F*** off COVID-19 — Stability, growth and togetherness to build a digital future

The remote-first digital agency team at Cyber-Duck

It has been 4 weeks since we instructed the team to work from home. At Cyber-Duck we temporarily closed down our Farringdon and Elstree & Borehamwood offices and initiated WFH early (13th March) for the safety of our team.

It goes without saying that we have the upmost respect to the NHS, shopkeepers, drivers, food providers and various manufacturers that keep the world healthy and moving.

This article offers the digital community some tips and guidance on what you can do to sail through the storm and actually grow.

Danny Bluestone talking about how his digital agency Cyber-Duck is coping with COVID-19

Build your own mission statement

Since then the economical climate has been challenging to say the least. We created our own statements and concepts to sail through this period and come out stronger. These are:

  • Stability — How we are going to remain stable during the pandemic.
  • Growth — How and why we will continue to focus on growth.
  • Togetherness — Why working together as a community is key.

In the current climate, making a profit is a luxury. We need to sail through one of the hardest recessions in history so the traditional rule book goes out the window. Luckily at Cyber-Duck we have some fantastic and stable clients but at the same time, it is obvious to all that the influx of new digital projects has slowed down compared to what it used to be. We all need to work together to stop a recession from being a depression.

I believe there are opportunities out there and as the world changes, smart businesses will prevail. We at Cyber-Duck, have signed some substantial deals in the last few weeks including winning key pitches, all remotely — without meetings in person. At the same time, like most businesses we have had to optimise our expenditure.

To steer the ship in the right direction, it is imperative to support your team, clients, suppliers and make some decisions on the way. One of the cornerstones of our own strategy is to be very concise with your internal communication so that clarity as:

“…clarity affords focus in times of uncertainty”.

Stability

Cash is king and conservation of cash is all the rage. At the same time, don’t stop your outgoings as that is part of the problem. Invest your cash where it matters and keep the cycle of business moving.

Our Growth Director, Siji Onabanjo working his core and stability

Look at your expenditure from rent to software and optimise. Find ways to negotiate with your landlords, reduce salaries and use furlough schemes if applicable to retain key staff who are less busy during this period.

Businesses can also remove all non-essential benefits including extra pension contributions.

If you close down an office for example, how much time and money will it cost you to re-open in August 2020?

If you do use furlough schemes make sure it is very clear to your team that they are temporary measures. Do not pause recruitment. Certain roles are essential to growing your business and continue to invest in marketing.

Don’t drive into a wall being slow to manage your expenditure but don’t be too radical and drive off a cliff either. Be fast and be decisive but think about the impact of any decisions you make. An analogy is taking that B road (that you don’t normally take) where you can drive quickly but navigate the obstacles one by one.

Growth

Our focus is on supporting our clients and helping them to size and find opportunities through pivotal and ground breaking web platforms.

A service design workshop, being run remotely by the UX team at Cyber-Duck

Look at leveraging your existing clients and help them as much as possible. There are plenty of opportunities to go into joint bids with your clients and even competitors to find new opportunities to work on charitable projects and even get funding for them.

We’re currently working on two charitable projects one with GoodsForGood to build a new peer to peer platform to allow hospitals and homeless charities impacted by COVID-19 to receive goods from donors. We’re also looking at helping our partner Huddle Creative with an NHS awareness campaign and app.

At Cyber-Duck we’ve been a remote-first business for 6 years when one of our staff relocated to the USA. One of our new clients required remote workshops. Using cutting edge tools like Miro, we’re able to continue to design Service Design blueprints and innovate a new MVP offering unparalleled value to our clients.

Naturally your focus will move from profit to revenue and cashflow. You need to aim for the the same destination you set for yourself but through the B roads. This means that compromises will need to be made.

Be creative with how you sell your business. You may need extra funds or cash to continue to grow. You should speak to your lenders or investors to raise money so you can continue to invest in growth. At Cyber-Duck we have been profitable so are strong. UK businesses have various options at raising funding such as the government backed CBILS scheme.

Togetherness

We can only navigate this turbulence together and grow stronger through open conversations.

Businesses, families and suppliers are coming together to grow stronger. Most of us are bringing our work home. This means being better at planning the work-life balance and ensuring we are focused and productive. This is harder with young children or when you have a small space that you need to share with flatmates for example. Its never been more important to be creative around how we all work.

If one business stops investing and completely stops spending money, it breaks the chain of our digital economy. All of us need to put a business as usual (BAU) culture before profits and margins, as Martin Ringlein said in his latest COVID-19 video: Entrepreneurs: Back to Basics: Don’t obsess over generating a profit. Keep your talent before you make redundancies even if it means compromising your margins. It is day one now, go back to basics of running your business. Focus on delivering work, investing in your projects and paying the bills and rent. Just remember to negotiate and be mindful of your cashflow.

The future

I strongly believe we will be back to normal summer 2020, although the world be different for sure. I believe in science, progression and technology and the human spirit to move forward — together, we can beat this virus and tell it to f*** off. I’d like to finish the article with this quote by my 4 year old daughter Noa Judith Bluestone last week:

“When the virus will go away, we will all go out and play “

My first word was 'button' and I have been pressing them ever since! Founder of Cyber-Duck, a UK digital agency that loves brand strategy, UX and technology