Bumpy roads and chaos, who needs a break?

Are we there yet?

As 2023 comes to an end, it seems that everyone I speak to is ready for a break.

A few weeks ago, my left eye started twitching. An overactive nervous system, that revisits every few years or so. My brain seems to be malfunctioning of late. Nothing of any note, but words coming out of my mouth not matching the situation. “Good morning” when it is evening, or “nice to see you again” when getting served at the checkout of a shop I have never visited. Life’s little quibbles more easily gain emotional responses and even despair. Less calm in chaos.

I just had a client zoom meeting an hour or so ago, describing 2023 as “annus terribilis.”

During a meeting this morning, one of our wonderful clients expressed how she has struggled through the past few weeks balancing the passing of a family member and finalising a home build. Life, and its swings and roundabouts, make the need to stop and take a break important.

Last Saturday, walking our dog Daisy, a tear or two welled up in one of my eyes quite randomly. Clearly, I am ready for a break. Every year is a big year, if you are doing it right, but crying while walking the dog is likely a sign that a break is needed. Like every year, curve balls get thrown, and we move on.

The things that we might brush off as inconsequential in January, can bring us to tears in December.

The undulations of life can seem like a rollercoaster as our energy levels start to slump.

This year has been a big year at Square Holes. New awesome staff, lots of changes, loads of great research and many awesome people making our life super sweet.  Ongoing clients trusting us for many, many years. Clients becoming friends, valued and trusted. Less need to compete and more collaboration.

Square Holes just celebrated its 19th year. There is a great deal that comes to mind with such a BIG number of years, both joy and pain.

My main learning over 19 years in business is that while in some ways things get easier over time, just when you feel a sense of perpetual motion things slow, stop or implode.

The challenge, even the holy grail, of business is to put systems and teams in place to optimise the sense of perpetual motion, to lead to growth.

“There is something lamentable, degrading, and almost insane in pursuing the visionary schemes of past ages with dogged determination, in paths of learning which have been investigated by superior minds, and with which such adventurous persons are totally unacquainted. The history of Perpetual Motion is a history of the foolhardiness of either half-learned, or totally ignorant persons.”

Henry Dircks, Perpetuum Mobile: Or, A History of the Search for Self-motive (1861)

Chaos theory recognises the challenge.

“When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.”

Even the best laid plans can go astray with the smallest blip, and this is what makes life and business often exhausting, but also rewarding. Respecting that life and business is more so about chaos, or some level of, is fundamental to the grit and resilience required to achieving success. Having a well thought out plan but knowing it will likely go astray.

With this reality, there is a need for diligence towards a BIG evidence-based vision, while respecting that chaos will ultimately win over predictability. The best way to predict the future is to be robust in research and planning, and then create new possibility by moving forward with well-informed grit, a road map and strategy. This will help in enticing a team, customers and supporters aligned to your values and your ability to sow seeds near and far in order to grow.

Reflecting on 2023 we have had many accomplishments, owing largely to our team, long term client relationships, as well as the real people involved in our research, and Think! subscribers.

Here is but a small selection of our research clients in 2023. We have supported a blue-chip client base to seek new possibilities inspired by real people. Ongoing cultural and consumer insight to support strategic planning and move forward with confidence.

Read case stories from 2023 via…

Square Holes Case Stories

Similarly, much of our success has come from seeding opportunities and relationships many years ago. Client relationships now spanning years, some even a decade plus. Networks and relationships allowing collaboration locally and beyond. Subscribers to our weekly eMag Think! growing locally and globally.

We are ever seeking opportunities to flourish from our base in South Australia, to Melbourne, across Australia and beyond. A trip to the UK and Europe seeded new industry networks, and our trademark is now registered in the UK, US, Canada and the EU. From this, new opportunities will grow.

A critical challenge in a business is evolving from the strategic focus and even individual ego of the founder(s) towards a collective shared vision of a wider team of staff, customers and stakeholders. During 2023 the Square Holes team have been revisiting our strategy, including our mission, values and priorities in order to survive and prosper over the next five years. This builds on our rebrand towards the end of 2023. It is interesting to (re)ponder our mission, values and strategic priorities. At the heart of much of this has been ever shifting the narrative to ‘we.’

