Bob Hambly & Barb Woolley started the fledgling design studio on April Fool’s Day 1990, coinciding with the start of a two-year long recession that pounded the Canadian economy. As daunting as that was, hard work and determination won out and set the foundation for three decades of success. Fast forward three decades, as the new partners in the firm, we launch HW 2.0 into the abyss of a global pandemic and all the uncertainty that came in the wake of a shut down. For Dominic, Andrew and myself, there were more than a few sleepless nights trying to figure out how this was all going to work.
By mid-March, as the team retreated to home offices, leaving me as the “lighthouse keeper” in an empty office, a funny thing happened. We got busy. Real busy. We had to adapt quickly to collaborating remotely and mastering the art of Zoom calls with clients in order to hit deadlines. Weekly team updates in the boardroom are now online and connecting with clients on projects has been pretty seamless, without the need to find parking. Rather than our normal holiday party in a restaurant, we assembled custom boxes of loot and Secret Santa gifts to be delivered to the team and held a virtual party. The tradition was the same, we just had to find a way to do it differently.
But then there is the business of the business. When we first discussed the notion of an equity purchase of the firm, we had to be certain that we could make it work. Barb and Bob were partners in life before becoming partners in business. For Dom, Andrew and myself it’s a marriage of a different kind. Fortunately, we’d been “dating” for a long time and we knew each other well enough that we could carry on much in the same way but with expanded roles. Nothing is of more importance to a successful business than having the right people to work with and for leadership, that’s even more crucial.
Prior to taking on the partnership, the three of us had long-established senior roles that complemented one another, and a shared work ethic. If we were to look at it as a Venn diagram, there is a good balance of specialization and complimentary capabilities. We are aligned on goals for the business and we have a shared trust in one another. We have inherited a great team as well, so from the outside, the work and the service has maintained the high standards we are known for.
The biggest difference now is that we have to make the time to manage the business side of H&W, beyond the demands of client projects. We’ve been fortunate that Barb has remained on the team as mentor, providing that continuity for us partners and the team as a whole. She will continue in this role as a senior advisor as we head into this new year, but the training wheels are off and we are confident in moving ahead.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Things are different – but in many ways the same as before.