In this first of a new series of blogs on accelerating UK recovery, we chat with two of the founders of business performance pioneers Elev-8, Miranda Cain and Rob Clarke.
The pair reveal how they met the challenge of starting a completely new business at the very height of Covid’s first wave, when the future was far from certain, and how teamwork made the dream work.
Consider the uncertainties of starting a new business.
Finances, plans, gelling with your new team successfully, attracting customers – all aspects of founding a company which, even at the best of times, can become hurdles.
But what if it’s the worst of times, literally?
A global pandemic would normally force even the most optimistic to downsize their business plans, but for a group of visionary performance experts, the turmoil was the sign they needed to start something new.
Last spring, with lockdowns looming and the business world rushing for damage control, eight amazing individuals made a bold move and created Elev-8 Performance.
Having all left Capita at the same time, the group built on their existing relationships to not just face the challenges that were snuffing out other start-ups, but use them to their advantage.
Miranda Cain, Elev-8’s Managing Director, and Rob Clarke, Director of Growth, spoke with Awards International about how the unique circumstances surrounding the new business offered unprecedented advantages.
“Back last May, Covid was fairly new in terms of its impact and the lockdown it led to, and the large company we were all with was restructuring and making redundancies. It afforded us all the perfect opportunity to start anew and do what we had previously only had conversations about,” Miranda explains.
“Staying wasn’t an option. However, launching at a time when clients’ expectations about travelling and meeting face to face had changed due to the risks of the pandemic, gave us a unique advantage. We wouldn’t need to pitch to them in person – we could do it virtually at almost no cost. A huge benefit for a start-up!
“Recent experience from friends and family had also shown that even those who thought they were in safe jobs could discover otherwise. So, in some ways, the knowledge that there’s no such thing as ‘safe’ anymore made the risk we were taking more acceptable.”
For Rob, the challenges of starting a business pre-pandemic had often appeared a “massive barrier”. But in a new world of choppy waters without a safe anchor, he knew the group’s collective confidence, based on their experiences together, would give them the best chance to sail through.
“We were at an uncertain junction, but with the right people at our side. There’s an inherent risk in starting a new business with seven others, but it’s different when it’s people with whom you have navigated all aspects of the human experience over the years.
“We had already discussed – and basically solved – things like psychological safety, team dynamics and organisational culture. And when you sit back and reflect, knowing the people you are with are just right, you feel safe – it makes that leap less terrifying.
“It’s strength in numbers. Facing the pragmatic risk, and knowing you’re doing it with seven flexible, hugely talented individuals who have your back – then you feel safe together, safe to be human, and to face difficult times without judgement.
“So, despite being fraught with many challenges, it hasn’t pulled on the psychological strings like potentially finding a job in another large corporate could have.”
Miranda stresses that no-one at Elev-8 had the Del Boy delusion of becoming millionaires within a year, but a bedrock of certainty based on knowing each other’s skillset meant a firm foundation for growth.
“It’s a new business, but it’s not a ‘new’ business – the seven people I get to work with were all my direct reports in the last organisation, so the team dynamic and the individual relationships were already well tested. We had between us 75 years of tenure, from just that last organisation alone, so they were very mature relationships.
“We had shared experiences, we had suffered loss, we went through the end of relationships – you name it, as a group we have been there for each other. So, we went into this business knowing there were going to be ups and downs. There’s going to be surprises, but we know together we have what it takes and know each other’s strengths. Even though we all have our roles, it’s a collective endeavour.
“As a group, we know there’s not a question that we can’t answer.”
Elev-8 found its new anchor in the wealth of knowledge, skills and experiences shared by its founders. For this company, developing a deep knowledge and relationship within your team has proved that a well-equipped and close-knit group can indeed face even the most severe of crises and the most radical business transformations.
So, whether you are an established business, a start-up or just planning a new venture – know that surrounding yourself with a group of people with the right mix of skills, mindset, experiences and culture can make the difference between failure and success in a world of ever-changing challenges and uncontrollable transformation.