​2 + 2 doesn’t always equal 4!

By: Nicki Kavanagh - written on 24 April 2024 Categories: Learning, development & personal growth, Team News

As we celebrate The Juniper Co.’s 22nd Birthday, Nicki Kavanagh reflects on some of the unexpected takeaways from her time as Managing Director.

In 22 years of running The Juniper Co., there have been plenty of things that have surprised me, not least the fact that time goes much faster than you think. When I started Juniper, it was open-ended. I had no idea what I was going to be doing in 20 years – I'm not saying I couldn't see myself doing this, but I couldn't see beyond the initial goals. When you set up a company, your vision is quite short-term. Can I make this fly? And it takes probably three to five years to convince yourself you can make something work because it doesn't happen overnight. And then, before you know it, the years have flown by.

It's a bit like when your children go to school. People say the school years pass quickly. You send a 5-year-old to school and before you know it, they're leaving school and then they are 21 and leaving university! It feels the same when you are running a company, it's your baby. It grows up with you and is very closely linked to you. You become really attached to it and everything you do is focused on looking after it and helping it continue to grow.

The other thing that has taken me somewhat by surprise, is the realisation that over time one develops the longest memory in the company. That's not necessarily a good thing because you don't always want to be saying, ‘well, when we did it before, we did it like this…’ Keeping things the same and doing them as you always have done isn’t a good sign. It is important to think about continuously improving and knowing when it’s time to change.

Some of my most entertaining moments have included trying to catch planes, trains, and automobiles. I remember on one occasion, me, and the lovely Trish Hothersall (who was seven months pregnant with twins!) were desperate to get back from the Netherlands, but we got snowed in and had to stay overnight. We sat in Schiphol airport, looking at the plane being de-iced about three times, and in the end, realized that we weren’t getting home that night. Whilst sitting there contemplating our next move, we bumped into someone from our local church in Farnham, who was waiting for the same plane, and we ended up sharing a taxi, then having a very pleasant chat over dinner with him, which we weren't expecting. Out of adversity can come the most pleasurable experiences. I've learned that some things are in your circle of control and some things are not, including transport! If the plane doesn't take off, or leaves without you, it is not the end of the world

One of the most pleasant surprises I have found is how we’ve adapted to changing technology. Everything when I first started back in 2002 was printed – programme participants received a printed workbook, and a print-out of slides. We stood at the front of the room and yes, we used PowerPoint, but we didn't use anything else. So much has changed with the use of collaboration tools.

I was involved in a change project back in 2007-8 that was all about collaboration tools, so the technology has been present for a long time. The pandemic didn't do much for us in so many ways, but what it did do, is force companies to accept that collaboration tools can be used to great effect and with brilliant results. Tools such as SharePoint and Mural enable us to collaborate in the moment, giving participants opportunities to contribute, both verbally but also online through the chat function e.g. in Teams. If your learning style is reflective and you don't necessarily like to be the person who shouts loudest in the room, you can still have a voice in those conversations. Particularly using post-it notes on Mural, which allows so many more people to contribute to a conversation at once.

Perhaps the best thing about running The Juniper Company is the people that I've had the pleasure of working with, both clients and staff members. I don't know what the total is now, but the number of people I have employed must be well into the twenties. I love seeing the individuals that I have coached and mentored over the years spread their wings and progress to even bigger and better things. I get great satisfaction out of being part of their journey, helping them to develop and grow. We get lots of lovely updates from Juniper alumni and it’s just amazing to see what they go on to achieve.