The year office life returned. Whilst 2020’s homeworking proved how productive a disparate team could be (very, it turns out), 2021 proved how much the joy of working together had been missed. It’s chemical. We’re designed to work alongside each other. We double down on the time together by making frequent use of the local Brew Dog bar, Puttshack Westfield and the local 5-a-side football pitch.
Flights were also back on the cards, so trips to Dubai and Switzerland followed. It’s a thrill to pick up the passport and see our clients again. Sports marketing becomes our new favourite way to meet L&D leaders and entertain clients, as we share our VIP passes to watch Premier League football at the new Brentford Community Stadium.
We bolster our list of clients with Baloise and Cisco climbing aboard. Naturally, we grow the team to handle the workload, with two new producers, James and Tiff, bringing experience from the worlds of sales management and TV presenting respectively. Karen goes from her strategic backseat to hurtling down the delivery motorway. The IW Studio also gains the technical wizardry of web developer, Ross, and the astute creativity of illustrator Emily. (Our company stance is that you can never have too many Emilys.) George joins on a placement and immediately starts pulling the strings, organising our company strategy days. Pocket rocket Milly swaps a marketing agency for our L&D agency whilst Gaby supercharges the studio’s capability to animate. Mara and David wow us with their graphic design skills and we hire them too. Not done hiring yet, we round out the year hiring our new favourite American, Blair. We get the feeling we’re building something special.
Well, well. Every good story needs twists and turns. Just ask Andy. He has been flying the world delivering storytelling training for Red Bull and Decision Resources Group amongst others. Our 2020 strategy was exciting: “A year of consolidation”. We did consolidate… to our home offices and bedrooms for months whilst a global pandemic swept in.
Johnny is an optimist and reminded us to think “What’s good about this problem?”. It seemed like nothing really. Yet we quickly realised there had never been a more open time for innovation. And then…
We pivoted to online delivery, normally part of the repertoire but not for heavy lifting. Yet it worked, with extra coaching and smaller group sizes.
We expanded our reach and range of clients as a crisis created a truly collaborative vibe and the world helped each other.
We launched PlayBook – “Unlimited Live Learning for Everyone.”
We exploded our global reach with almost 200 leaders participating in live events from some massive organisations including Airbus, Bloomberg, Samsung and Verizon.
Our best talent takes on our biggest clients. The team go from London to deliver in Tolouse, Berlin, Madrid, Lucerne, New York, Nashville and Cheltenham. Em and Tinashe step up. Susan hits 50+ flights in the year. We win a gold award (1st place) for commercially focused leadership development.
The team spends a weekend in Como. Feels like family. We decide the title ‘Consultant’ is boring, and rename ourselves to Producers. It fits.
We write a teambuilding book as a team – ‘Team By Team’ (in a day) and run a Team By Team LIVE event, where business leaders wrote a book with us (in an hour). We’ve now worked with clients globally to write about eight books.
We launch TeamBooster – subscription-based L&D for fast growth teams and companies – and we grow in experience in FinTech, EdTech and the whole VC funded start up/scale up culture.
We gain office space by moving upstairs in the OrganWorks. Rosie nearly has a breakdown when Jonna leads an hour-and-a-half office move four days early. Then we all go and play rounders.
Our ‘Secret Lives’ are revealed as we start making a film going behind the scenes on each member of the company.
After a second office move, we experiment with co-working for too long… I mean… two months. Jonna spend the second half of the year escaping to ‘The Barrelyard’, which it turns out is not a secret whiskey club but the home of our new office.
After a year like no other we finish with two days in a West Sussex cottage remembering the highs and lows of the year, thrashing out a 2020 strategy and hitting the hot tub. The year hasn’t been eventful enough, so we get another office move done the day before the Christmas holidays. A new home for IW!
A year to remember. After a wild strategy day where we decide to “go for it” the whole business explodes. Phrase of the year: ‘Grow to Grow’. All credit to our glorious NED Karen.
World tours to amazing places are now the norm. Nathan and Susan spend a lot of time in Switzerland at the café by the lake. Simon tours Asia again. Nearly everybody goes to Berlin. Andy plays golf in Thailand with his own caddie. We get a proper home for the first time at The Organ Works. We invest in amazing breakthrough talent and grow from around 10 to over 20 people. We practice what we preach on goals, process, performance and revenue grows by 45%. We discover that when your talent pool grows, your client pool follows suit. Airbus, Chubb Insurance, IPSOS, HFEA, AON, SPARK 44, Edelman and others join the IW stable. We launch IW Studio, hiring experts in design, digital media and marketing to ensure everything we do looks razor sharp.
We complete a broader range of work impacting culture, leadership and strategy. We develop the courage to be more ambitious with our programme design; running even more challenging multi-day, multi-site programmes. We get bigger, better and more measurable results. We get more bold with our claims too, releasing new format for our case studies to help achieve a new goal: to be the most loved, highest performing learning innovation agency. Two of our team become parents for the first time, we get Slack and Jonna writes a book. What a year!
We deliver a huge “world tour” leadership programme – three continents in two weeks. We deliver another massive sales boot camp. And that’s before the end of February. Our Savills Inspire programme has turned from two days into a full year at the request of the participants. We become ILM accredited. People can earn badges! An IW south coast office opens up to further exploit UK opportunity. Oerlikon, Spirax-Sarco, and others come into the fold. There are something like 10 people working here, but with all the travel, no one really knows. Andy now also leads on Red Bull’s global storytelling programme. Learning as events. We start making films. Digital.
We find ourselves repeatedly working directly with business units, not just Learning and HR teams. It’s a big move, towards becoming a consulting model, not just a training supplier. We win a huge sales management development project in Southeast Asia involving hands-on “world tour” trips to multiple countries, multiple times. Then do the same in India. And did someone say “Red Bull”? Andy leads their global culture programme and visits some pretty exotic locations. The team is flying round like billy-o. Rolls-Royce join the fun. We decide not to bother with a massive office. But we are too big for a kitchen. We start meeting when we need to, in great London locations from Kings Cross to the City. Even occasionally in Chiswick.
Savills kicks off big time. This is also definitely “magazine year”. Our graphics squad totally overhauls our look and feel, whilst the consulting teams up their journalistic game. We become writers! Our first magazine project is a success. The second precipitates an order of 1000 magazines. We scope out our first ever assessed sales programme, and design it inside 28 days, for a three-week delivery in Vietnam, for 30 people. It’s a breeze. Hello, big projects: we can handle you.
Savills invites us to pitch for our most strategic programme yet. A full suite, senior management and development programme. We prepare, we pitch, we win. Yikes. Now we have to deliver on our ideas. Our accountant keeps asking what the strategy is for the business. We say; ‘interesting work with interesting people’. Financial credentials expand with BlueBay Asset Management.
Jeddah, Riyadh, Doha, Dubai. We collect Emirates points! Great projects in our expanding global client base. We hit Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sao Paolo and every country in between. A day trip to Philadelphia or Washington? No problem. Lots of train-the-trainer activity. Lots of international facilitation. Airbus Group comes along. We get invited to speak to the top 1000 BBC leaders on decision making. Lights, Camera Action and all that.
London celebrates its Olympics and, to be fair, we take a few days to enjoy it. Motivated to perform by the athletes, we take on further leadership projects. We win a big, three-year contract to deliver a full suite of 20 skills and management trainings for over 5000 employees. We deliver in places like Taiwan, India. All the while maintaining the free spirit of flexible working, informality and what Andy keeps calling “holistic work-life balance”. It’s definitely no longer the Andy & Jonna show. It’s a team thing.
M&S hands us our biggest development project yet. We run bags of stuff for their international marketing team. More clients. More travel. Proliferation of topics, from personal skills, to sales, leadership, project management. We realise our capability spans all the areas because great workshops are so much more than deep content knowledge. They are about energy. Clever design. Simplicity.
Busy. Whilst Jonna flies all over the world fronting delivery, Andy hammers the sales, marketing, and development roles. It’s intense, and fun. Various friends help out in a freelance capacity: Chris, Sophie, Segun, Charlie. We evolve from kitchen table to loft. A mantra: “one more big client, and one more person per year” is thrown around. Let’s not grow so fast we compromise on quality. Let’s make everything we do fantastic. Projects arrive as far away as New Zealand, China, Sweden for BMW Group. A LinkedIn contact from a Swiss company we have never heard of called Schindler. The ball is rolling. Jonna gets stuck in LA for a week due to the Icelandic volcano. Surf’s up!
Interactive Workshops is born. Why? So much work, more help needed. Andy joins to head up sales. Steph throws in her expertise. It’s a kitchen table business, with walks taking place around Gunnersbury Park attempting to figure out “what kind of company do we want to be?” In essence, a design-led learning and facilitation company, who grows through effective marketing.
IW is born of freelancing. For five years, Jonna worked all over the world, on L&D projects as part of associate teams, and with some direct clients. These years were deemed the “work as play” years, taking a free-wheeling and low stress approach. Lots of stimulation. Lots of downtime.