19 Jun 10 YEARS, 10 CHAPTERS
WIN World is born
December 4, 2008, turned out to be our date!
After a quick but deep reflection on company’s mission, business concept and model, roll out plan and existing and potential network, Carlota, the founder, accompanied by her accountant at the time, Rute, went to Empresa na Hora (On the Spot Firm, an initiative by the Portuguese legal order to enable people to incorporate a company in a single day) and founded WIN World. Done! By this time, Carlota owned 100% of the company, knowing in advance that later on she would like to open the capital to other shareholders. However, in the beginning, she had quite clear ideas of what she would like to do and it was important to make a proof of concept before involving new parties. And so she started, on her own, decided and determined!
About the name, ‘WIN World’, the inspiration was, of course, Jack Welch – the person who most inspired Carlota to do all this, and with whom she had already organized two conferences, one in 2003 and a second one in 2006. Jack became a very good friend and Carlota is very aligned with Jack’s way. Well, although Straight from The Gut is Carlota’s favorite book by Jack, in 2006, two years before founding WIN World, Jack and his wife Suzy published a management book named Winning – a very complete and well-structured book, the title of which was particularly meaningful to Carlota. More, in that year Carlota organized a conference with Jack on Winning. As Jack puts it in the book, “I think winning is great. Not good – great. Because when companies win, people thrive and grow. There are more jobs and more opportunities everywhere and for everyone. People feel upbeat about the future; they have the resources to send their kids to college, get better health care, buy vacation homes and secure comfortable retirement. And winning affords them the opportunity to give back to society in hugely important ways beyond just paying taxes. Winning lifts everyone it touches – it just makes the world a better place.”
Carlota was already excited with the new venture, but these sentences, written by Jack in Winning, further stimulated Carlota’s ideas and helped shaping them. WIN World sounded great as a name for the inspiring company she wanted to create and in light of the mission she wanted the company to embrace: ‘inspiring people and companies for the future’.
Starting to make business
When the company was founded, Carlota had already in mind two or three concepts of conferences that she believed to be opportune in the market. The first was Business Innovation Conference, developed in partnership with Pedro do Carmo Costa and Strategos – this conference turned out to become the first project of WIN World ever and guess what, it was held at Ritz Four Seasons Hotel, in Lisbon, on February 26, the day Carlota and Kjell Nordtstrom, the guest speaker, had their birthday! It was a wonderful start 🙂 Then, two other projects CEO Conference and Happy Conference! Three projects that marked the beginning of our journey as creators, curators and producers of great public conferences.
But in the meantime, something that we weren’t expecting actually happened: the sponsors of our conferences recognized our competences regarding the concept, planning and global management of big conferences and started asking us to design their own conferences and corporate meetings. As a result, a new and unexpected business area emerged: the tailor-made projects, which are totally designed to fulfil corporations’ briefings and ambitions. From mid-2009 on, WIN World started operating with these two business areas that form a virtuous cycle of knowledge, experience and business: WIN World’s own productions and WIN World’s tailor-made projects.
In August 2009, Carlota also hired a consulting firm to help her analyzing the possibilities of opening WIN World’s capital to other shareholders. Although she had a vision for the company, she knew since the beginning that she didn’t want to do the strategic thinking alone. Having new partners onboard would be wonderful to embrace a more ambitious and meaningful journey.
By the end of this year, four women worked at WIN World: Carlota, Pipas, Mariana and Joana!
Embracing major challenges
January 2010, what a month!
January 20, four new shareholders onboard – Gonçalo, Miguel, Carlos and Nuno! Carlota kept 70% of the company and sold 30% to these independent companions, friends, experts in complementary matters, challenging partners for a joint growth. Only Nuno started to work at WIN World assuming an important job as Chief Philosophy Officer and he was for sure the best partner one can have in a team! Gonçalo, Miguel and Carlos had their own jobs but all partners used to meet every quarter for thoughtful debates on what it takes to build up a company with a purpose.
