Xpand founder Jag Panesar.
Jane Imrie

Bdaily Festive Focus 2020: Xpand founder Jag Panesar calls for community spirit and collaboration in a world "turned upside down"

For our eighth Festive Focus this year, marketing agency Xpand’s founder Jag Panesar spoke to Bdaily about unlocking the power of flexibility in uncertain times, being a social creature in an antisocial time and the importance of community.

How has 2020 changed the way that you live, work, and think?

“Flexibility, for definite. As marketing professionals, we are programmed to plan, think strategically, and ensure that we dot our i’s and cross our t’s, always.

“But the unprecedented events of the COVID-19 pandemic forced flexibility upon everyone, and that’s something I quickly had to adapt to. I learnt to think more flexibly in all areas, and that included giving more flexibility to the team.

“The result was amazing, and I wish I’d learnt how beneficial flexibility could be earlier on in my career. It was almost as if there was a sudden sense of camorras. We were overwhelmed, but we were overwhelmed as a team.

“Personally, I also learnt how much of a social character I was! Not being able to mix with others made me really appreciate how much I thrived when surrounded by others, and at the same time also highlighted how resilient I was when life as I knew it was turned upside down.”

What has been your single biggest challenge and how have you overcome it?

“The single biggest challenge of 2020 has been managing the motivation of the team when things felt a little bleak. It was hard for everyone and I felt responsible for making sure that work wasn’t an additional stress for them.

“We felt the impact immediately, but as digital demand increased, we quickly became extremely busy and I knew I needed to rethink our team structure to ensure nobody was overworked.

“Outsourcing professionals was something I had never considered before but as I saw more and more people looking for work, I decided that I could help both them and the team by developing a good solid team of outsourced professionals.

“Collaboration has been our saving grace and it’s underrated in our industry.”

What has been the biggest unexpected positive to come out of this year?

“My wife and I recently purchased a new house and at the time, we never thought we’d get around to putting those personal touches to it.

“However, the pandemic forced us to spend more time at home and so our shared interest became making the house a home. We never expected to find so much joy in decorating!

“An unexpected positive in a business sense was our new outsourced model. I am so excited about the future because of the opportunities being a collaborative team will bring.”

What does your ideal Christmas look like?

“I’m a social creature and I love being out in a bar meeting people in the run up to Christmas. There’s a different vibe in the air during December and you usually find you make so many valuable connections just from being out having a drink and listening to music.

“Christmas for me isn’t a day, it’s an experience, a time to come together and enjoy good food, laughter, and festivities such as the German Market. I will miss that this year.

“Workwise, I love the atmosphere in the office. Everyone is talking about Christmas presents, bringing in nice treats and generally spirits are up. We have a lot of fun creating Christmas campaigns for clients also! In the creative industry, you get to be a part of so many other businesses’ Christmas’ and it’s like being a part of a huge family.

“I know we won’t get the shopping experience this year, but I usually really enjoy venturing out to do late night shopping and seeing the effort the local businesses have put into their displays, and the things they’ve done for the children in the local community. Guiseley does a fantastic Christmas Lights event for the community – they spend all year working on it!

“If my wife reads this she’ll blush, but I also really love the smile on her face when she opens her gifts in the morning, and when she sees me opening mine.”

How do you think people and businesses can support each other during 2020’s festive season?

“I’ve said it earlier and I will say it again, collaborate. Two minds are often better than one and by working together, small businesses can make a bigger impact.

“When the pandemic first hit, there was a sudden sense of community and people couldn’t wait to lend a hand, but that seems to be wearing off now. I think we need to bring some of that community spirit back this Christmas.

“We’ve heard it a lot, but it’s important to shop local where possible. £20 spent in an independent shop could make a massive difference, but £20 spent with one of the big players is like a needle in a haystack.

“Instead of work Christmas parties, business owners could order home delivery afternoon teas or food gift boxes from small providers and host at virtual wine and dine evenings, or the like.

“Another simple but effective form of support is engaging with smaller businesses on social media, whether that’s through the like of a page or sharing of a promotional post, it all helps!”

What does 2021 look like for you and your business?

“I know nothing is guaranteed, but 2021 is looking rather promising. There’s a strong demand for digital marketing services and I can’t see that changing.

“We’re heading in 2021 with an extraordinarily strong HQ team and a network of outsourced professionals, meaning we can offer an even greater service to our clients, old and new.

“Not only is our team growing, but we’re also more connected as a team. We always say that it’s as though we’ve been through a war together, something which we’re always going to remember.

“Even in years to come, if we are all in separate places, we will look back and remember where we were when we went through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am genuinely excited about 2021 as we’ve drawn up some exciting plans as a team and everyone is feeling energised and driven.”

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