2020: One to remember!

Well, what a year 2020 was, eh?

This time last year I wrote about what I’d learned in business in 2019. Four years in, the business was starting to take off and we’d ended the year winning our first award. Last year’s blog is here but in summary, lessons learned were:

  • To get – and stay – out of your comfort zone
  • To give as much free knowledge and value as you can
  • That influence follows assets
  • That you can’t do it alone and
  • That you’ve gotta be in it to win it

Those were lessons we decided to build on for 2020…then 2020 happened. And…well let’s just say things didn’t *quite* go to plan for any of us. But out of that we learned new lessons too!

1) Cultivate a Gratitude Attitude

We’ve all been through the emotional mill this year. From anxiety and fear to happiness and gratitude, hope to despair, joy to sadness, elation and surprise to shock, disappointment and sadness.

Although I know many who have not been so lucky, I feel immense gratitude to have not had anything catastrophic happen to me and my family (touch wood).

During the first lockdown, as a family, despite homeschooling, cooking sixteen gazillion different meals a day, trying to get a shopping delivery slot and going out of my tiny mind on the monotony of our ‘new normal’ at the weekends, we completed a daily gratitude journal to remind ourselves that we really had it good compared to so many. Here were some from me and my boys

  • A roof over our heads
  • Food in our bellies
  • Sunshine
  • Flapjacks
  • Love, each other
  • Businesses that continued through lockdown
  • My team
  • Mummy’s cooking (not one from me obviously!)
  • Our health
Sapna at restaurant for 50th birthday with her boys

We were grateful for a meal to celebrate my ‘big’ birthday – even if the party has been postponed

My friend Emily got me a 5-year journal, which I did start writing but then life got in the way. OK, so a new year’s resolution is to start again. Because cultivating a gratitude attitude is a wonderful, grounding, yet uplifting practice to do every day.

2) You have to adapt to survive

2020 changed the way we do business forever. As a self-confessed extrovert, social animal and ‘people’ person, I was totally thrown when the first lockdown hit. But then I needed to make a decision. Adapt or die. Well, at least adapt or lose the business I already had booked into March/April!

I was amazed to discover how much of my business could go digital.

I took my (in)famous One Day Brand Workshops online and they didn’t suffer at all. In fact, I picked up new clients in Dubai, Australia, South Africa, Canada and Switzerland since March’s first lockdown!

With all my in-person events and speaking gigs cancelled due to Covid, I started guesting on podcasts, interviews and Facebook lives. And creating my own Brand Strategy Workshops to help business owners understand the power of a strong brand in reaching new audiences. I even started a guest lecturing slot at Hult International Business School.

I have to say, I was inspired by seeing the resilience, creativity, and determination of the business owners I have the pleasure of calling my friends and clients. This year, I realised the only thing holding me back before had been…me!


3) book have superpowers

2020 started off with a professional highlight when my very own book, Let’s Get Visible! came out. I became a number-one-best-selling author – get me! A year in the writing, editing and design (a true labour of love!). The book details my own methodology (The VISION Process™) to help you business owners and entrepreneurs build an authentic and brilliant brand.

We had a fab book launch party in February at the University of West London where I am Business Mentor (thank you to Stephen Fry and his team for hosting a fantastic evening). I was so grateful for all my family and friends who turned up and said lovely things about me and the book!

Me greeting Antoinette Oglethorpe

The book went on to win a StartUp Inspiration award at the Business Book Awards in March 2020. The subsequent reviews have been lovely too. Thanks to all of you who enjoyed and felt moved to write about it!  Watch the video for the full list of winners.

It definitely increased interest in my business and its services, despite lockdown having the opposite for many. I put this down to the power of the book, which my publisher Lucy McCarraher of Rethink Press always talks about!


4) Business for good is here to stay

In 2020, people started to think about a lot of bigger issues. The pandemic, Black Lives Matter, The NHS – and giving back.

I’ve always been a big believer that business should be a force for good. A percentage of our turnover has always gone to charity, but we always try to find other ways of adding value, e.g. takings from our Brand Strategy workshops go to Runnymede – the UK’s leading thinktank on racial equality. We even managed to raise over £200 for CRISIS as a part of our book launch campaign. And we also regularly donate to CARE and Centrepoint. All these charities support our chosen UN global goal of reducing inequalities.

Whilst I’ve always championed gender equality, I finally started being brave enough this year, in the light of the heightened Black Lives Matter awareness to speak about racial equality. Issues that I and other friends had been conditioned to keep quiet about in the past. Speaking out started to strike a chord with a lot of others who messaged me either publicly or privately in support. I was even interviewed as an author of colour for a Black Lives Matter series. I’m now proud to be working on a book on the subject, coming out in 2021 in association with my publisher – watch this space.

Amazingly, I was voted the winner in The Good Pitch Summit 2020 against some amazing competition. A lovely way to round off the summer. Watch my winning talk here, where I talk about the fact that ANY business can make a difference – and should.

Read my thought piece on the Future of Brand to see what will help brands win through the next decade – and beyond.

5) when the going gets tough…bake!

Don’t get me wrong. There were many parts of this year that were challenging. The first lockdown all went by in a bit of a blur and every day was the same. Home-schooling, client work, looking out for and checking in with friends, family, my team, and clients past and present. Trying not to panic and stay positive for my children as waves of anxiety crashed over me.

My elder son was so worried about his family, grandparents and missed his schoolfriends so much he’d start getting stressed and crying at night. So after a chat where he said seeing his friends would help, we took up baking weekly and then the boys would get on their bikes (little one learned to ride in lockdown!), and I’d run a pre-arranged route of 4-5 friends to deliver little ‘parcels of kindness’  and have doorstep chats with them.

My boy worked out that “Doing something nice with, you, mummy, made me feel good, then eating the cookies made me feel even better, but then sharing their cookies made me AND my friends feel good!

Indeed, helping my son get through his toughest times helped me get through mine too.

I realised too that this is really why I started my free Brand Strategy Workshops, to help others when I didn’t know how to help myself.

6) Don’t take your foot off the gas (but also look after yourself)

In the meantime, when many reeled back on their marketing drives, my social media manager Jade kept up with our activity, including entering awards.

I’m so grateful to her for keeping our momentum going when sometimes this year I really didn’t feel like it.

But conversely, one of the huge benefits of running your own business is you must take that duvet day if you need one – to then come back stronger than ever.

Anyway, after the book award, I was also thrilled to be voted Creative Entrepreneur of 2020 in June by the BeYourOwn Women in Business Awards.

And as I type, my agency and I are currently finalists for both

> Service Excellence for the National Business Women’s Awards 2020 and
> Business Woman of the Year for the SME National Business Awards 2020.
These last two events have been delayed due to Covid. We won’t find out till next year now and the posh frock and heels remain unworn, at least, outside the house! Fingers crossed we’ll get to go next year and celebrate as a team.

7) Surround yourself with great people

Human connection became increasingly important as we all feel ‘cut-off’ in lockdown. We might have been ‘Zoomed out’ but nevertheless, telephone calls, thoughtful emails, cards or gifts sent (and received!) seemed so much more appreciated this year.My business-friends have been amazingly supportive and I’m grateful for their great advice this year when I went through a tough time. It really rammed home the importance of having the right people around you and in your business – a rogue one can do untold damage.Let’s just say I’m lucky I found out earlier rather than later. Things could have gone legal, but as my friends quoted Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high.”I was however THRILLED to welcome the amazing Hannah Illington to the team in May – as my VA/bisiness manager – and more recently Gary Kwok, to help boost our design capacity. I was also flattered to be asked to brand Jade and her business partner Elsa’s new company. (Again, watch this space!) Lastly, thanks too to Lorna Reeves of MyOhMyEvents who got our virtual Brand Strategy workshops off the ground.

Here’s to 2021!

So all in all, an unforgettable year and one where we all had to ‘dig deep’ to get through. Let’s hope 2021 is a kind, supportive and successful year for us all and for you, our friends, clients and supporters. Thank you for being a continued part of our journey.