January 27, the first edition of Leadership Grand Conference – 1000 attendees at Casa da Música, the largest leadership conference in Portugal, all set up in two and a half months! An amazing project developed with Nuno Sousa Pereira, dean, and Porto Business School team, which had seven wonderful editions over the following years. We still remember that first meeting with Nuno, in late October 2009, where Nuno was saying that most leadership conferences were held in Lisbon, to which Carlota immediately replied: ‘Ok, maybe you’re right. So let’s make together the biggest and most prestigious one here in Porto!’. And so we did: January 27, 2010, was the day we had Maestro Benjamin Zander conducting an unforgettable half day conference at Casa da Musica for 1000 leaders coming from all over Portugal.
Since then, Porto became our home too and every week our team is in town. We really love Porto and the corporate dynamic of the North of Portugal is something extremely exciting for us.
Other major challenges covered the rest of the months, such as the second edition of Happy Conference and larger and larger corporate meetings. WIN World was gaining new competences, curiosity and agility became a permanent trait of our culture, and we felt that there was a growing acceptance of the company in the market.
Another important thing happening early in the year: our special concern with design and aesthethics took us to create a new Art & Design direction and Miguel joined the company! Miguel is the author of the illustration of this post.
Also, contents, training and organizational dynamics were more and more important in all our projects and Mariana, organizational psychologist, was hired to assume Research & Contents direction in January of the upcoming year.
In 2010, WIN World became a Founding Member of Conscious Capitalism Alliance, which reinforced even more the philosophy of developing a business with purpose, that seeks to make the difference everyday.
Learning, improving, dispersion and crisis
Yeahhh, permanent learning, always!
At this time, Portugal and the world at large were living turbulent times. The levels of confidence were low and companies were cutting budgets previously intended for training initiatives or corporate events. Carlota remembers that by this time her main worry was to insist with companies not to divest on the moments they had with their people as there was nothing more important than strengthening commitment and confidence in the future. She used to say to clients or potential clients: ‘No matter how much you have to spend, we will find a way to set up an inspiring meeting and help you empower your people and align them with your business ambitions. Yes, that’s the purpose of a corporate meeting. And that purpose can be reached with a huge event or a simple walk in the woods, or even an informal lunch at company’s dining room. The important thing is that you don’t lose the possibility to have meetings with your people!’
The number of corporate meetings increased dramatically, sometimes the projects were not very large but they were critical and immensely valuable to understand better and better context, industries, corporations’ challenges, leaders’ minds, human dynamics, organizational tensions, inspiration and alignment techniques. Together with companies, and in a very close way, we designed very specific experiences and programs to respond to the challenges and ambitions that each company had at that time.
Also, to address context challenges, in 2011, the Leadership Grand Conference was dedicated to ‘The Role of a Leader’ (what it needs to be in tough and turbulent times) and the Happy Conference was dedicated to trust, more specifically, to ‘The Speed of Trust – The one thing that changes everything”. Two great projects as well, but more, two very opportune projects in the market.
The market was in crisis and quite dispersed, but even in these circumstances, we were able to make the year. It was not particularly easy but it was certainly full of learnings. And the best thing of all was to be there for our clients’ needs and on the way they needed us to be, which was very rewarding.
Enjoying the first international project
In 2012 we had our first take off for an international project and we landed in Rio! Yes, Lisboa and Rio de Janeiro, two cities, two stages, two teams and a global audience in one of the most challenging projects we had: the EDP RIO + 20 Live Connected Lisboa. And again, all set in 2 months, which in fact means that we love big challenges and short timings even when we say that we would love to work with more time…
Our first international project certainly marked the year but other great things happened. Confidence was growing progressively and our clients were starting to invest more in public conferences which is something that we really love as it is an important give back to community! EDP with EDP Rio + 20 was the first one, but immediately after came Fidelidade with Conferências Fidelidade, a project dedicated to retirement and to new ways of bringing more life to the living years.
The number of projects didn’t increase that much from the previous year but the ambition of each project improved a lot, which was great. Companies were also gaining a new space on the public conferences arena and we’ve been getting more and more passionate about being partners of these bold leaders on their public projects!