“It’s ok to be round pegs in square holes. To be innately curious, and unconventional. To see problems as adventures, with many paths to better. We are passionate and resilient, knowing we are not alone. We grow together, ever learning and flourishing. Seeking progress, one step at a time. Towards a future we inspired.”

If things go to plan, as they rarely do, we are attempting to be strategic in building on a successful first 19 years and setting our sights on growing by 10x over the next five years.

A BIG target, but we feel confident ‘we’ can do it.

In writing this, I went back to an early strategy at the time of launching Square Holes from 2004. With the benefit of hindsight and an actual client base and track record, that early strategy now seems naive and shallow. With the attempt to create something new, the service was somewhat contrived. Good meaning, but with the benefit of simply moving forward, working with clients and growing a reputation, team and product and service offering, the plan is not as sophisticated as who we are today. The ambition was clear, and revenue and other targets set. What was missing was critical steps to growth, a confidence in breaking the mold, creative thinking and reimagination.

I am not being self-deprecating, more so self-reflective on the journey and how far we’ve come.

As progress is made, knowledge, perspective and confidence grow. The focus is tightened, with a more confident and proven narrative, mission, values and products realised. Rather than being everything to everyone, be confident in who we are and growing from this.

Are we there yet? We ever seem to have a long way to go.

IMPACT – We inspire better | NURTURE – We grow together | CURIOUS – We learn forever

Ps. in this year of ChatGPT and other AI allowing the robots to take a greater role, I asked “convert  the above to a children’s short story,” and here it is, let’s hope we all continue to live happily ever after together …

Once upon a time, in the magical land of Square Holes, there lived a group of friends who were on an incredible journey. As the year 2023 was coming to an end, the friends, led by their wise leader, noticed that everyone around them was feeling a bit tired and ready for a break.

One day, the leader, with a twinkle in their eye, noticed something strange happening—a left eye started twitching! It was like a little signal from the magical land itself that a break was much needed. The friends, always curious and ready for adventure, embarked on a journey to discover the importance of taking a break.

In their enchanting meetings, the friends shared stories of the challenges they faced during the year. One friend even called it the “annus terribilis,” which sounded like a magical incantation. Another friend talked about walking the magical dog Daisy and feeling a tear or two welling up randomly. It was clear to everyone that a break was in order.

As they sat in their cozy meeting spot, the wise leader shared the magical secret of Square Holes—they had celebrated 19 years of incredible adventures! The friends learned that life was a rollercoaster, full of ups and downs, but that’s what made it exciting.

The wise leader quoted a magical spell from Henry Dircks and talked about the dance of chaos and order in their magical world. The friends discovered that even the best-laid plans could go astray, but it was the unexpected twists that made their journey so enchanting.

Square Holes, being a magical place, had achieved many wonderful things in 2023. The friends had made real connections with blue-chip clients, and their magical research had inspired new possibilities. The wise leader emphasized the importance of growing together and learning forever.

But the most magical part of their adventure was the shift from ‘I’ to ‘we.’ The friends realized that true magic happened when they all worked together. They revisited their magical mission, values, and priorities, casting a spell of unity and shared vision.

With a twinkle in their eyes, the friends set an enchanting goal—to grow by 10 times over the next five years. It was a big number, but they felt confident that together, they could make it happen.

As the story unfolded, the friends looked back at their early days and laughed at how naive their plans seemed. But with each passing day, their confidence grew, and they discovered the true magic of being themselves.

The enchanting tale ended with a question that echoed through the magical land, “Are we there yet?” The friends realized that the journey was ongoing, filled with new adventures and challenges, but they embraced it with open hearts.

And so, in the land of Square Holes, where round pegs fit perfectly, the friends continued their magical journey, inspired by the guiding principles—IMPACT, NURTURE, and CURIOUS. And they lived happily ever after, always ready for the next enchanting chapter in their story.

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