Big Disruptions Require Bold Decisions

Big Disruptions Require Bold Decisions

A Beautiful Evolution

It’s hard to believe eight months ago we emerged from our annual Advance (vs a Retreat) with a solid strategy to grow Smart Savvy. As a team we were energized and committed to growing our well-established Marketing and Communications Recruitment Business, expanding our emerging Leadership Development and Coaching Business (Smart Savvy Academy), and starting a new Executive Recruitment Division. An excerpt from my journal entry of January 30, 2020, conveyed the optimism we were feeling:

“This vision is going to require growth mindsets, new habits, and some heavy lifting and even so, everyone seems on board. I can really see this taking shape. I’m excited! Here we go.” … 

Then COVID happened.

Our pandemic journey was tough. It taught us a lot. It highlighted what’s important and it required big changes, which we are now ready to announce. Here’s our story.

Our COVID Journey

As you’d expect, my journal entries in mid-March had a drastically different direction and tone. 

The challenges associated with the pandemic were ever-present and all-consuming. We were leading our team through unchartered waters. As a leadership team, we were feeling our way forward amid the uncertainty and with some trepidation

Our team made some commitments to each other on how we wanted to lead through this. No question, our people were our top priority. Other commitments:

  1. Be honest about what we did and didn’t know.

  2. Never pretend everything was ‘all good’ because it wasn’t.

  3. Offset uncertainty with clarity when possible (this was hard sometimes).

  4. Make one decision at a time based on the facts on hand.

  5. Keep optimistic and confront reality (easy to say, harder to manage this difficult tension).

  6. Communicate often and openly even if there was nothing new to report.

  7. Meet daily (online) and help inspire each other through pandemic living.

As a team, we rose to the challenges of pandemic uncertainty together. We embraced it, navigated the tensions, inspired each other, and discussed what we needed to do to ensure a bright future for Smart Savvy and the team.

The Messy Middle

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” 

~ Admiral Jim Stockdale (The Stockdale Paradox)

To ensure our prosperity, we needed to confront the brutal facts and think in possibility. Yes, we were smack-dab in the messy middle. What now? What next?  

Three months in and, here’s what we knew:

  • The storytelling required to support our new growth strategy would be challenging even in a great economy.

  • Our core Marketing and Communications recruitment business was solid, and we wanted to protect that and continue serving our clients.

  • Smart Savvy Academy, our Leadership Development and Coaching division, had been gaining momentum and required focus and attention.

  • Executive Search would need to wait. Now wasn’t the time for a new business.

  • Remote working was working for us; office space wasn’t needed.

  • We had to re-engineer, refocus and match resources with demand which meant making some challenging decisions about our team size and shape.  

It was clear, sharpening our focus, simplifying our approach, and clarifying our purpose provided the greatest chance of success. We had to make some bold moves.  

The (Exciting) Outcome: If you love something, set it free

What once was two business divisions operating under the Smart Savvy umbrella is now becoming two separate companies with new ownership and clear mandates.  

The Leadership and Coaching division (Smart Savvy Academy) is evolving to become Fluency Leadership under the leadership and ownership of Catherine Ducharme and Colin Macrae. To achieve the business potential of this business, it had to adapt to the new realities. We needed to set it free. And Catherine and Colin were the perfect duo to nurture and evolve it.

I have known Catherine for over 20 years. We met through mutual colleagues working as volunteers at a conference and became fast friends and collaborators. Catherine and I co-created and launched the first version of Smart Savvy Academy in 2017. 

We became passionate evangelists of our academy mantra – ‘growing leaders who inspire, teams that thrive, and cultures that rock’. We discovered the power of coaching, became certified leadership coaches, and experienced coaching’s transformational power for ourselves and our clients. Catherine is often described as a calm in the storm and always served as a stabling presence as we created the Academy

Colin Macrae inspires me. He has from the day I met him. When Colin was a senior marketing/comms leader at Electronic Arts, he spoke at our Leader Lounge on the Topic of Designing Your Life (a coaching program in which he is now certified). When he referenced how helpful his coach had been, that was a penny drop moment for me. I knew the academy would shift focus to include coaching and that Colin Macrae would be instrumental in our future.

He’s been inspiring our team since mid-2019 as a consultant. He sees possibilities, operates with transparency, leads with humility and intention, challenges presumptions, and finds ways for us to show up better. Colin’s helped us “up” our game and to think both bigger (potential) and smaller (focus) at the same time. I believe Fluency Leadership is what Colin was born to do.  

I could not be more excited to watch Fluency evolve and grow. Catherine and Colin make a formidable partnership. Admittedly, it’s hard to watch a passion project move forward without you, but sometimes you just know when something is right. This is one of those times. I wish my friends every success as they launch.

To be clear, while we are re-shaping and re-focusing Smart Savvy & Associates, our recruitment business continues to serve the marketing and communications market by finding outstanding candidates for our amazing and loyal clients. We’ll have more updates in Q4, so stay tuned for more exciting news.


Peter Reek

CEO + Founder

Peter founded Smart Savvy as a response to a gap in the recruitment industry. As a leader, entrepreneur, and specialist in group moderation and facilitation, Peter brings an experienced, people-first perspective. He passionately believes that in work and life, People are the Plan™.

Smart, Savvy + AssociatesSmart, Savvy + Associates are experts at helping leaders find top marketing and communications talent.