2020 was a challenging year for most, and some were happy to see the back of it. But as we know, challenges can present the best opportunities for learning and growth. And it was no different at GETKICKBOX. Today, we took the rare chance to speak to all four co-founders together about the rollercoaster ride that was 2020 and what it meant for GETKICKBOX.
Which three terms would you use to describe the year 2020 at GETKICKBOX?
Reto: I'd say unexpected, remote, and fast-paced.
Dave: Remote came up for me too. Also, rethinking the status quo and maintaining connection.
Vinz: For me, it would be "ready, steady, go," unpredictable, and speed.
Ralph: Speed is a good one. I also thought of "rollercoaster" – it was thrilling and fun.
It sounds like 2020 kept you on your toes, but they seem to have been a lot of positives too. What were your highlights of the year?
Dave: I was thrilled to see all of the active exchange that took place during 2020. There were some great cross-company collaborations that we didn't even initiate. It was fantastic to see our work as enablers paying off!
Vinz: My highlight of 2020 was the new tech architecture that we built into our product, which helps us fulfill that enabling role even more effectively. It ensures kick-ass speed and scalability for all existing and coming products, so we'll benefit from it for years to come.
Ralph: For me, it was all of the great team members who joined us despite the challenges of remote recruiting. And most importantly, their shared belief in our vision and drive to build something great together.
Reto: And we made some of the key steps toward that vision in 2020 too. We won over a syndicate of investors to back our spin-out as our own company in 2021, which was a big highlight.
So, 2020 was a year of real progress too. Which achievement are you most proud of in 2020?
Dave: As Reto already mentioned, finding a way to spin out of Swisscom and become a "real start-up" was a huge achievement for us in 2020. We were able to shape our very own GoldBox, setting the course for our future as an independent company.
Ralph: I'm also really proud of how we moved forward as a company despite the difficult circumstances. While growing the business grew internationally, we decided to focus on high customer satisfaction and added value for our growing community, e.g., with exclusive speakers such as Alexander Osterwalder and best-practice slams. That led to high customer satisfaction – an outstanding achievement and boost for the future.
Vinz: While doing all of that, we even managed to build the foundation of a completely new product, which will be on the market very soon. No spoilers, but it's going to be a great accompaniment to the Kickbox intrapreneurship program.
We'll keep our eyes peeled! But now that we've heard about the highs let's talk about the challenges.
Dave: Overall, I'd say we faced a similar challenge to many other companies – shifting all of our operations to remote solutions being the main one. However, this was more than setting up home office for our employees – as well as conducting sales remotely, we also had to figure out a way to run in-company programs, onboard intrapreneurs, and provide coaching without face-to-face contact. That was certainly challenging. But we were also keen not to lose the physical element of the Kickbox itself, so we even shipped those out to the intrapreneurs at home!
Ralph: Recruitment was another aspect that had its challenges when done remotely, but luckily that turned out well, and we now have a bad-ass team who is driving the vision forward.
Reto: Yes, and when you're so set on driving a vision as we are, it can be hard to strike a balance between developing new products and optimizing existing products and processes because they're just as important.
Vinz: Especially at a time like this when everything seems to be critical, deciding which improvements and features should be prioritized and then maintaining that focus can be a real challenge.
And did the situation in 2020 lead you to make any significant changes to the Kickbox product itself?
Vinz: Like everything else, we had to find a way to bring the entire coaching experience – previously face-to-face – to the digital space and make it remote-friendly. Firstly, we equipped our certified coaches with the tools they needed to complete their coaching sessions online. Then, we put our heads together to find a fun and engaging way of doing the "Handover Meeting" and came up with a kind of virtual tour that intrapreneurs complete with their coach when they receive their RedBox. This allowed us to gather a lot of data on how to create the best remote coaching experience for our Kickboxers possible, now and in the future.
Were there certain things you had been putting off for some time, but the situation in 2020 finally pushed you to do?
