2021: Working differently but still very much together

End of year wrap-up blogs are nothing new, but lately, they feel more pertinent and meaningful. It’s been precisely twelve months since our last one, yet the world is still an unusual place to be. 2020 was nothing short of a rollercoaster, but we strapped ourselves in and whilst it was a scream, we loop-the-looped into 2021 relatively unscathed.

We’ve weathered a few storms at Kyan – founding the agency in the midst of the dot com bust, and battling through the 2008 recession. So when it came to 2021, we heard the gentle echoes of D:Reams ‘Things Can Only Get Better’, but with Bojo in place of Blair.

Having fundamentally changed how we work together almost 21 months ago now, our flexi-hybrid model enabled us to slip into our distributed way of working without a glitch. But the important thing to us at the start of this year, not really knowing what awaited us, was to stay strong, stay together, and most of all, stay Kyan.

Our values (Geekiness, Generosity and Drive) have truly guided us through 2021. As someone not overly sold on ‘company values’ until just a few years ago, they really have become our north star. Our values deeply inspired our plan for the year, and that’s what I want to talk about in this piece.



Having a plan, man

Our priority has been the wishes and wellbeing of our staff, first and foremost. Our people are the lifeblood of Kyan, and whilst our masterplan is partially business-focused, our staff are a key motivator in just about everything we do.

In January, we set some clear agency-wide goals:

  • To be recognised for our culture
  • To win several more ‘pillar’ clients
  • To grow our revenue and our headcount
  • To bring our team together, no matter how far apart


These goals were communicated with the entire team through a virtual meet. In fact, these virtual meets became so vital in 2020, and we continued the trend throughout this year too. We still hold a Friday afternoon meeting to reflect on the week, shout-out our heroes, and generally have a bit of fun.

We also hold a more formalised monthly meet, which looks at our wider progress, our finances and bigger project news. And then there’s the big quarterly meet, which is a place for me and my co-founders to really peel the lid off the agency and give our people a transparent view of where we are at and where we are going.



And the winner is...

A highlight for me (and many others at Kyan) was winning not one but THREE awards from Best Companies. Twenty of us came into the office as a jovial backdrop behind Laurent, who delivered his ‘winner’s speech’ on the ceremony’s live stream. This was a great lift for the team – not only placing three times, but being able to come together to laugh and smile and celebrate something that’s truly a team effort.

We placed 1st in ‘Marketing & Media’s Best Company’, 2nd in ‘UK Best Small Company’ and 4th in ‘South East’s Best Company’. We were also rated three out of three starts, or ‘world class’, to work for. A magnificent achievement which will stay with me and us for a very long time.

Surf, socials and sunsets

Pandemic or not, our internal events calendar is a common thread in the rich tapestry of Kyan social life. During 2020, almost everything that we did was via Zoom, Slack or good old fashioned post. This year, when safe to do so, we managed to come together for several wonderful occasions.

A group of us travelled to St Davids in Wales for a surf weekend. An 8.5 hour mini bus trip might sound like your idea of hell, but we revelled in the time spent together, and found this a great opportunity to reconnect in a non-digital setting. The gods smiled upon us and we were blessed with beautiful weather, and some gnarly surf too. I even attempted my often effective ‘laughing yoga’. Sadly, only one person laughed. Maybe next time.



In the height of summer, our events team once again pulled off a curious and colourful KyanFest. Guildford’s Merrist Wood college played host to our Moroccan theme, complete with bedouin tent, culturally-appropriate food trucks and no shortage of shisha. Again, this was a superb opportunity to find out what’s been happening in each other’s lives, rather than the quick and easy “hi how was ur weekend?”

Not long after, we found ourselves at Oktoberfest, this year at Guildford’s best kept secret, Growlers & Cans – a great little taproom up the top of town. Some of us embarked on Guildford’s iconic ghost tour. Having worked in the town for so many years, it was really interesting to get some historical (and slightly hysterical) insight into our fair dwelling.

It wasn’t all play...

We also found time to keep our minds sharp. Twenty of us took part in a four-week course from the Listening Institute. Richard Mullender, an ex-Scotland Yard hostage negotiator, guided us through various online workshops in a bid to refine our pitching, selling, speaking and listening skills. Again, a fulfilling and rewarding experience with plenty of laughs too.

It’s been some time since we’ve held our own conference, but that didn’t deter us from visiting a few for ourselves. Our strategy team hopped over to Amsterdam for TNW, an illuminating and energetic tech conference that never fails to deliver (you can read more about that here). And soon after that, some of our marketing and engineering teams visited Lisbon for Web Summit, which delved deep into the world of Web 3.0. You can read more here about that here too.



Back to business

But what about the agency itself? Sure, we are a sum of all our parts. But underneath, we are still a business. Having just attended Kingston Moore Smith’s Agencyland financial wrap-up, we were reminded of the sheer starkness of 2020. The pandemic certainly slowed us down a gear or two, and despite the difficult situation around the world, it sent us into 2021 with a fire in our belly and lights in our eyes. It was now or never, and we set some ambitious targets, as mentioned earlier.

Pillar clients
We are delighted to announce that we’ve won Premier League after a feverish and exciting pitch process. We can’t wait to kick that one off. We also sealed a big deal with a well-known free-to-air British television network. We can’t say too much at this stage, but hope to reveal more as the various projects begin to take shape.

More work means more people, so we’ve been very lucky to welcome fifteen new faces to the fold – all full-time Kyan employees working locally and remotely. In fact, we saw 40% growth, and hit somewhat of a milestone with 52 people now in the ranks.

The money bit. It’s been tough at times, and of course, growth will always look good compared to 2020. But we’ve increased our turnover by 42% in 2021, which puts us in a really good position for 2022 and beyond. This year’s average agency growth, according to Moore Kingston Smith, is around 13%.



The changing shape of Kyan

Kyan has and always will be a place for people to come and be their best selves. What’s changed this year is that we are starting to be recognised for it more formally in the outside world. We’ve been able to translate that award-winning culture into a format that works with distributed teams too, with some of our staff now dialling in from the exotic realms of Zurich, Hungary, Spain, Wales and even Norfolk.

In many ways, we are more remote and separated than ever. But thanks to our bond, our values and our new-found sense of togetherness, we are closer than ever before.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, and prosperous 2022 when it comes.


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