Transport yourself back to a time when throngs of people lined the streets to cheer a carriage containing Harry and Meghan, Jose Mourinho was steadily guiding Manchester United to glory and words such as COVID and social-distancing would have prompted bemused looks.
The world looked very different back in 2018. It’s astonishing how leaders, language and living conditions have changed over a relatively short period of time.
For us, it marked the launch of 4and20Million. Now here we are, 4 years old. Still energetic, optimistic and training the essential skills that unlock high performance. Yet the buffeting winds of the past 4 years have had a profound impact in shaping our business and our approach towards work.
So September 2022 finds us in a reflective mood. As we celebrate this four year milestone, we wanted to share four things we’ve learnt - professional and personal - since we first embarked on this exciting, unpredictable and fulfilling journey back in 2018.
Lesson 1: The capacity for change
4and20Million were a face-to-face training company that had the diary cleared overnight on 23rd March 2020. Uncertainty plagued everyone. Businesses, individuals and families. Ambitions were recalibrated away from growth and towards survival. We all learnt something significant about ourselves during that period. Our collective capacity to explore, adapt and evolve was astonishing. For us, that meant finding a way to support our clients and continue to make work better without being able to leave our houses. We were forced to be creative, positive, flexible and resilient. We lifted each other up. When I look back on that period, I do so with enormous pride. Personally, looking after our families, finding ways to navigate the days, support one another and develop a business offering that our clients found valuable is up there with our greatest achievements.
The training and development industry has transformed since early 2020. As a result, 4and20Million now offer the option of in-person, online and blended learning programmes. Unpredictable circumstances forced us to create more versatile courses and experiences.
At times, change may seem slow, plodding and barely discernible. Yet when you look back years later, you’ll astound yourself with how far you’ve come.
One step at a time. One foot in front of another.
Over time, our capacity for change is far greater than we might initially think.
Lesson 2: Diversity of thought
"Diversity of thought is critical, especially when navigating unknown waters."
4and20Million was founded by people who united around a common idea - how can we make work better? It’s a broad question, and at times our routes towards making this goal a reality varied enormously. Our approaches and personalities differed. This doesn’t always make things easy, but the end result was always better if we sought and engaged with a different perspective.
Giving equal weight to each of our voices and proactively seeking an alternative view has meant that our output has been stronger than it would’ve been if we’d approached this venture alone. We are a business where our team plays to our strengths. We know where we each excel and where we are weaker. We’ve learnt to take criticism and to actively solicit feedback rather than shy away from it.
Diversity of thought is critical, especially when navigating unknown waters. It has helped us to make smarter business decisions and enriched our day to day lives. Personal challenges have been lessened as a result of being able to develop ideas with people who each view the world slightly differently.
Our clients benefit from this mindset. We utilise Lumina Spark - a psychometric model that provides a strong framework for building rapport, embracing diversity and effective team working.
4and20Million has been a team effort from the day we conjured the business into being. Diversity of thought is a key reason we’re still here.
Lesson 3: The importance of what we do
"Supporting people to work in a healthy, sustainable way is the chief challenge that businesses need to address".
When we started, we observed that so many people seemed to be struggling with the pressure of work. Increased instances of burnout, high-level stress, habitual overwork and default weekend working seemed ubiquitous.
Over 4 years, these challenges have not dissipated. Recent articles around ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘stagnant productivity’ continue to point towards an entrenched problem. As we’ve read, heard and experienced more, we’ve become increasingly convinced that supporting people to regain a sense of control, improve their productivity and work in a healthy, sustainable way is the chief challenge that businesses need to address.
Work is no longer a question of simply understanding and completing the tasks on our to-do lists. The buzz of constant connectivity and the ambiguity surrounding hybrid working means that businesses of all stripes are grappling with the same question. How should we approach work? Whether we’re led by considerations around productivity, effective collaboration, culture, office costs or individual preferences, there are no easy answers around how our working week should be structured. For individuals, the increase in personal responsibility for our own working day can be liberating, but also adds a greater level of stress and personal management into a whirlwind of competing priorities, full diaries and runaway inboxes.
I’ll admit to a little tentativeness in our early years. I questioned if our approach would have the desired impact. If hard-nosed decision-makers would recognise that working models of the past needed to evolve. Yet over time, through delivery, conversations and seeing the impact of our efforts - the importance of the work we do became ever-more apparent. Over the past few years, our resolve to make a positive change has grown.
We hear how individuals have regained a sense of control over their working days. We see how teams have transformed their meetings. We witness companies communicating more effectively.
We are more convinced now of our ability to positively affect individuals, teams and organisations. In 2022, 4and20Million’s focus and productivity training is more important than ever.
Lesson 4: Leap with people you trust
When we first started 4and20Million, it was a leap of faith. Yet the fear of the unknown was softened because we jumped with colleagues we trusted. The support we provided to one another and the belief in each other’s abilities enabled us to overcome a raging torrent of unforeseen external challenges. Working as part of an ego-free collective has been a total joy.
Yet reaching 4 years would not have been possible without the support of so many others. We’ve worked with some incredible clients who’ve placed their faith in us to help develop their teams. On occasions, this has required a leap of faith from them. With each course and conversation, the impact of what we offer continues to grow. We’re grateful for the people we’ve worked with, and we hope that these relationships continue to strengthen in the next 4 years. We’ve had some wonderful partners and advisors supporting us as we’ve grown. Whether it’s been in the areas of business advice, branding and design, financial management, legal support, networking or just a casual conversation providing a much-needed boost…we’ve learnt that a supportive word from a good person can go a long way. Finally, none of it would work if we didn’t have the right people in our corner at home. The ones who encouraged us to start a business with little more than a healthy dose of passion, an element of naivety and an intriguing name! The ones who see the highs, lows, trials and euphoria. Our partners who lift us up when we need it most, and encourage us to keep at it. That's what it’s really all about. Good clients, supporters, advisors and families. Doing good things for the right reasons.
Here’s to the next four years!