Troy Fawkes of Delta Growth tells us about digital marketing space and the effects of Covid-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Troy Fawkes: My instinct is to say, “Great,” but there’s lots of complex misery to go around. I think part of the COVID-19 journey has been learning about the importance of letting people talk more honestly about mental health, ignoring the general social standards of “there’s always someone suffering more”, or other excuses not to try to express your own feelings and experiences.
My personal pandemic experience had definitely left me with a weaker foundation than when I came in. That foundation, for me, was built on events like Latin social dancing, rock climbing, regular in-person venting sessions with peers and acquaintances, and travel. You can imagine that that foundation is pretty leaky, and my personality pushes me towards stubbornly hanging onto these activities as big parts of my identity when for the past year, I’ve not been able to live up to my personal standards. My partner has probably done better than I by being more flexible, and I’m lucky to have her around.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Delta Growth.
Troy Fawkes: I travelled after getting my bachelor’s, taught at a University in China for a year, learned sales by recruiting at an agency for half a year, and got knee-deep into marketing at a startup agency. Three years of growing personally, building and managing teams and doing my best to manage up taught me that I was too obnoxious of an employee to work for someone else. I consulted for three years and launched Delta Growth in May 2016 with my co-founder Brendan Philp.
How does Delta Growth innovate?
Troy Fawkes: Delta Growth is where my love and joy and dreams go. It’s the answer to all of the problems that I had with other agencies or jobs. From day 1, we had a 6-hour workday, 3 days work from home guaranteed, and an overall direction towards caring about our employees and clients with little respect for traditional standards. The 6 hour workday is one part of the answer to stress and over-work, but so is having a real project management system and process. We follow Agile methodology with well-defined tasks and weekly sprints, which puts the responsibility on the strategists and account managers instead of specialists to get the right work done.
The traditional marketing agency structure has some major flaws, and we’ve done our best to answer many more issues that come up.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Troy Fawkes: The pandemic has dramatically slowed our growth. We lost several clients in industries hardest hit by the pandemic, some of whom could then not pay invoices or commit to contractual obligations that we were using to pay our staff. We managed not to lay off any staff due to pandemic-related drops by the skin on our teeth and a lot of blood and sweat from the founders closing new business and reducing costs. We were very, very lucky.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Troy Fawkes: We were already working 3 days a week from home, so we were fairly well set up working online. HR has changed dramatically due to the pandemic and the work from home life, though.
Everyone’s operating at 80% just doing the emotional work required to show up to work these days, so suddenly, mental health has crept up from relatively important to a top priority for every member of our staff. Business owners not being therapists definitely create some challenges, and the fact that founders are going through much the same pressure as the teams. This combines into a big ball of stress, and everyone is doing their best to get through it.
I mentioned this slightly earlier, but one of the lessons I’ve personally learned about this is in trying to speak openly and honestly about mental health issues while setting and respecting boundaries. It has also stoked the fire in my heart for more and better publicly funded mental health services for Canadians.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Troy Fawkes: We’ve made almost no changes here, aside from not having a face to face meetings with our clients. I have found scheduling one on one, informal chats with certain clients to effectively get through some challenges that we’d otherwise get through in person.
No tool has been able to really help here.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Troy Fawkes: We benefited from the Temporary Wage Subsidy right when we were losing clients. This definitely helped us out, and it helped us engage several freelancers who were also suffering and pay a month or so of their rent at the beginning of the pandemic. We didn’t end up using CEWS or other Canadian business subsidies as we were making ends meet by the time they became available.
Your final thoughts?
Troy Fawkes: The pandemic is a shared tragedy, and I hope it becomes a bond that pulls us closer together. More problems and opportunities have come to light, and it behooves us to push for and create solutions. I think the strongest outcome of the pandemic that an individual can contribute towards is this: go out and positively contribute your ideas, time, and emotional support for solutions to the issues we’ve encountered along the way.