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Oh, the places you'll go!

“We have to remember that this is what we want to be doing. We need to remember that even when things are tough, when we’re concerned about how it will all play out...we wanted to run our own business. We are experiencing it now. We’re doing it. So we need to remember that...and remember to enjoy ourselves!”

The above quote was from Dan. The wisest - and tallest - member of 4and20million. It’s something that was mentioned during a period of collective doubt, and it has been something we’ve referred back to ever since. As is often (infuriatingly) the case, Dan was right. It can be all too easy to let the days fall from the calendar in a flurry of apprehension without stopping to appreciate the good stuff.

So here we are. 4and20million are one year old. Happy birthday to us!

This post finds us in a thoughtful, appreciative mood. We wanted to share a short reflection on our first year - and if you’re reading this - why we’re grateful that you’ve been a part of our story.

We’ve wandered. We’ve seen more of our city this year than we had in the previous decade. From the focused hush of the Wolfson Reading Room in Manchester Central Library, the buzz of numerous co-working spaces, the plethora of Northern Quarter coffee venues, conventional and quirky client buildings, chaotic home offices, the majesty of John Ryland’s Library and the reliability of Costa (thanks for the voucher Cherry!) - we’ve found that our city has a wealth of delightful places to encourage us to open both our laptops and minds. Manchester is an awesome place to do business.

We’ve learned.

Even in the short span of a year we’ve evolved our offer, improved our training and built our confidence. We took a leap into the unknown armed with an appetite to learn, a library of books, a set of stuttering laptops and a real desire to make the world of work better than many people currently find it.

Building (moderately) SEO-optimised websites, delivering residential courses in the Peak District, keynote speaking at conferences and nodding sincerely at accountants are all new skills that we’ve added to our repertoire in the last 12 months.

We’ve been scared and inspired

There have been major milestones, wins, moments of euphoria and the promise of easy success.

Conversely, there have been weeks of trudging, regular bouts of self-doubt, an insecure future and the attrition of uncertainty that plagues every new outfit.

There have been staggering peaks and cavernous troughs.

Yet the fire to make it work continues to crackle.

We’ve fought. We are battling to change the conversation around ‘soft skills’. We know that forward-thinking leaders who appreciate often-neglected human skills are the ones who reap tangible business benefits. They appreciate that developing these skills are the tools that really power at team and differentiate one business from another.

The ability to communicate, empathise, understand yourself, lead others and focus amidst constant distraction - these are not ‘soft skills’.

They are vital, underappreciated advantages that thriving organisations devour with gusto.

We’ve changed.

We’ve changed the way we run our business.

We’ve changed our offering and developed training that makes a real difference.

We’ve changed how we talk about ourselves.

We’ve continually evolved our training in line with the latest thinking in behavioural science, cognitive theory and practical experience.

And we’ve changed the way we work. Spending a significant amount of time advocating a better way of working means that we have had to alter our own behaviours in order to be authentic. Sometimes we succeed and on other occasions we fail miserably. Yet even when it goes wrong, we continue to believe in our values and strive to live up to them.

Communicate clearly.

Be intentional with our time.

Make the world a better place.

We’re pleased with where we are. We’re excited about where we’re going.

We’ve connected. The major joy of our first year has been the unexpected discovery of a supportive, welcoming business community. People have gone out of their way to listen to us, advise us and spend time with us often through nothing more than their sheer bloody nice-ness.

We’ve been astonished by how many people have gone out of their way to make introductions, take an interest in the topics that motivate us, ask questions, attend our events, engage with our discussions, participate in our training and provide encouragement that what we’re doing is important.

Manchester is a brilliant place filled with brilliant people who want to do business the right way.

We’re optimistic.

We passionately believe in what we do. That we are capable of making modern work better and raising the level of humanity in all of our businesses. Optimism is in short supply. Fortunately, we have it in abundance!

Mostly, we are grateful.

To those who’ve taken us on. To those who’ve provided advice. To those who give us a boost.

And importantly - to everyone who reads our work.

So thank you.

We are immensely grateful for year one.

We are focused and inspired to make our corner of the world better in year two.

As Dr Seuss said:

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

Bring it on.

Alex, Josie and Dan.


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