July shaped up to be an interesting month in my work at TPXimpact. It felt somewhat like another watershed in the journey of change from being a holding company with more than ten operating businesses to becoming an integrated business.
In the middle of the month we announced our preliminary results for the financial year ending 31st March. The results showcased an impressive performance delivering 58% revenue growth to generate £79.7m revenue for the year. Adjusted EBITDA was £12.2m, up 72% on the previous year. We now have more than 600 employees, up from 22% last year. The business had around 200 employees when we first floated on the AIM market in December 2018.
In his results presentation our CEO Neal Gandhi also talked about the extent of the change we took on over the past year and how we are continuing to stabilise and mature the nascent operational divisions within the business.
As the new leadership structure really beds in and our new organisational governance settles, my focus has turned to the creation of a lean central operations team, the recruitment of a new permanent Chief People Officer for the business and the work to bring four more recently acquired businesses into the fold.
We’ve spent a lot of time thinking deeply about what we’ve learnt over the past year and how we apply these learnings to the next wave of business integrations we work through.
During these reflections, it’s been important to be brutally analytical of decisions we made. Taking an objective, critical look at things has been vital.
And this has also meant being conscious of contemporary context — a common retrospective trap is to apply what we know, feel or believe now to a decision we took in another context when we maybe didn’t know, feel or believe those things at that time.
That’s not an excuse for letting ourselves off the hook where we got things wrong. But it is important to come up with a balanced appraisal of what we take forward from this cycle of learning.
I’ve also been doing a lot of reflection about my own role in the business over the last year and particularly how the roles I end up playing in businesses relate to other leaders and teams.
I’ve realised that I’ve always been fascinated by how things work, whether that’s at work or at home. I remember vividly my parents taking me to see a show at a theatre when I was young. I can’t remember much about the show, but I do remember being fascinated by wanting to understand what it took to make the production happen and being desperate to peak into the wings offstage and see what was going on.
My mind was alive with questions about the set, lighting, sound and how everything seemed to run so smoothly with the show. It all looked so elegant and effortless, yet even then I had a sense that a lot went into making things happen.
A few years later I had the opportunity to get involved with school drama productions. I jumped at the opportunity to learn to answer some of those questions that popped into my head that day at the theatre. I learnt the basics of lighting design, audio production and building sets. Over time I began to realise that the backstage teams were the hidden heroes of the theatre world. They were the people that literally created the stage on which actors performed.
And so began my fascination with how things in the world worked. This fascination has been a real driver for me at work in the past decade.
As I’ve delved deeper into what I’ve done at work, it’s clear to me that I enjoy and have a real impact when I’m able to understand how organisations do and could work, helping founders to realise their vision and helping organisations to emerge and evolve.
As I’ve sought a theoretical framework for growing and evolving organisations, I’ve been drawn strongly to systems thinking. Viewing a business as an interconnected of elements that’s organised to achieve a mission works for me.
And with that perspective on a scaling business as an organisational system comes an appreciation that such a system is innately complex. Too often we’re guilty of linear thinking — that if we pull a particular lever in business, there will be predictable consequences. Yet there rarely are predictable consequences and the interdependence of what happens in different parts of a business is important.
So this month I’ve been reading and exploring a lot about systems thinking and complexity theory in rapid growth businesses. It’s been interesting to get my head around some new (to me) concepts and consider how they apply to what I enjoy doing — collaborating with founders and senior to solve the challenges of rapid scaling.
As a family we’ve also managed to escape for a summer break. We took a trip to the Canadian Pacific northwest that we first planned in 2019 and had originally booked for summer 2020. Two years on and a pandemic later, we managed to finally make the trip. A particular favourite place was Tofino on Vancouver Island — a small, friendly and chilled surf town in the Pacific Rim national park.
Music this month…
I’m not sure why but over the last few weeks I’ve been on a bit of rediscovery mission when it comes to music. I’ve been scouring Tidal for albums that I listened to a long time back, but haven’t heard in ages. I particularly enjoyed Suede’s Dog Man Star (1994), Licensed to III by the Beastie Boys (1986) and Alchemy: Dire Straits Live (1984).
I also dug out my DJ controller again this month and enjoyed messing around in the mix, working on a refreshed and updated version of a live club set I played out on CDJs back in 1997.
Podcasts this month…
I did a bit of a shake-up of my podcast subscriptions this month to bring some fresh perspectives to my listening. “How I Built This” by Guy Raz has been a podcast I’ve enjoyed a lot this month, along with a particularly interesting episode of “Honey I Blew Up The Business” with Dan Kirby and his guest Spencer Gallagher.
Reading this month…
Bit heavy going on the reading front in July. I found Heresy Consulting’s “The Heretic” a thought provoking quick read and a good contrast with some pretty heavy going but valuable reads about systems thinking (Thinking in Systems — A Primer was probably the best of the bunch).
In search of some new material, I’ve also started reading Anthro-Vision: How Anthropology Can Explain Business and Life by Gillian Tett. I knew very little about anthropology before I began the book. I’m only a few chapters in but I’m hooked. It’s interesting to get a grounding in the anthropological approach and how it’s been applied by businesses to better understand societies and customers.
Cross-posted from my personal site at www.simonwakeman.com.