The Spark Mill began working with the Code Whisperers at Corgibytes back in December. Together, we decided that they needed a Business Strategic Plan, and began the process of creating that together. This week we checked back in with them to see how things are going.
When Corgibytes reached out to The Spark Mill they were considering a major pivot in their company focus and were looking for “validation on an internal hypothesis that legacy coding was where we should be focusing.” said CEO Andrea Goulet.
In December, when The Spark Mill first met with them, Corgibytes was made up of a husband and wife team, Andrea Goulet and Scott Ford. Andrea explained that she and Scott have very different personalities - she is more outspoken with her ideas and Scott is, “brilliant and quiet”. They decided they needed someone that could bring a fresh, outside, perspective to help ensure that their voices were heard equally. Andrea seemed pleased with the ability of The Spark Mill to accomplish this, mentioning that, “Sarah did a brilliant job with the activities to make sure both of our personalities were brought forward. “
Another key piece of what Corgibytes was looking for from The Spark Mill was how to put language around their core values. It was important to them that they, “made sure they started this new pivot value forward.” As it turns out, this has proven to be most influential in their growth and success to date.
To kick off the Gather and Soak phases of the project, The Spark Mill led an all day staff retreat where we facilitated exercises designed to determine what Corgibytes is most passionate about, what they are really great at, and what financial factors were critical to their success. Then together, we worked through where all these pieces intersected and determined essential focus areas and goals going forward. We talked with Andrea about how the retreat experience was for her:
“Sarah is a brilliant moderator – the day was fun, it wasn’t overwhelming, she was incredibly effective. I was totally surprised we got a year’s worth of work done in one day. It is some of the best money I have spent this year. It seemed rare to find someone who was both long-term strategic oriented and short-term detail oriented. The way Sarah has crafted her exercises – you don’t know where they are going and then you get the reports and you are like OHHHH!!!!”
After spending all day in a retreat with them The Spark Mill had enough information about who Corgibytes was and what their long-term goals were to begin what we call the Quicken phase. For Corgibytes, that included creating a Draft Action Plan, or a 2 year strategic plan for small businesses. The Draft Action Plan centered on 5 main goals. Examples of 2 of these goals include:
1) Train our employees and future employees in our methodology of appreciating and working with existing code.
2) Grow our revenue base to support corporate goals.
The Spark Mill then developed strategies and tactics necessary to achieving these goals.
The final stage of the Corgibytes project was to create a 2-year Implementation Plan. The implementation plan is like taking a strategic plan and turning it into a spreadsheet. It includes each individual strategy and tactic, who is responsible for completing it (staff, board, volunteer, etc.), and the specific timeline for completion (1st quarter, January 15th, by 2017). When we asked them what they learned through our process, or what was most helpful to them, they said that having the “strategic plan spreadsheet with the timeline has helped keep us on track and on the same page”. Andrea explained that sometimes she will get ahead of herself or be worried about the next move, and she references the implementation plan, and is able to relax and see that they have another month before they need to work on that piece.
One of the coolest pieces of doing Strategic Planning work, is getting to see what our clients have been up to a year or three years down the road. How has the plan been implemented and what successes have come from it for them? So, we were excited to ask Corgibytes what sparks they have created since we finished up their plan in January. Turns out there were enough sparks to build a bonfire for these chilly fall evenings! One major accomplishment that Corgibytes is proud of was exceeding one of their goals. They had originally set the goal to speak at 3 regional conferences this year, and so far, they have spoken at 4 regional and 1 national conference. Less than 10% of applicants for the national conference were selected, and they attribute part of their selection to having their strategic plan in place, and solid goals and language about who they are, what their values are, and where they are going.
Another huge change since we worked with them at the first of the year is that there are now 8 of them! Andrea explained that they were nervous as they began a national search for a Lead Code Whisperer that nobody would be interested in working with them doing legacy coding. As it turned out they had over 100 highly qualified applicants. The way she explained it was, “We don’t have crazy gym memberships, but we have a culture of autonomy, respect, and trust. That messaging has worked both with finding clients and with finding talent. The culture we have built has really targeted our audience – a lot of that came from the work we did with Sarah – nailing down who our audience is. I genuinely feel that the Spark Mill was instrumental in helping us make this change.”
As for the future of Corgibytes - “We have hit almost all of our goals and are about ready to sit back down with The Spark Mill and work on the next set! We are a different company than we were a year ago.”