Hanson Search talks to Brendon Craigie, Co-founder and Managing Partner, Tyto
Welcome to our ‘Getting Business Back’ series, where we talk to industry leaders from agency and inhouse backgrounds about the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses and the steps they are taking as we move out of the crisis. Here, we sat down (virtually) with Brendon Craigie, Co-founder and Managing Partner, Tyto.
What impact has COVID-19 had on your business and your sector as a whole?
It was an abrupt shock. With lots of clients in the travel sector, in the immediate aftermath we lost around 30% of our revenue in just a couple of weeks. As we were batting down the hatches, preparing for the worst, two things became clear.
The first, was that it was more important than ever to be there for our clients and figure out how we could support them. That was a really strong message internally – to stand up and be counted, to be truly invested in helping our clients get through this period, and to help overcome the challenges they encounter. The second takeaway was that we had a responsibility to contribute positively to the wider business community. So we launched ‘New Horizons’ – a series of virtual events and podcasts about how businesses are navigating the uncertainty and their plans for the future.
All of this helped put us in a positive and forward-looking frame of mind – but we still had to tackle the remedial stuff. We looked at our revenue, we were decisive about how we could save money, and ended up deciding to furlough three employees. We were transparent about the decisions we were making and tried to keep the one team ethos strong throughout. And fortunately for us, we were rewarded with lots of new business opportunities. Today, we’ve grown by about 50%, all our furloughed employees are back working full time, and we have hired four more.
Of course, we did lose clients. But we were fortunate to have clients in tech too, where there’s been lots of opportunity. Some have been involved in the fight against COVID-19 directly, while others have been providing solutions in the background – helping businesses with remote working or generating new opportunities in a challenging market. We’ve been fortunate to have clients in that space.
We’ve also been lucky in the way our business is structured. We call it PR Without Borders – working as one team across lots of European countries. Not only does this mean we can implement campaigns for 30% less than a traditional agency, it also meant we were well set up for working remotely – so we had something of a head start compared to other, more traditional agencies.
Is there anything that had a positive impact and that you will keep in place after Covid?
I think the biggest change we’ll keep is a renewed appreciation for the people around us at work. It’s been so hard being apart and we know what a big impact this has on people’s mental health.
Out of necessity, we have been more imaginative and more structured in the way we organise social activities. We’ve created a social committee, we’ve introduced a two-hour break on Fridays so people can get outdoors and enjoy it properly, and just generally been more focused on how we can support each other. And I think it’s important for that focus to remain long term.
Which of your company values have come out to life during the crisis, that were important as a business?
Our moral compass is about being a perfect partner, for employees and clients. So that’s been a very helpful guide for us. Whether it’s an employee struggling to balance extra childcare responsibilities or a client who is having to manage with less budget – we ask ourselves ‘what would a perfect partner do in this situation?’ and that’s been a very useful guide in these challenging times.
Internal communications has never been more business critical. How has your business engaged with its employees and what changes in culture has it resulted in?
This period has been really intense at times, and I know that I can be a machine at times – I get tunnel vision. So sometimes you have to take a pause and not get completely consumed by the work, get off the war footing, especially now business is doing well.
As we developed and reflected, we started to turn more attention to the fun stuff and give people the recognition they deserve.
What challenges do you personally face with remote working? How do you keep people motivated and keep the trust?
I think the hardest thing is not being able to see each other. Before, we’d always have social gatherings in one country or another. These are like punctuation marks – nice pauses when everyone can slow down over lunch or a few drinks and unwind.
We’ve done virtual team lunches, wine tasting, and things like that – but they are not the same. This is the hardest thing. Remote working can be really intense, so it’s really important to find another way to slow the pace a little.
Are there many businesses that you think are doing particularly well during this crisis?
We are lucky to work with lots of CEOs, so as well as our New Horizons podcast, we’ve also done a series with CEOs sharing lessons they’ve learnt on comms. One common theme was openness and transparency. It’s something that’s just so important in the current climate.
What is your strategy moving forward?
We are in the business of solving challenges through the power of communications. I’m a big believer in the power of comms, so it’s about finding people who need help, investing in our existing clients, and helping them with their challenges.
What do you see as the major comms challenges especially as recovery begins?
With so much noise around one topic for so long, I think the challenge will be finding a fresh perspective and angle on things, something that will resonate and paint brands in the right light.
The other challenge is to try to do the same or more with less. Budgets have been cut by 30%-40%. But necessity is the mother of invention, and communication approaches are shifting – and that will be exciting and disruptive in equal measure…