place that supports you and gives a damn about you. Our boss, Phil, has been extremely supportive of our lives inside and outside of work: whether it’s getting you books to read, shooting you links of articles that might interest you or coming up with a flexible working arrangement to make your commute life easier, there’s never been a moment where I felt like I couldn’t do or ask for something. Case in point: I’ve started 2 podcast shows since I started at On-Off Group that people in my office listen to as well, I’ve spoken at plenty of events and even started part-time lecturing at my alma mater during weekends.
  • Sales is fun. Sales is the most significant aspect of my role and it’s been extremely rewarding. I always knew I was predisposed towards external-facing roles, but it came as a surprise to me just how much I’d enjoy the sales process and the challenges you face in sales. Every client is a different challenge and there’s something inherently awesome about seeing the solution you came up with for a client’s problem become reality when the operations teams take over.
  • Working in a small company means that you have more influence and power than you would in the same functions at larger companies, but it takes a coordinated effort to use that power in any meaningful way. If I have an awesome new idea for a pitch, approach or marketing strategy, I’m in a position to try it out with the team in a matter of days, but taking responsibility to implement said idea and testing its feasibility still rests with me. Dhiren and I have made a lot of changes to the sales process, the marketing strategies and the way we work with the operations teams, but it took a lot of coordinated effort to get there. Just having the power to make a change is useless without the will and determination to use it properly.
  • Never take people for granted. I touched on this in my first article, but it’s become all the more important over the year: when you work in a small team / department / company, it becomes painfully obvious when someone isn’t pulling their weight. It creates a higher level of pressure to perform, knowing that there’s a whole company of people depending on your to perform and have your shit together.
  • Flexible time is a blessing and curse at the same time. Having routines is great, but being able to work from the comfort of sweat pants on my couch at home when I don’t have any meetings to attend, is even better. However, there’s a certain measure of disciple required to do this successfully — at the beginning, I’d get distracted whenever I’d try to work home home and would just end up watching YouTube videos instead of being productive. It took me a while to have the discipline to work from home and actually get work done.
Sales, Marketing and KC (missing Annika & Ajj, sorry!)… Working with these people has made the year incredibly diverse and satisfying!

Just reflecting on these alone makes me smile as it brings up many fun memories, and sometimes painful lessons, that taught me those. Let’s have a look at the Sales team’s successes in the last year:

  • We had a record-level revenue year. I’m super proud to have been part of the team that set new records for the company revenue wise. Even though it’s only 5 years old, On-Off Group has managed to succeed where many other small companies fail.
  • We built the sales process from the ground up, which was kind of intimidating. Introducing CRM, automation, modernized templates and pitches were things I got to do — despite being a fresh grad at the time and all that.
  • We even influenced company direction. We killed some products — after looking at 2018 revenue numbers, we had to. We brought some other products to life — #buysprint — and changed pricing structure too.

Looking back at that feels kind of insane to me. Yet, that’s the nature of innovation: you need to be willing to take risks and try new things. I was really tempted to also include a list of major failures as well, but there were too many to count: from losing clients, to messing up communications which led to undercharging a client by 50% to being unable to close several significant accounts, I’ve made more mistakes than I can count. One obvious failure I had was my lack of consistent contribution to the marketing efforts of the company, but that’s something I’m working on now. However those were critical in the process of developing myself and getting good at what I do now.

It’s been an awesome year and I’m looking forward to the next. Let’s see where year 2 takes me.

Thanks for reading! You can catch my personal blog and podcast over at wernicke.live or follow me on Instagram to get a look into what I do at work. And of course, check us out at onoffgroup.com if you’re curious about our products.

(Note to self: take more pictures with the people you work with.)

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