I didn’t know much when I started Paramore|Redd - now Paramore | the digital agency. In fact, I didn’t even know I was starting a business. But it’s been almost ten years now, which is a really long time. Brad keeps bugging me about writing a piece about our “history” for our new website and I keep thinking a) who cares? and b) I can’t remember what I did yesterday, much less do a good job of recapping ten years in business.
But tonight I had a two-hour massage by Andy “The Wonder Masseur” in the guest bedroom at my house (I’m serious). It was just a massage (although not just any massage) followed by foie gras and seared tuna in my kitchen, and then I got the idea for this piece…
You’ve already read the title so I won’t restate it here, I’ll just launch into 10.5 Things I’ve Learned After 10 Years in Business.
- Everybody is creative - or at least they think they are. The fact is that most people’s jobs aren’t much fun. So when a company decides they are going to build a new website, people get excited. They see a chance to express themselves, and once that starts it increases the time on the project by at least 25%. But not the budget.
- It’s arrogant to tell clients we know what’s best for their company. The client knows their business far better than we ever will because they work in it every day. What we can do is apply what we know really well, digital design, development and marketing. We need to trust each other - and listen to each other. Humility goes a long way.
- We must be prepared, but there’s hardly ever time to get that way. The more mature our industry gets, and the bigger our clients get, the more time we need to spend preparing before we kick off a project. But there is tremendous pressure to produce results right now. Our clients feel it and so do we, so the temptation is to “just dive in.” It’s usually a mistake. Preparation is key.
- Everything changes, including people and technology. This is both comforting and frightening. People grow and change. Technology advances. What we did yesterday - and possibly who did it and who we did it for - may not matter today.
- Slower is better sometimes. By the time a client hires a creative company they are very anxious to get the project done. They’ve been thinking about it and fighting for the budget, and they are just about to explode. But unreasonable deadlines are just that - unreasonable - and almost always unwise. Slow down. This is closely related to #3, above.
- Faster is better sometimes. Check the above and forget about it when you’re talking about media. Get on with it already. Analysis paralysis is, well, paralysis. Test it. Learn it. Do it better.
6.5 People are still judging digital media by traditional media standards. See my blog post about ad equivalency. Jeez.
- Our industry is confusing, and confusion creates fear. Clients feel they should understand how websites are developed and how digital media is delivered. They think it so much that it keeps them from making decisions. But this industry specializes and splinters more than any industry in history and not even the pros can keep up. Confusion creates fear. It’s our job to dispel fear.
- You gotta be profitable to stay in business. It’s true. The top priority of any business is to stay in business. You can’t help a client if you can’t stay in business.
- It’s really hard to be both really creative and really profitable. The idea of scalability in a truly custom shop is stupid. If it’s scalable, it’s NOT custom by definition. If it’s templated, it’s not custom. And if it’s not custom we don’t really want to do it.
- People leave. And when they do, they leave a trail. This applies to employees, business partners and clients. The effects of good people are evident long after they are gone. Same goes for not-so-good people. Not that there have been many of them, mind you. I’m thankful for all of them, and sorry that I didn’t appreciate both the good ones and the not-so-good ones while I had the pleasure of seeing them every day.
This is just the beginning of the things I’ve learned in the last ten years. If you think you’re seeing the beginning of a series, you’re right.
Thanks to all the clients, employees and partners who have made the last ten years so great, in particular kidd redd, who was my partner for the first 7 years. To see his effect on this company, just read the content of this site (much of which was written by him) and then check him out over at kiddredd.com.
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