Out of constraints comes creativity, out of chaos comes growth: Ashton McGill share their silver linings during Covid-19

7th May 2020
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In the face of crisis, we all have to find ways to adapt and come out the other side stronger. 

“The main thing we’ve had to pivot is how we maintain our culture remotely and keep providing the same level of service to our clients,” says Andy McGill co-founder of Xero award-winning practice, Ashton McGill.  

We caught up with Andy to see how Ashton McGill are getting on, and what silver linings they’ve experienced along the way.

Staying connected

In the recent weeks, practices have had to suddenly transition to working remotely full-time, with many utilising communication tools like Slack and Zendesk to stay in regular contact with their teams. But for Ashton McGill, this was just the norm: “As a fully digital practice from day one, our travel-hungry team can work from anywhere, and we often do. Before Covid-19, a portion of our team were already based remotely, so we were used to managing remote teams, and we’ve always actively encouraged a remote working culture,” says Andy.  

Whilst remote working is the norm for some, others thrive from an office environment. An office can provide structure and social interaction, and without these things it can be difficult to stay motivated and connected. To remedy this, Andy and his team start each morning with a Zoom call, where they have coffee and chat about things outside work. “It’s really important for us to stay connected, to check in with each other and support each other’s wellbeing,” Andy told us. 

Afterwards, the team posts daily deliverables in Slack providing a level of transparency that helps with motivation and productivity. “We’ve been busy helping clients on the latest government advice with loan applications and making furlough claims. We’ve also been providing ongoing support to them throughout the process and managing ongoing compliance work,” concludes Andy. 

Client initiatives 

Ashton McGill’s mission to help clients navigate the current situation and come out the other side even stronger is evident when you consider their recent initiatives. 

“We’ve recently launched an online Business Model Training Course that we’re running over Zoom. It’s a 10-week course where we help businesses harness design-thinking tools and techniques to transform their organisation. It’s open to everyone and we’re suggesting donations of £25 each for the course, which we’re donating to the NHS. However, the course is free for those who are in the position where they can’t donate right now,” Andy told us. 

So far on the course, they’ve heard from some great experts on design-thinking, business model innovation, and how to improve your business model to better meet the needs of your customer. It’s no surprise then that the majority of their clients (and non-clients) have signed up for the course. 

Andy and his team are also running weekly webinars for their clients. The webinars cover the latest news from the Chancellor and new government schemes. They also offer advice and answer any questions that clients might have. We’re told a recurring theme seems to be around cash flow and forecasting.

“The main thing for us is being there for our clients and being human. Being that person on the other side of the phone or a shoulder to cry on if they need it,” advises Andy. 

Silver linings 

Right now, hopeful news is more important than ever. Andy has seen some wonderful examples of businesses who are innovating in times of crisis. “One of our clients who hosts pub quizzes has used this time to pivot what he does. After lockdown, pub quizzes went entirely out the window, but instead of burying his head in the sand, together with his amazing team, they moved the quizzes entirely online. They now host an online quiz every day on Twitch with thousands over viewers.”

This is a shining example of someone who has completely reinvented their business model, all based on why they do what they do, and he’s clearly an inspiration to the community. 

Andy shared another positive story with us: “Another one of our clients has just had their best ever month for their business, despite the initial forecasts that we ran. At the start of the crisis, we were preparing for the reality of them needing extra funding from investors and bigger government loans. We were focusing our efforts on them surviving, but now they’re thriving, which is an absolute joy to see”. 

To add to this, the Ashton McGill community is growing by the day. Everyday more people are signing up to their Business Model Course. They’ve also built a really lovely online community on Mobilize where they connect with one another, learn and share ideas. “Even though we’re apart, we’ve never felt more together,” says Andy. 

Advice for businesses 

“While we’re navigating stormy waters, now can be a good time to think more deeply about your business and the direction . The reality is that there’s going to be a ‘new normal’, so we need to look at our existing business models and redesign them to meet new consumer behaviours and fit with the new government guidelines.” says Andy. 

We’re currently faced with the opportunity to create real, transformative change, to build better, more meaningful businesses, and to reinvent the way things are done. “Find and use your ‘why’ to pivot what you do and how you do it, to better meet the needs of your customers. Use this time to build the business you’ve always dreamed of,” concluded Andy.