In terms of shareholder structure, there were some changes. One of the partners went to work for the government and had to sell his part, another one decided to change. So, two partners left and three new ones got in.
Another relevant event: Carlota got pregnant and her younger son, Sebastião, was born on December, 19! And why do we share this in WIN World story? In a small company, if the founder and CEO has a baby, at this point of time, it impacts the organization as well and it’s important to be aware of this. So, during 2012, Carlota started an organizational transformation with the support of an external coach, Joana, because it was important to prepare WIN World to live without her for a while, and more, to make all people grow so the business could grow greatly in the future. Mariana became COO and all Heads of Fields were empowered and gained new autonomy and dynamic. Individual and collective growth was gaining a renewed priority in a company – a company that exists to inspire others, but also itself, to make way for growth!
Living a super year
This was a super year. The result of all the efforts of the previous years, combined with a better context and great opportunities that emerged and that we catched! Revenues more than doubled, and we had very challenging and large projects with existing clients who were investing more, as well as with new clients who started to work with us.
In terms of international ventures, after Brasil, we had the projects in Angola and in the United States, and the joy of playing global became a stronger and stronger trait.
It was a great year for sure but there was also a great pressure on the team and one thing was clear for the top management: if we are going to have another year like this, we have to reinforce team. Work-Life balance is of enormous importance especially when we operate in the ‘live’ business.
Good news: Mariana got pregnant and her baby was born right after Christmas!
Dealing with an unexpected hardship
When after a super year comes a not so good one, it’s hard, especially when you have a wonderful team and a great portfolio. But it happens. This year we had two enormous public conferences on the first quarter, which was wonderful, but then the pace of tailor-made projects decreased while our structure was set to respond to a number of projects equivalent to or higher than that of the previous year.
More: we had one public conference that was incredibly good in terms of program and contents but financially it didn’t work that well and we lost money on it.
So, first semester 2014, more fixed costs, less projects and one conference that was a financial failure.
Looking back, after the year we had in 2013, the management decisions that we took for 2014 were quite normal and linear to respond to business evolution, and everything would have worked out if the number and value of projects were to be more or less the same than in 2013. But it didn’t happen that way!
What have we learned from all this? We’ve learned that, in fact, although we have great clients and great projects, nothing is guaranteed and in our area, in particular, every project is a new project. This means, we really work project by project, revenues are quite volatile and costs should be as volatile as possible too. We should focus in having a wonderful team but not an enormous one until regular projects really secure that. Also, speed and agility are critical, and the ability to grow and decrease resources according to projects and market circumstances are a must. It is also the way to protect the value of creativity and the value of our business. The ability to do fast, test fast, fail fast, learn fast, change fast is incredibly important these days for all companies, including WIN World!
By mid-2014 we started to make adjustments in the organization and we ended up finishing the year in a not-very-bad-shape but knowing that we would have a huge challenge in hands: reinvent our business and modus-operandi in the years to come!
The year was reaching the end and the very best was still to come: on December 20, Joana got married!!! And so we can say for sure that 2014, in fact, had a very happy end!
Rolling up our sleeves
The year after the crisis. It was this. It was an amazing year of recovery. And if in terms of execution we were already very disciplined and obsessed with planning, planning, planning, preparation, preparation, preparation, now, we gained new friends: focus, focus, focus, pragmatism, pragmatism, pragmatism, less dream (within what is possible for WIN World!), and more objectivity. A lot of ideas were kept in a locker and we focused on the projects that were right to be focused on by that time. No distractions. No distractions at all. There were some changes in projects and formats and some adjustments in processes and organizational dynamics. Focus, objectivity, simplification and profitability became key words and one principle became crucial: each project must have its own financial strength.
And so we did the year. And the year was great. More simple, more profitable, with great projects, and great deliveries. Good, we did it. Having Lurdes on the financial and administrative areas was of immense value and she was a great companion.
Starting a new way of being and acting
2016 was a continuation of 2015, in terms of business and financial goals and practices. We were determined and faithful to the new principles of action, there were good clients and new clients on board. Financially we were going quite well but a new change had to start, this time a cultural one.
