Wow I'm keen to tell you about this year without boring you in the detail so I've tried to keep to headlines as much as possible - a technical algorithm estimates 6 minutes read!
I also want to say up front that 2020 has unexpectedly been a really good year for my family and I and we are rightly proud but at no point do I want to be glib or without consideration for those who have detested 2020, struggled, had their lives turned upside down (in a bad way) and can't wait to see the back of it.
But you see up until March 2020 my partner and I had felt we were on the brink. We were both working too hard and had been for too long. Our mental health was suffering, our relationship and social lives were suffering and we had no idea how to change it.
And then the world stopped turning for a moment!
We caught our breath and had a chance to reprioritise - from there we have been able to grow. It obviously hasn't all be easy but it hasn't been the toughest either.
(Background to Backpack) November 2017 - During a coaching session at Executive Foundation I unknowingly talked though my past and my future, learning things and gathering experiences which I was physically popping over my shoulder. Someone asked me what I was doing as I was talking and I said 'popping it in my backpack'.
Later that day I doodled a picture of my backpack. It was packed with:
Compass - Direction and purpose.
Map - Planning the routes.
Water - Clarity and taking a break.
Patch - Experience.
Matches (campfire) - Conversations.
Quiz book - Questions.
Spade - Disposal of s**t.
Walking sticks - Help and support.
Little did I know I had that day named my company. Life moved on and I forgot about this entirely - we had a baby, moved house, moved roles etc.
November 2019 - I started thinking about maybe doing something on my own. I started to plan for a migration from employment to my own 'thing' - Backpack. Not a fast or big plan.
With all the best intentions at heart I pulled together a basic website, got some business cards (of course) and I signed up to Ecologi to ensure I was carbon neutral and to date (Dec 2020) I have planted 317 trees through this partnership.
March 2020 - I was made redundant and the plan for Backpack was expedited some what. In that same week my partner, who is a caterer, had all of his work for the year cancelled and our 16 month old son's nursery closed. It was a big week!
I reached out to a number of people in my network and let them know what had happened and that if they felt I could support them in their businesses then to give me a shout - I hadn't quite worked out at that point what Backpack was exactly offering.
A couple of people did need me and what I bring to the party - phew!
March (later that week) CiteAb, the life science data provider, commissioned Backpack for an internal project to help them better understand their ways of working and leadership ahead of the CEO's move from part time CEO / part time University professor to full time CEO.
“Sammy brought wonderful warmth and enthusiasm which really encouraged our team to fully engage. The results were insightful, they painted a recognisable picture and surfaced issues and new ideas that we are now addressing.
The work has had a significant positive impact on CiteAb.
I am very pleased we decided to work with Backpack and would happily recommend to others."
April Storm, award winning digital tech company, brought Backpack in to review its brand experience and help the leadership team define its proposition and positioning in the market. This work flowed into a project to better define the company's values and embed them into their external comms as well as guide them to more consistently live them internally. At their best Storm are awesome - they just needed to know what 'at their best' was and why it was valuable to colleagues and clients.
Storm also involved Backpack in Co-forest, its vision and proposition.
We continue to work together on Storm, Co-forest and, other exciting ideas...
Over the winter of 19/20 a start up joint venture between Tate and Lyle's former Chief of Purpose, Dr Graham Abbey and Bath Rugby was forming.
This became Farleigh Performance. I was involved in Fp as a founding associate and was later commissioned to define the brand, its essence and its proposition as well as create a visual identity. The creative for this new company allowed me to partner with ex colleague and incredible conceptual designer Sam Dyer.
Throughout 2020, Fp and I have worked together with two incredible organisations on the science of teamwork and organisational purpose and launched the company officially in November with an online panel event discussing performance through disruption.
This partnership continues. And I love it!
July Energist commissioned Backpack to complete a brand review and proposition project as well as work with the leadership team to develop its business vision and strategy for the coming years. This then rolled into a further piece to define the brand and marketing strategy alongside the cultural strategy and coach members of the team.
August A message on LinkedIn led to the forming of a new charity, strategic set up, and launch - SHE. Sam Dyer was again the creative partner, bringing the brand definition and creative brief to life. The charity looks to understand the barriers that girls face in rural Zimbabwe to access education by working collaboratively with them and their families, their teachers and the local social services.
From a socially distanced conversation in a garden in August and the seeds of the idea being thrown around we have launched the charity with in-country program managers, a robust UK team, an incredible trustee board and the initial 25 girls returning to school in January safe in the knowledge they can stay in consistent education until graduation should they wish.
Oh and Backpack was a finalist in the start up category of the Creative Bath Awards - that was a fun virtual night.
October Our son finally went back to nursery three days per week! Whoop whoop!
Another late night message on LinkedIn connected Backpack with Jelli Group, an incredibly sharp, boutique consultancy helping large brands better understand the organisation design and combination of hybrid working that will best suit them. Hybrid working is the utilisation of a variety of resourcing methods be it in-house employed colleagues, agency partners or freelancers - or a mix of all and more.
We are working together to understand the true purpose of Jelli, the value it delivers to its clients and its network - then how to better communicate to its current clients and those that it can go on to help in future.
Backpack also received its PENDING BCorp status in October which was a very proud moment and a commitment to business as a force for good.
There's been a few other bits and bob floating around too. :)
So what's next in 2021?
Backpack will continue to work with a number of clients (fingers crossed!). Continue to learn from them and with them. Challenge them, and be challenged by them.
Generally do really great stuff in a grown up way while having fun and creating value with intelligent and inspiring people.
I have designed a course for in-house marketers to learn by doing - creating their own marketing strategies in a supportive and small peer group over 12 weeks. This course kicks off in January with attendees from well established national charities, start ups, consumer brands and long standing B2Bs. I am really excited by this and what might be here. Giving people and companies easier access to a strategic approach. If all goes to plan I will repeat the course again later in the year.
So, marketing law stipulates a CTA so, I'd love to hear from any organisations that are wondering if their brand is still right for them, if it means anything, if it means what they want it to, if they know what they want it to mean... and on.
Essentially anyone feeling like there is a question about brand that they either can't answer or can't quite shape - let's chat.
But enough of the hard sell - thank you all so so much for all of your guidance, support, friendship, partnership and business in 2020 - what a weird year!
As a thank you Backpack has supported the cost of a SHE girls education in 2021 and purchased its first area of Co-forest. We will grow both of these commitments together.