As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Woods.
Andrew is the CEO and Co-founder of Duckpin, a Baltimore, Maryland based marketing agency.
Andrew began his career in print design but quickly found his true passion in web design and development. After working for several years at another agency, Andrew and his co-founders Chad Birenbaum and Cara Bonadio started Duckpin in 2013 with a strong focus on strategic partnerships and multi-channel/multi-medium work.
In his free time, Andrew can be found sailing with his family on his Pearson 26 sailboat named “Screw It Let’s Do It”, hiking trails throughout Baltimore County, or relaxing near his 5,000 gallon koi pond with his wife, Christina, their sons Branson & Hendrix, and their furry children Mo and Grace.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My business partners and I worked together for many years. We loved our work and the people we worked with, but had a nagging desire to push the boundaries of our work. We founded Duckpin in a spare bedroom in my home in 2013 and quickly outgrew the space with a growing team (and a baby on the way that needed that bedroom). We found our home in a small historic building in Towson, MD and have been there ever since, taking over more of the top floor of the building as our team continues to grow.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way. At the time of making them, they don’t feel very funny! I’d say the funniest thing about business mistakes is the idea of looking back on them. They always feel so small and insignificant when you look back, but at the time they feel so disruptive and stressful.
One takeaway from this is that you can apply that mindset to new mistakes and challenges. Rather than panic, you can tell yourself “you’ll be chuckling about the insignificance of this in a couple years when you’ve got newer, bigger problems”. It helps put things into perspective.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
We use many of the EOS principles found in the book “Traction” at Duckpin. Having a system to run your business makes everything more predictable and measurable. There’s certainly no reason to reinvent the wheel when it comes to operating systems or techniques, there have been many successful business owners before us. For me, the EOS concepts were easy to grasp and implement and they’ve drastically improved the organization of our company efforts and leadership.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
Our purpose was, and still is, to strengthen relationships between companies (our clients) and their customers. This purpose doesn’t lock us in to a specific set of skills, services, or technologies. We’re able to carve our own path for what that means in terms of service offerings.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Personally, I’ve been using a simple principle I picked up from Traction to guide me through the challenges of running the business. It says “Live with it. End it. Change it.” and I have that pasted on my mirror at home and my computer monitors at home and the office.
At times, I find myself feeling trapped or paralyzed by all the decision making. But analysis paralysis stifles productivity and growth, so these obstacles need to be faced head on. It’s not always easy to do, but a decision must be made. Why not limit it to 3 options? Live with it, end it, or change it.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
We are very fortunate that our work can be done from home. And, as one of our five core values says “We Think Forward”, so we were all prepared to pick up our stuff at the office and head home for our new remote lives.
But, this crisis isn’t just about whether we can get our work done. Our biggest issues surround A/R and our pipeline. Many of our small business customers took an enormous financial hit and are struggling to find the funds to continue services, and a large portion of our healthy sales pipeline set aside big branding, web and marketing initiatives until things clear up.
On the A/R side, we’re working with our customers to shift project/service schedules and customizing payment plans so we can all get through this together. Things have improved as government assistance programs have helped these businesses stay afloat.
On the sales side, we’ve adjusted our marketing techniques to be more remote-friendly and tweaked our messaging to better align with the state of the world. We’ve seen a significant increase in interest from local businesses over the past few weeks as we move closer to a statewide re-opening.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Remote work comes with its fair share of challenges, but we’ve handled them well. Our team works in a very digital space, so there were not many technology issues to overcome.
We all miss the camaraderie of being together in the office, so I’d say that is the biggest issue we are facing. In the past, we had happy hours and collaborative meetings and monthly team building events. We have a video conference happy hour a couple times a week now, but I have to admit, it’s just not the same as being together in person.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
I recently wrote a blog post titled “Spring Cleaning: Coronavirus Clutter” that tackled this very topic.
Once we left the office and went remote in early March, the news was consuming me. As a business owner, I had a lot of fear. Was our business going to survive? Will we lose our team? How long is this going to last? I wanted the answers and I watched the news constantly to keep up to date.
After a while, I realized this was not helping anything. I shifted my news time back to what it used to be — once a day during my morning coffee. I realized that there are some things I can control and some that I can’t. There was no point in spending energy on the things I can’t control, so I shifted my focus each day to things that I could. Not only does this strategy have positive affects on the controllable things you’re focused on, but it actively suppresses your thoughts about the non-controllable things. It’s a win-win strategy.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
Companies and organizations that haven’t invested in technology yet will be doing so immediately. Technology, even with all of its faults, has kept businesses running during this time. Companies that hadn’t made investments in tech are finding themselves incapacitated by this event, and will need to get “up to speed” to compete in the future.
It’s been a rough wake-up call for those who weren’t prepared, but I suspect we’ll see a surge of technology-focused services post-COVID.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
It’s hard to say, and I don’t want to speculate too much. In many ways, COVID has brought people closer to their local communities, which is a great thing. On the flip side, the fear of viral spreading may create a level of avoidance between people in public. From a public health standpoint, that could be considered a good thing, but from a cultural/social standpoint, we may see some negative impacts.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We’ll see increased interest in digital marketing and advertising solutions when the economy gets rolling again, and Duckpin will certainly benefit from that. During the pandemic, these digital channels of communication became the primary channels of communication between companies and their customers, so where a company may have not have prioritized digital efforts in the past, they’ll now be top of mind.
I’m confident that Duckpin can continue to service our wide range of customers now and grow our customer base substantially in the months and years post-COVID.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Right now, work hard and don’t consider this a vacation. Keep relationships healthy via video conference and offer help to friends and colleagues. As the economy picks up momentum, you’ll be remembered for being helpful and available.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
As a kid, any time I’d say “that’s not fair” to my dad, he’d respond “life’s not fair.” On the surface, it seems a bit harsh and pessimistic, but it’s always stuck with me as great advice. No matter how hard you try, life is not fair and you will face challenges that are not fair. COVID is an excellent example of something that no one deserved, but we’re all here facing it.
When considering that life isn’t fair, we can give up or we can keep moving. I’m going to keep moving.
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