This year marks 25 years in business for Axiom. A quarter of a century spent helping our clients around the world achieve even greater success, through improved internal communication, greater levels of employee engagement and enhanced skills.
In this blog we explore the genesis of the organisation and look forward to what the future might hold. As you’ll see, we’ve often done things a bit differently, and it’s safe to say we’ll continue to do so.
First though – and most importantly – we’d like to thank the many customers who have trusted us with their most precious assets, their hopes and plans for the future and the motivation of their people. We love what we do – and by working in partnership, you’re a big part of that.
The journey to where we are today has seen us adapt and evolve through everything from seismic demographic shifts to globalisation and massive technological changes to a couple of recessions and now, a worldwide pandemic. Rather than drown in the seas of change, we’ve always surfed the waves, with what our customers call our ‘infectious enthusiasm’; putting a smile on as many faces as possible as we chart a course to help our clients deliver their goals.
From 1996 to 2021
The world was a very different place when Axiom was created 25 years ago; for a start, we were operating with dial-up internet, a reference many readers may need to ask their parents about, and ‘Zoom’ was best known as a song by Fat Larry’s Band. (Again, ask your parents!)
Nevertheless, we’ve always made the most out of the available technology, holding client and team meetings via mobile devices and webcams from the get-go – and ‘going live’ to CEOs in events via satellite when that tech came on stream.
Despite the changes in the tools we use, the fundamental needs of those we serve remain the same today – to inspire their people to get on board with organisational strategies. To align an entire team to deliver a shared vision. To upskill their leaders. To meet the communication and engagement needs of their people. And through them, deliver success to the extent that their stakeholders can feel the difference.
These are challenges that aren’t going away – and our experience in addressing them continues to pay forward. Technology may have changed, but one thing has stayed constant; the need for effective communication with the workforce. And it is that passion for making a difference for people – and through people – that has burned bright for 25 years and shows no signs of diminishing.
From the beginning
Chris Carey, Axiom’s founder and Managing Director, started the business with a desire to make a positive impact for as many people as possible, in a way that he couldn’t when working as an internal communications adviser for a single organisation.
The name, Axiom, was chosen for its very definition:
Axiom: noun. a statement or proposition which is regarded as being established, accepted, or self-evidently true.
That name looked like a good fit for a business dedicated to driving up engagement with organisational strategies, but it also benefited from being found early in the dictionary, thus cutting short a meeting on the topic and explaining why Zenith Communications was never even considered.
From his early days in retail operations and a career in leadership development, Chris had seen first-hand how poor communication could negatively impact staff morale, performance and levels of trust in ‘head office’ people and their policies. That’s what got him involved in what is now called employee engagement in the first place.
Setting up Axiom, with a group of like-minded colleagues, each with their own areas of specialism, was all about helping people thrive at work, from the ‘shop floor’ to the ‘top floor.’ The same holds true today, in so many sectors and all around the world.
Axiom cut its teeth helping organisations communicate effectively with colleagues who had recently joined them, often through mergers and acquisitions, or outsourcing deals. The latter saw huge numbers of people arrive on the outsourcer’s payroll overnight; many without understanding why, much less being keen on the idea.
So many of the experiences gained during those early days have paid dividends going forward, with the Axiom team amassing a huge amount of practical experience about communicating in times of change – and doing that properly has perhaps never been as important as it is today.
The first step is always to build a deep understanding of a client organisation, where it has come from, where it is now and where it wants to be. Especially key is identifying the experience they want their stakeholders to enjoy and work out what success will look like. Next, we explore the employee perspective. What do they know now? What is important to them? How can they help deliver success? Then we work out the best way forward to meet everyone’s needs as best we can, often through creative means… doing things a little differently.
For example, our approach to explaining the ‘big picture‘ for an organisation involves harnessing two of the most effective communication techniques ever devised by man, visual imagery and storytelling techniques. And we often bring both to life through highly interactive, carefully facilitated events, roadshows and local briefings. And we once put a nationwide cascade briefing about strategy in a tin – a plan in a can.
As Axiom’s experience increased, so too did its reach, working in a wide variety of sectors and all around the world. The business grew by word of mouth and reputation and we’re proud to say that some clients have remained with us since those early days;
‘I have had the great pleasure of working with the Axiom team over many years right back to 1996 when we first met on a complex client engagement in Northern Ireland, right up to very recently at National Nuclear Labs and many times in between. Axiom has been my go-to Comms and Engagement consultancy for the last 25 years. We have jointly achieved some awesome things and I am sure many others can say the same. I have never had any doubts when recommending Axiom to senior execs because I know they will produce the goods. They are true professionals with boundless knowledge on all things Engagement and Comms. Congratulations on 25 years.’ – John Byrne
Lining up to make a difference
Just like our clients, some Axiom team members have been around since 1996, whilst others joined during lockdown and so haven’t actually met fellow collaborators in person yet. The contribution our colleagues have made, as part of the team, to the success of our clients over the years is truly appreciated.