Reto: COVID-19 forced us to rethink all of the product's in-person elements and redesign them to be remote-first. This was a positive development because it has made our product more viable on an international level and enabled us to reach customers across the globe.
Dave: These kinds of remote solutions had been on our agenda for a while, but the COVID crisis gave us the push needed to get them off the ground.
Vinz: I would also say the same about scalability. Due to the situation, we had to improve both the scalability and stability of our core products, which ultimately made us even more agile and adaptable in the product development process.
Not only did you develop your products and services in 2020, but the GETKICKBOX team also grew. How did the GETKICKBOX team evolve last year?
Dave: I'm extremely proud of how our rockstar team has grown and developed over the past year. We transitioned from a team of four, where everyone knew everything about our work, to a well-functioning organization made up of sub-teams, each with their own processes. Not only has this made us more productive overall but more professional too.
Reto: Yes, and although the year wasn't easy on any of us, we all found ourselves on the same boat, which made us stronger as a team. This gave us the energy we needed to not only get through the year but make the step to becoming an independent start-up too.
Ralph: Since we knew the situation would be a particularly challenging year for a newly built team going through this crazy start-up adventure, we focused on being approachable for team members at all times, ran several online (and a few offline) events, and rallied everyone together around our team vision. The cool thing is that despite not having seen each other face-to-face very often, an excellent team spirit has developed.
Vinz: Yes, we noticed that although we were separated physically, the situation brought us closer as a team. The pandemic brought up new obstacles, which required creativity and problem-solving skills from everyone. Suddenly everyone was involved in all aspects, trying to help and figure out the best ways to tackle challenges. Seeing everyone pull together like that was great.
Well, as the saying goes, "necessity is the mother of invention." How did the unprecedented situation we faced in 2020 influence innovation at GETKICKBOX and in your customer's organizations?
Ralph: I definitely agree with that saying! Of course, we place great value on innovation in our team. The situation confirmed that we could be agile and creative in finding new ways to improve efficiency and provide a better customer experience. Several GETKICKBOX team members even started their own Kickbox project, where they're now validating their ideas. That was awesome to see!
Reto: Me too; I found it fascinating how the situation led us to think of things we might never have come to before. For example, when looking for new ways to launch bottom-up innovation programs in a large organization working remotely, we discovered that we could showcase the new program to employees via their personal social media accounts, targeting them right where they spend their time. Ideas like this have made our program even more future proof.
Dave: And we were not the only ones who have to rethink innovation. Organizations were so used to in-person events where people would get together in hubs and fill whiteboards with post-its and the like. But together with our customers, we came up with new ways to innovate and witnessed how a change in environment and pace can spark people's ideas. One organization even did a campaign looking for ideas to improve the work-from-home experience; I don't think that would have come about without the COVID-19 crisis.
It sure was an eventful year or GETKICKBOX: To wrap up, which key lessons will you take from 2020 into 2021?
Reto: That's simple: Take nothing for granted and remember that change is unpredictable. For me, it has become more apparent than ever that a robust company has to be built on agile processes, and we need to be prepared to adapt and switch gears whenever needed.
Dave: Similarly, I would say my key learning is to expect the unexpected and be open to radical change. 2020 has reminded me how important it is to remain agile, especially as we continue to grow and spin-out – this is something that can become more difficult the larger an organization becomes.
Vinz: The valuable role played by our peer community of Kickbox program leaders has been very eye-opening for me. They came up with great ideas to keep the Kickbox vibe alive despite the difficult situation and really went the extra mile over the past months, creating custom MS Teams backgrounds, e-mail campaigns, and even entire webinars. I hope this continues in 2021.
Ralph: For me, I'd say that nothing can replace face-to-face encounters. Working in a remote setup is not a problem in itself: It is efficient, and even challenging meetings or workshops can be held online. But it's not as fun. I am looking forward to being back at the office and having chats with my team over a coffee – be it strategy talk or a light-hearted joke.