I recently had a business-life changing experience. Our company, digital-telepathy, was once a full-service interactive agency for Web 2.0 companies. We provided business strategy, design, development and marketing services for web apps. We were pulling in about $300,000 a project. However, I started to notice that our team (including me) was constantly stressed and lacked the energy required to enjoy our projects and deliver innovative concepts. My outlook has always been that everyone should have the ability to enjoy every second of their life, regardless of work or play. I could tell we were failing at our own game.
Out of the blue, our biggest client fired us and then hired all of our developers. Panic time, right? Nope.
(Well, there was a little panic.)
But, after a tumultuous 24 hours and key conversations with my advisers, I was able to look inward towards the source of the breakdown and searched for an opportunity for learning and growth. When breakdowns occur, you have to stop and observe to the reality of the situation. Things happen for a reason – even in business. It’s crucial that you are able to embrace the changes that are presented to you. I knew that I had a strong leadership team that could turn a profit selling Chicklets. So instead of hiring new engineers for a rinse and repeat cycle, we rallied together and built a 30 day plan to redefine our company and make the revisions necessary to become a world changing organization.
We reviewed all of our services and decided to eliminate those which we were not “world class” at fulfilling and enhance those which we effortlessly excelled at. We dropped back-end development, marketing execution and other services that could be classified as commodities in a flat business world, even though these services accounted for 90% of our revenue. We realized that we had to be willing to give up that which made us comfortable in order to grow into an industry leading business. We identified that our core competencies were online business and marketing strategy as well as user experience design. These services are difficult to commoditize and, therefore, are also much-needed in an industry lacking solid revenue models and future scalability.
We discovered that delivering business strategy and better user experience(s) were our strong points, and also hard-to-find skills in our industry. We took on a new goal: to build a product that enabled entrepreneurs to transform their ideas into realities. We turned our services inside-out and started with the timeline and cost to define a consistent project scope. This enabled us to create a 90 day process that designed custom web applications and delivered our clients’ ideas to market quickly, without sacrificing the authenticity of the project. We now partner with the best development and marketing firms in the nation. In our new iteration, digital-telepathy operates less like a straight consultancy, and more like an executive producer for startups. This is how our new service, “Biz in a Box” was born.
We cranked out a new website, announced our business model to a few press contacts and made TechCrunch shortly thereafter. Thirty days after our breakdown we went from a disturbingly quiet office to a bustling hub of energy and innovation. We can barely keep up with our project requests–we gained nearly 100 new prospects–and have the luxury of choosing those we take on.
Here is the main lesson I learned from my experience:
Ignore how you “think” you should run your business. Start running it the way you “know” in your heart you can run it. Success will follow.
Running a business should be fun, and it can be, if we believe in what we do – and do what we believe in. Too many people are acting on opportunities for the for the sake of the opportunity. I would challenge you to act from the heart, and make your own opportunities.
‘Act from the Heart‘ in 4 easy steps:
- Make sure you believe in what you are doing; that it is more than just ‘an opportunity.’
- Recognize when you hit The Dip and don’t be afraid to quit things you do not excel at.
- Embrace your breakdowns. The reality of the situation is your only true source of knowledge and growth.
- Have faith in your employees and “team-source” solutions together. Your employees want to be involved in the process and will in turn feel empowered.
Chuck Longanecker is founder of the Web2.0 consulting firm, digital-telepathy, based in San Diego, Calif. Chuck will write again on Found|READ about his experiences with startup life, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, you can read more about digital-telepathy on the company blog.