CEO Corner: A reflection on 2020
his time last year we were barely a few weeks into the UK’s first pandemic lock down and HeadBox bookings had dropped off a cliff, falling by 85%.
Ever since my early morning call to my Chairman on March 2nd when I used a railroad analogy to explain that Covid was hurtling down the track towards us and that we needed to plan immediately for the potentially damaging consequences, we had been working night and day to manage the initial shock of the unfolding crisis.
It meant that by early April 2020 we had already initiated many of the cost reduction measures that the pandemic had forced upon us. The most challenging of these were the impossible decisions we had to make about those HeadBoxers who would lose their jobs, people we cared about, in order to protect the continued health and well-being of the company.
Since then, we have had a massive roller coaster of a year. As I reflect on the enormity of everything that has happened during this most unrelenting time I am reminded of a company all hands we hosted last May that helped to shape our mindset and approach to our daily challenges.
The “Stockdale Paradox”
It was based on the concept of the “Stockdale Paradox”, that has been popularised by Jim Collins in his book, “Good to Great” which I had just finished reading. The concept is named after James Stockdale, former vice-presidential candidate and U.S Navy Vice Admiral who had been awarded the Medal of Honour in the Vietnam War during which he been held captive for over seven years.
During his horrific imprisonment, Stockdale was repeatedly tortured and had no reason to believe he’d make it out alive. Yet somehow, he found a way to do so by embracing both the bleak reality of his situation with a balance of healthy optimism. Stockdale explained this idea as the following:
You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
We embraced this philosophy at HeadBox – never losing our belief that we would get through the crisis while at the same time being truthful to ourselves and to each other about the “brutal facts of reality”. The HeadBox team respected and trusted the inherent transparency within this paradox. It gave perspective to the collective sacrifice and effort everyone at the company was being asked to make to ensure we weathered the Covid storm.
Celebrating our successes
It was this resilience that allowed all of us to celebrate momentarily some major successes, achieved against all the odds, at a very different company all hands last week.
- We grew our revenue y-o-y from 2019 to 2020
- We started 2020 with 17 HeadBox Business customers and we finished with 44
- We delivered over 500 virtual events in Q4 last year
- We delivered our biggest month of revenue in December 2020
- We launched HeadBox in Australia
- We closed our biggest ever HeadBox Business client
One year on, with the end of the pandemic now very much in sight, we are looking ahead to a post-Covid world that is fundamentally different to the one before. The crisis has accelerated the digital transformation of events, breaking through previous market inertia to the digital events economy. The rise of virtual means there is an even bigger opportunity for a next-generation platform like HeadBox. So I am optimistic about our future and our ability to emerge from this crisis even stronger.