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2021 Annual Letter (Part 2): Celebrating Successes and Looking Forward

By December 31, 2021No Comments

As a small business owner, I’ve found it hard to celebrate successes. There is always a new challenge to overcome, or an unexpected stressor that comes along. The end of the year provides a great opportunity to take stock, reflect on the year, and make plans for the future.

2021 was a banner year for Art of Procurement.  From a business point of view:

  • 2.6X revenue growth between 2020 and 2021.  Previously, 2020 had been our best year, and revenue has now grown 12.5X since my first annual letter in 2018. 
  • Our community size increased to almost 20,000, entirely by word of mouth and by sharing the content we create among the broader procurement community. 
  • We were delighted to welcome two new team members – Helen Mackenzie and Brittany Reilly – and start to build an internal infrastructure that will enable us to scale the business further.
  • We increased our client base by 65% across all of our major verticals. 

From a content perspective, it has certainly been a busy year, including:

  • 3 digital events: Mastermind LIVE Spring & Fall, plus our new Categorypalooza event.
  • 95 podcasts between Art of Procurement and The Sourcing Hero.
  • 29 webinars between those available to all (AOP Live) and to members of our Mastermind community (Category Briefings and Learning Workshops).

I’m really proud of how far we’ve come, and the impact that we continue to have in helping the procurement community drive outcomes that matter. We’re also developing some very interesting partnerships that I’m really excited about – and I’ll share in due course!

We’ve always been a team with strong, shared values. In 2021, they were tested – and they held firm even as we grew. 

  • Sometimes things get tense in the course of creating content and running events. We maintained our professionalism throughout, working hard to maintain pleasant, professional relationships with every partner, subject matter expert, roundtable participant, and community member.
  • We fully realized the value of insisting upon content co-creation. We’ve worked incredibly hard to ensure our brand is associated with world-class content and ideas. If we want to preserve that going forward, collaboration (not syndication) is key.
  • Growth is exciting, but challenging. My team and I handled every situation and decision together – strengthening our bonds and capabilities at the same time.

But, like every year, 2021 hasn’t been without lessons learned. We took on a few tough questions and situations:

  • Where is the line between under communicating and over communicating with our community as our volume of events and content increases?
  • How should we build the checks and balances necessary to ensure quality doesn’t suffer as we grow?
  • How can we stand out from the crowd when all content is digital and the procurement community is overwhelmed with choices on where to spend their very limited time arming themselves with the insights necessary to elevate their impact.
  • How should we respond to an Apple Podcasts / iOS refresh that tanked podcast listenership across the board by 20+ or more in the middle of the year? 

And a question that is core to our business… one that I question every day. What exactly is a community? Is it a closed and vetted collection of professionals who convene around a walled environment (e.g. a message board) OR is it an open community where members coalesce around the content and events of a trusted brand? In my mind, the answer to this question is evolving. This is something I’ll continue to think about in 2022.

I’m really looking forward to 2022, and some of the plans that we already have in place:

  • A content focus on three big themes for procurement: outcomes, experiences, and insights (see Annual Letter Part 1).
  • News of a notable investment (details to come!)
  • 6 digital events, including two new formats (AOP Digital Outcomes, 2022 Supply Chain & Procurement Awards) and the return of The Procurement Revolution, THE original digital procurement event.
  • An expansion of our podcast network with two new shows – The Procurement 6 (starting January 7th), and Procurement for the People with Katherine McCleery.
  • A significant upgrade to one of our procurement-facing product offerings. 

In part 1 of our annual letter, I wrote about the significance of “Day 1” thinking, and that is certainly the case at Art of Procurement:

Day 1 is about being constantly curious, nimble, and experimental. It means being brave enough to fail if it means that by applying lessons learnt, we can better surprise and delight customers in the future. – Amazon.com

2022 will not be a year to rest on our laurels. I hope you join us on our journey, so that collectively we can create a new future for the profession we all love!

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