90:10 Group was setup 4 years ago with just a handful of a team and a 6 month contract from Honda Europe to help them adapt to social media. From there we organically grew to a company with over 50+ employees in 8 countries spanning from UK, Spain, France, Italy Germany & The Netherlands through to the Middle East and turned over £3.5 million in consulting fees for a diverse group of clients.
We were often creating totally new products and services to meet new challenges all during the worst recession ever recorded. For many years we did so without even an overdraft facility or outside investment.
During this time we were selling change. Change in response to the disruption large and complex organisations were facing resulting from a more networked world and the increased opportunity for, still often unproven, collaborative innovation… no easy gig.
Despite a recent and encouraging post by IBM’s Luis Suarez we have seen the financial pressures faced by most blue-chips today turn the Social Business movement into a fairly limited technology and IT Systems play. One where all your problems seem to be able to be solved with a solution like Salesforce. Whilst understandable this was often a frustration for us because we saw its potential to be much more world shattering than just connecting up the dots of social layering. We continued to push our clients towards our vision of the future company, post-connection, which we called The Open Business and many were brave enough to come… at least some of the way.
In doing so we developed an Open Business Framework for the cultural, operational and strategic adoption of its 10 Principles which has become more fully formed in recent months complete with detailed work-streams. But 2012 was a tough year for us financially as our clients suffered in the recession and after much deep thought and with great support from our investors and board members; Jeremy Hicks and Sarah Du Heaume we decided to pivot away from helping established blue-chips adapt and towards making start-ups that disrupt.
So what’s next?
From our experience over the last few years we think it is easier for a fresh company without the legacy issues and political barriers faced in ‘turning the tankers’ to become truly Open. It is our firm belief that in every sector it will be the Open Business that will win. At least it will take a more established and better financed company seasoned in selling the consultancy business model than us to help them deliver upon the mission.
As a result we will change shape and structure whereby our Board will work to develop, fund and build new teams around our disruptive start-ups – the first to be announced in the early part of this year which will be led by me personally. As a result we wave goodbye to co-founder David Cushman who will continue the good change work he has become so adept in at WPP’s The Social Partners.
The investment criteria for our start-ups are the following;
Non-media digital businesses that have the potential to disrupt existing markets within a Lean and Open Business Framework. Against the Dot.com trend they must come with a clear monetisation / commercial strategy from day 1 and be focused on long-term and sustainable growth not just a quick exit.
David and I will be co-authoring a book for Palgrave Macmillan, the business publishing part of Macmillans, on our experiences and learnings from doing Open Business. I would like to make a shout out to Steffen Huck now at Trommsdorff + Druner who contributed significantly to our thinking in this space.
And what of Open Business?
However before we say goodbye to the consulting world we would like to offer up a gift and walk-the-talk of Open Business by openly sharing our IP built up over the years through Twitter, blog posts and Slideshare. This will not be as concise and well developed as the book (which you will have to wait for later in the year) literally a file dump here and there, serving as an API full of code for you to play with.
Why the hell would we do that you might be thinking? Well I point you to Principle 7 of Open Business; Open Data (Slide 10)
and my continued belief that;
More Open and Sustainable digital business models can lead to healthier economic growth, driven by more ethical and responsive companies, that work to improve society not just extract its wealth.
Until then sayonara, see you online, and watch out for our new digital disruptor in March / April which will be a living breathing example of Open Business in practice.
On a personal note I will be continuing to focus on a putting my energy behind a more #openweb from a societal perspective around The Open Economy which you can follow here .
Thanks to all those who have helped make 9010 Group great.
Jamie Burke – CEO