In the second semester of 2016, it was time for a new way of being and acting, it was time for a new blend enrichment. It was time to start operating in a more WIN World’s way – a company that has to become an even more inspiring and growing ground for all those who work here. A new diversity was required on board and a new balance of freedom and responsibility too. We wanted to combine in-house ambitious and curious people from a diversity of backgrounds, possibly living and working under different models according to their own circumstances, needs and wishes. Yes, we found out over time that people have an enormous variety of interests and if we can adjust their working model to their preferences too, they will give their best when they are in a project, they will be happier, and the learning and networking environment at the company will be incredibly elevated and rewarding. This also applies to the delivery that these teams make to the clients, which gained a renewed energy and excellence.
So, in practice, what happened is that at WIN World, we continued to have people working here as full time workers, naturally, but we added new talents and experts, some working in part-time, some working three or four days a week, some working from home, some working temporarily for one, two, ten months, etc. Working models started to be designed with people and take into consideration the expertise field, the type of work, projects’ needs and people’s needs. This flexibility also allowed us to employ incredibly talented people that for some personal reason couldn’t fit traditional working models from 9 to 5.
This may seem a bit utopian but it’s not. Frederic Laloux became an authority on this matter and today this is in fact a global trend, for the productivity, happiness and health of both people and organizations.
For leaders, obviously that this is a new challenge but no doubt that it is much more fun and enriching too. For people too, because they play the way they wat to play. In December 2016, Carlota went to London to learn more about what is being called today ‘the portfolio career management’, and as a leader, she set the company to prepare, support and back people and to help them flourish happy and safely, technically, emotionally and financially, of course. We read a lot of papers and books, we made huge research on the modern lifestyles and the working models for the future and two years later, in 2018, when WIN World organized a huge international conference about Work 4.0, we found out that good part of the working transformation mentioned in trends’ reports have been experienced at WIN World already.
There is still a long way to go and the working dynamics evolution is a never ending story but it is important to refer that our transformation started in the end of 2016. A transformation that happened to bring a new life to the people, to the company and to the market. A transformation that took us to clearly assume that: at WIN World we genuinely love to explore and understand lives & careers’ dynamics and to support people on finding their own way to grow and make the difference at a larger and more meaningful scale, preferably with us, of course!
Loving a year of new and great projects, a year with a great team
No doubt that 2017 was a super year – a more solid and more meaningful year but especially, a year where we operated in a happier and healthier way.
WIN World kept growing in the fields it used to play but with a greater focus on larger projects, with more significant scales. National Geographic Summit and The School of Life Conference represent two examples of what we really love: we love ambitious, curious, thought-provoking, bold-minded people, committed to take their lives, businesses and institutions further and to make the difference at a larger and more meaningful scale. When these people call us to join them and to design and produce great ventures with them, what more can we ask? Is there anything better in business and in life? It was so, so, so good to work with Fox and National Geographic and with Alain de Botton and The School of Life in these two amazing global experiences that we have no words to express our happiness and gratitude. We never get tired to say thank you for involving us in such important challenges and ambitions and for trusting us to be the development partners.
But there were more: apart from these two new ventures, we had, as usual, the PBS Leadership Grand Conference and the Happy Conference, and we also had amazing corporate meetings that we loved to work.
A year of new and great projects, a year with a great team! Anaisa, Isabel, Benedita, Margarida, Maria, Inês, Beatriz, Rita, Francisca, Maria João and Pedro made the story and WIN World team became even more diverse, hyper-curious, non-obvious, kind, happy, super professional and extremely committed to evoke great and positive emotions all the way!
REDISCOVERING WIN WORLD’S ESSENCE AFTER 10 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE
We will have a whole new post devoted to 2018!
About the illustration of this post, it was done by Miguel Garvão in 2012. From an art and design perspective, it was his view on WIN World’s way. Ten years have passed and this drawing still illustrates our way, our purpose, our multidisciplinary approach, our immense curiosity and willingness to contribute to take people, companies and the world further. Thanks Miguel! You’re always with us, and you know it!