"Thoughout history, people with new ideas who think differently and try to change things have always been called troublemakers" - Richelle Mead
In April 2014, I was working permanent for one of the largest training providers in the UK as a specialist in Agile methods and techniques. One evening, I was approached by a public-sector organisation at an Agile event asking for some advice. An Agile Coach and friend of mine had recommended they found me at the event for a chat. The organisation had big dreams of how they wanted to work but were struggling to make it happen.
We sat over a beer and chatted about the problems they were having. We talked about how great consultants strive to make themselves no longer needed, and how effective training needs more effort than a 2-day training course to add value. We spoke about different approaches to making positive change in large organisations and how it can’t be bootstrapped - that it needs to emerge through experimentation and empowerment. It’s fair to say we shared a lot of the same values, and when our brief conversation was cut short by the talk we were all paying to see we exchanged email addresses and went on our separate ways.
That evening, I struggled to get their thoughts out of my head. I talked it through with my then fiancée (now wife) - Jen who, as a professional coach added a whole new dimension to the problems they were facing. Motivated by new ideas I spend hours penning a several thousand word email to the organisation I met earlier that night with further thoughts and ideas. I went to sleep and thought nothing of it.
Nothing happened. For months.
Completely out of the blue, 6 months later, I received a call from the organisation’s COO. They had been looking for 6 months for the right person to do exactly what I had recommended they do and couldn’t find anybody. They had large consultancies pitch to do the work, making outrageous promises trying to justify their 6 figure invoices. They wanted me to do the work. Me. I felt flattered of such an offer, but on a 3 month notice period with my employer it seemed unlikely they would be prepared to wait. As it turns out they were. We met up in a service station and put an initial contract together for a set number of days and we figured work out the details later.
After a long conversation, Jen and I decided to quit our jobs in what would become one of the scariest decisions of our life. Overnight, a new consultancy and training provider was born to an Agile Coach with training experience and a Professional Coach with operations experience.
The next few months flew by while we dealt with insurance, security clearance, contracts, legals - learning as we go what it means to run a business.
Finally, after some negotiation with my employer we finally incorporated and were ready to start November 2014 with our first client.
Our first contract as a consultancy was unbelievable. We trained over 100 people in Agile techniques, including senior leadership, iterating our training methods as we went to ensure we delivered value. We strategically picked key teams to work with in more detail – if we got it right with these teams we figured it stood a much better chance of working throughout the organisation. Each team had its own issues – personal and professional - and as we addressed issues one-by-one we finally ended up with a system that everyone felt worked that they could extend within their organisation. They did. Without our help – which is exactly how it should be.
Our first client were over the moon with the success – achieved for a fraction of the price that was quoted by large organisations.
I’m very happy to say that as I write this we are putting the final touches on our 5th piece of work with this organisation. Since then we’ve kept the core of this idea alive in all our work. Our small team of now 4 consultants that share our values, upskilling our clients to solve problems for themselves, bringing us in only when needed for guidance. We’ve taken this to small family businesses and large organisations making positive impact everywhere we’ve gone.
The future of Astratto is very exciting, we're taking our thinking to the next level and have developed our Work Happy Mentoring Programme to bring tailored mentoring into the workplace. We can't wait to see what the next few years bring and would love you to be part of it.
Give me a call at the office or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Maybe we could meet over a pint to talk about the problems you’re having?
Craig Livings, Director