How to keep moving forward during a pandemic – this is what we are doing at Groop…

25th February 2021

Sally Higham

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Reviewing our strategy

I believe it is important to reframe what has happened this last year.  We should always expect setbacks to happen, of course they will, and you know what? The more we face, the tougher we get at dealing with them.

When I was young, I remember looking at my Nan and wondering how she dealt with the loss of all her siblings, all her friends and so on, as she pushed into her 90’s.  She said to me ‘I brought up all my girls in the middle of a blitz in world war two, with Grandad off in a tank, God know’s where.  We spent huge amounts of time in a dug out in the garden and one of my girls (my Mum) suffered some serious health issues. I also was working in a leather factory, whilst running that young family.  One problem just came after another. You still feel the loss just as acutely when people go, but you also become used to it and harden.’

This is my Grandad in the middle – he was only 4ft 10”, perfect for his job in the tank…my Dad is on the left and my uncle on the right.

This is a tough story of a very resilient woman, but I have always thought about what she said and I try to apply it in my own life (nothing near as hard as hers) and each time there is a crisis whether it’s work or personal, I allow myself a little yell (oh and a stamp sometimes too) for five minutes, and then I move into problem solving mode, gathering evidence and information, considering options and then taking action.

I thought it might be helpful to share the questions we asked ourselves as a senior team at Groop:

We reframed the setback and remind ourselves that stress can lead to growth.  We are an agile team and we looked at the pandemic as an obstacle that needs to be addressed and could re-occur. “Fall down 7 times, stand up 8” said our commercial director @Guy Wendon. What have we learnt?

We learnt that we could pivot and we immediately became a risk mitigation software product for the public sector facing a need for disaster recovery tools when looking after their communities with the help of volunteers.

Several factors drove our change – the pandemic and the effect on local authorities, charitable and voluntary customers losing their income and no longer meeting face to face (Groop supports a huge range of activities across the UK).  Charities have not only lost income, but were sometimes paralysed by furlough and indecision, coupled with lengthy and sometimes fruitless procurement.

We brought in open-source software tools to enable us to offer secure live video conferencing, so our groups could continue to meet on camera in a safe environment that others couldn’t gate-crash.

We learnt that we could overnight work from home (we are used to working flexibly in this way and had supported our team to work this way for many years).  But we also learnt that we really missed the creativity of being in a room together!

What was in our control? It was in our control to decide who we could help the most – in this case Local authorities and Charities who specifically needed an easy-to-use but comprehensive smart tool to manage food and prescription and other support interactions with their communities. They have been using social media, spreadsheets, WhatsApp and emails to drive these initiatives and we replace all of that in one tool at Groop.

What could we have done differently? Better or more consistently? We were self-critical – could we have acted more quickly? We built the video conferencing (GroopLive) in 3 weeks and we pivoted to support the food and prescription drops within 6 weeks, so a pretty quick response.

Who could work with us? Via introductions or new partnerships perhaps? We have discovered that other organisations are just as keen for inspiration and new approaches.  It’s important to note that no-onehas experience of a pandemic, so everyone is thinking on their feet.

What future obstacles might we now come across? What if a year passes and projects have failed, consider what has driven that failure?  If we’ve done well, what has driven the success?

What other obstacles might we face that we could address now? Are we continuing to build a road-map that is innovative and needed? And then we prioritised our response to these questions – and some of these were hard questions to ask ourselves.  But we did it, and we involved all of the team in this work.

Finally, we took action and resumed some of our work and took new steps in other areas, it gives us purpose and purpose together, is what drives us all.

We are building new partnerships, targeting specific customers (after evaluating data), assessing each other, challenging each other, building new KPIs and bringing on new opportunities. It’s all about the team.

NB – if you are reading this and have a similar mindset and want to partner with us, please DM me here. We love partnerships!

Sally Higham – Groop