The hard thing about the hard things

On the 3rd of April we let go of eight of our team, in an effort to save 27 others, it was the hardest thing that we ever had to do as leaders. I haven’t shed so many tears in a long time.

At BRND WGN we have always celebrated the team, we always put people before profits and we always celebrated the ethos ‘once a wagoneer, always a wagoneer’. On the 3rd of April that changed, and we let go of eight of our friends, eight of our colleagues, eight of our team mates - eight of us. Their crime, only to be the last to join the WGN in a specific function at the time when a vast majority of our clients decided to pull back significant amount of spend due to fears brought about by Covid19.

As the news of the first Maltese that tested positive was being shared in Malta on the 9th of March we gathered an emergency meeting between the four BRND WGN partners to set our crisis response in motion. For long we had been forecasting an economic downturn of sorts, we assumed it might have been, post-Brexit disruption, Malta’s decaying reputation, a pop in the property bubble that doesn’t exist, or possibly the loving global trade relations between the ego-powers of the West and the East. Instead it was a health pandemic that was to bring the world crashing to its knees, like a car crash in slow motion that some of us could see whilst others decided to ignore for a while. That same afternoon we juggled with our forecasts, detoxed our expenditures and braced ourselves for potential scenarios as we presented the news to our leadership team. 24 hours later we gathered all of the team and I addressed them with our prognosis. Our wording was chosen carefully but the message was not diluted in any way. Within 48hours we all took our belongings home with us and never went back to HQ. Our crisis response was working.

Running BRND WGN is my life’s work and I am proud of what we are building, sure there are tough times and sacrifices to be made, but there are many more great times than most entrepreneurs could have ever hope for. We work on countless amazing projects for many amazing customers, locally and internationally, we help people get dreams started, we support businesses through tough changes, we are the guys that make things happen. Our next challenge was opening another BRND WGN in Lisbon and slowly start the process of passing the reigns to our local colleagues. We invest in creating an atmosphere that nurtures people’s potential, we worked hard to get our teams wages at a relative par to wage brackets in the gaming industry and have even trained a team of Mental Health First aiders to be able to support our colleagues holistically. We balance our returns by reinvesting in training, in better conditions and even charity. We are in it for the longterm, we are in it all together.

But as March 2020 came through, everything changed, we would not be derailed so easy (or so we thought), our creative spark triggered and we launched a range of innovative supportive measures for our customers, we reduced rates, we offered free hours daily to help those that needed more, we called customers to help them and give them hope and tell them to be patient as help would come through. We kept our eyes peeled to the news sites, we consulted daily with partners and colleagues and we worked double as hard as we ever worked before. However the government support that came through fell short of relevant significance for the majority of our customers and they started to call and pull the plug. Our forecasts stopped looking as hopeful as we originally thought. So day by day at 13:00 we would all meet up as partners on a conference call, discuss, hypothesise, strategise and wait. Then one day we decided it was not responsible to wait anymore, and we had to do what we had to do.

Letting go of any team member was very far down on our list of options, an option which for many days we did not even want to consider, but after many sessions running different scenarios we quickly realised we were between a rock and a hard place. When the news was clear that we were only on Annex B and only in a position to apply for €160 per employee, there was only one responsible thing left to do.

On the 3rd of April we let go of eight of our team, in an effort to save 27 others, it was the hardest thing that we ever had to do, but we had to do it. We had no more options left. On announcing the news, the rest of the team were extremely understanding and supportive and accepted the option to move to a four day week to avoid further measures and in the meantime we are working behind the scenes to re-home and support our laid off colleagues.

This new response strategy puts us in a strong position to protect the rest of the team, to ride out the rest of the storm for the foreseeable future and with enough hard work, maybe, just maybe re-employee our old colleagues back. On the back of this ordeal, we look to the future with a tougher skin seeking new opportunities and ways to transform. We know our success depends on the survival of our clients, our partners, our suppliers and the rest of the industry as a whole.

We look forward to putting all this behind us as soon as possible. We look to the future with hope to build a new and better normal for everyone.

The title of this announcement shares the same title as Ben Horowitz’s book, ‘The hard thing about the hard things’. incidentally I was re-reading this book for the second time as the Covid pandemic lashed into Europe. I found Ben Horowitz’s words extremely supportive and honest throughout this time, hence the choice. If you are in business, read this book now.

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash