An Honest and Open Reflection of Lockdown 12 Months On

by Bradley Hatchett

By Bradley Hatchett – Founder & Managing Director

From the outside in, it may have seemed plain sailing at Network My Club.

It was anything but. Our business model was completely blown apart.

For a business built on face to face events at iconic sporting stadiums – stadiums closed and we couldn’t host events. It really was do or die. 

But, 12 months later, we are still here. In the hardest hit industry. 

I put this down to a number of factors which I’ll come to shortly. Along with what I’ve learned.

Firstly, some truths. 

I’ve had many people say to me, “Brad it looks like you guys at NMC are flying!”

Ohhhh if only they knew. 

It’s all too easy to paint a picture on social media that everything is fine and dandy. It’s where you post your best bits. After all, why would you go on there to share the bad bits? 

But that’s what I’m writing about here. The things you wouldn’t have read or seen on social media in the past 12 months. Things like:

  • How we decided to cancel an online event the morning it was due to take place because we only had 6 people registered to attend. Particularly wounding for a company that prides itself on getting both good quality and quantity to our events.
  • Being let down by our online event platform for one of our biggest events. Some things are out of your control, like when their server goes down just before your event is about to go live. Meaning people weren’t appearing on screen and we couldn’t see anyone in the event. Not ideal – it still gives me nightmares.
  • How they’ve been the toughest months mentally I’ve ever experienced. It was the lowest I’ve sunk and I lost count the amount of times I had my head in my hands at my desk, took myself for a walk to the beach to clear my head, or called a friend purely to get it out of me. I probably wasn’t a great person to be around during that period outside of work.
  • Having to let a member of staff go because there wasn’t enough business to support them. I know I’m not the only employer that’s had to go through this process. However, that doesn’t make it easier. It’s emotionally stressful, you’re dealing with the livelihood of someone you know and have built a good relationship with. Certainly not something you sign up for when starting a business. 
  • How our membership took a huge hit in the initial months with members pausing or cancelling. With us at one point being down 40% from pre-lockdown membership numbers. At times it felt like being in a sinking boat with just a bucket. 
  • Our business falling off the edge of a cliff. For context, the below is a visual representation of our business doing just that. It’s the 12 months of 2020 in revenue through our website (new sign ups and event bookings).

Company Performance 2020

But it’s moments like these where you learn more about yourself and your time than ever before.

My 7 biggest learnings and takeaways have been:

1. The Importance of Mindset

We had a choice in March 2020. Wait for the virus to ‘blow over’ and get back to live events. Or embrace our reality for the foreseeable and make the most of the situation. 

Luckily, the former was never even a consideration, and I couldn’t be prouder how this was the team’s default.

I’ve seen a clear difference in mindset in other businesses during the pandemic too. 

Ones that are just waiting and hoping for things to return to how they were before. With others seeing the change as a positive and adapting their ways of working to make the most of it. 

It’s no doubt the latter are in a much more positive frame of mind and optimistic for the future when speaking to them.

2. Resilience 

Personally and as a team, I never thought we had the level of resilience we’ve shown. Never have we been tested to the extremes we have to demonstrate that.

But, in a way, I’m glad we have. 

It’s changed what we previously perceived as challenges. It’s taught us how to confront an obstacle (even if it is in the shape of a global pandemic). If we can survive this, we can survive anything. It’s revealed a lot to me about myself and my team, and that makes me so proud and assured for future challenges we come up against.

3. Momentum and Celebrating Success

However big or small, celebrating wins is a psychological advantage you can give yourself. It creates momentum and helps keep putting one foot in front of the other.

A question I pose to the team every Monday morning meeting is “what wins did you achieve last week?” 

It could be anything from calling a member to check in on them, signing up a new member or ticking something off your to do list that’s been on there for weeks.

Particularly during a period surrounded with so much negativity, the psychology of highlighting and celebrating wins, and the momentum and feeling that gives you, is infectious. Sharing wins breeds sharing wins.

4. Honest and Transparent Communication

The world of online events was unknown territory for us. We’d never done it before. There was no blueprint for us to gather insights or guidance from. So we made no bones about it in our communications to members. It was as new to us as it was to them.

However, we made a promise that we would throw ourselves into it to provide the best experience possible. Being open in saying; “Look, we’re going into uncharted territory. Please bear with us, we’re dedicated and determined to make this work. Some things will work, some won’t.”

And do you know what? That transparency and honesty got us more respect, patience and support. It made us human.

5. Power of Team

I owe everything to my team. They are the superheroes in this story. Their belief and can do attitude pulled us through. It got me through. They truly inspire me and if you can find a team that does that, you’ll be unstoppable. 

Yes, we all had our ups and downs personally. I know I don’t get everything right. But we helped each other through and for that we are a stronger and tighter unit. Oddly, having only seen each other once or twice in person in 12 months. 

The phrase ‘the strength of the wolf is in the pack’ has never been more true.

6. The Strength of Community 

Perhaps most pleasing of all. How our community of members rallied together. Particularly in the initial few months, the level of support and willingness to help each other through was overwhelmingly brilliant. 

Those that stayed with us too. That spared us the patience and support I mentioned to let us adapt and try new things. I know exactly who you are. I/we won’t forget. You are the reason we do what we do. #NMCFamily

7. The Link Between Physical and Mental Health

I can honestly say exercise has kept me in a position to be able to operate and not have a complete breakdown in the past 12 months. 

When your business feels like it’s crumbling around you, I learned that focusing on what you can control is best. ‘Control the controllables’ as they say.

Mine was my exercise routine. There is no surprise physically I’ve never felt fitter, and mentally I’m the toughest I’ve ever been. 

For me, exercise has been a mechanism to declutter and eliminate noise. The act of pounding the streets for a run or lifting some weights has been the equivalent of a massage for my brain and mental wellbeing. 

I could go on because I’ve learned so much. They say you don’t lose you learn. And that I’ve certainly done, despite it feeling like we were fighting a lost battle at times.

I’m one of the lucky ones, but not through relentless hard work and dedication. Many businesses have not been so fortunate. 

I now look ahead with optimism and excitement for the next 12 months. Something 6-12 months ago I didn’t think we would.

Our business has changed, we’ve had the benefit to assess inefficiencies and better ways to do things. Almost being able to press a reset button. To start fresh when the world starts to open up again and we can return to live events. But for that we’re better and we will be better.

What are your biggest learnings from the past 12 months? What are you optimistic about for the next 12 months?