Our talented conference producer and technological whizz-kid (yes, still a kid 25 years later), Hugh Price, has been with Axiom from the start and has seen first-hand how developments in technology can change how people engage with their organisations. Although technology has created exciting opportunities for event production, Hugh says that ultimately ‘It’s all about what people get out of it; events need to be interactive and engaging to get the best outcome, people don’t engage when they’re being talked at.’ Technology has helped enhance this, with tablets, electronic handsets and now remote access helping people avoid the shyness or fear associated with speaking up.
In contrast, after a career with ‘the big four,’ Michelle Nicholson joined Axiom at the start of lockdown in 2020, a challenging time to join a new organisation as so many have found recently. But Michelle was soon up to speed, taking full advantage of Axiom’s expertise in remote working. Indeed, one client couldn’t believe she was the new girl, and thought she’d been with Axiom for at least twenty years.
‘There’s a lot of job satisfaction in seeing the changes that quite quickly occur within organisations when we work with them. I’ve seen clients make huge shifts in their approach to communications, taking on board the ways of working we’ve coached them in and embedding those techniques to create real transformation within their organisation, especially in meetings, events and new initiatives.’
The Axiom team is made up of people who are subject specialists across a wide range of sectors – this richness of experience means we are ideally placed to provide the very best support to our clients, whatever their needs. But the real power lies in blending our expertise and experience in these different areas to create the best possible return on investment. There are eight key specialisms that tie into this, ranging from leadership coaching and virtual conferencing to skills development and communications measurement.
What brings everyone together is our passion to help organisations achieve their full potential by better engaging, informing, aligning, training and motivating their own people. One client called it the ‘Axiom multiplier’, commenting on the symbol that forms part of our logo to this day.
Helping people thrive in a fast-changing world
Right from the start, our clients tell us that we’ve kept our finger on the pulse of emerging trends – quickly adapting to evolving challenges, to find the right solutions for our clients.
Harnessing the latest technology and techniques, especially in ensuring that conference and event participants can authentically engage with speakers, panelists and indeed one another, has been a recurring theme. Again, the challenge remains familiar, the solution evolves over time – to continue to meet the bespoke needs of our clients.
Offering innovative ways to solve communications and engagement challenges is in Axiom’s DNA, as is our straight-talking and open style of working – always in the spirit of finding the best possible way forward, with a can-do attitude and a smile on our faces. As Michelle puts it: “Whilst our skill sets are different, the way that we are able to have authentic conversations and share the same ethics – ultimately because we all want the best for our clients – means we deliver results time after time.”
This often extends to helping our clients become more self-sufficient going forward, for example by coaching their people to be more effective leaders, presenters, facilitators and communicators. Indeed this inspired the creation of a popular book called ‘How To Be a Better Communicator’ which is now in its second edition (and available here).
The importance of measuring the success of communication remains key. Benchmarking the current situation, creating a plan to improve it, adding our ‘pixie dust’ as one client in the pharmaceutical sector puts it, and then measuring again is something we always try to build into our programmes. That could involve simple surveys, one-to-one interviews, or these days an App that we helped to develop .
Adapting to the new world
Remote working, flexible hours and a network of experts in their field, playing to their strengths from remote locations. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this was a description of a modern, post-Covid workplace – but at Axiom, we’ve worked that way for decades.
All this makes us flexible, quick to react, truly modern… and highly experienced, with a solid track record.
So, when the world of work changed, due to the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, we were able to pivot, quickly and easily, to the fully virtual world. After all, we’d been doing it ourselves since the early days of the business. And of course we’d been using technology to connect people around the world for years, perhaps because of environmental pressures, budgetary constraints, or because an Icelandic volcano was spewing ash into the air grounding international travel.
Guiding our clients through this new environment felt like a small step, in relative terms. The difference was that, like so many around the world, we worked virtually all of the time, instead of just some of the time.
And before Covid came along, we were already noticing a move, with some clients, towards virtual or hybrid conferences or meetings; the pandemic has simply accelerated the process for a lot of businesses, and we are ideally placed to help them.
Looking to the future
We don’t think there’s ever been a more exciting and challenging time to be involved in communications and engagement. In the coming years, we’ll continue adapting to what people and businesses need and expand our portfolio of services to the sectors we work with.
We’re particularly excited to discover more ways to use technology to bring people closer together; the possibilities for using green screens, virtual reality and pop up studios are endless and we can’t wait to harness them.
Creating and curating Psychological Safety is another area that we believe has always been important, but now, in the Covid era, is more so than ever. We are committed to driving action and change to ensure everyone feels comfortable being themselves, has a voice, and feels able to share it with candour and without fear. This drives benefits in so many areas – and reflects the new ways of working necessary for success, both today and in the future.
While it’s not ever possible to convey the full extent of the journey we’ve had over the last 25 years, this post is designed to describe the essence of Axiom and our unchanging passion for what we do. The thrill we get from strategising and then implementing programmes that make a real, tangible and positive impact on the people and organisations we work with has never faded. If you’d like to be part of the next chapter, get in touch.