There comes a time when it’s necessary to change the routine. Today is one of those days. Last year was really hard for me, with all ups and downs—an emotional roller coaster.
Starting A Business Adventure
It all started with a creative job ad that had received over 80 job applications. There weren’t many requirements. Eager to learn and work hard from the comfort of your home were only requirements, everything else was negotiable. Although Emanuel and I are very organised by nature (or as some say—control freaks ;)) getting everyone on the same level was quite challenging.
We decided to create a detailed internal doc that explained our company culture in detail with different stages of projects: design, slicing, development, content upload etc. We also encouraged our employees to share their mistakes and experiences while working on projects so we can all learn from them. This proved useful for bringing new people up to speed on new technologies and internal best practices but written text isn’t really a substitute for face-to-face conversations and workshops.
Since I’m a strong advocate of new technologies I wanted us to stay small and flexible so that we could provide best value for money to our clients. We were one of the first agencies in Croatia to start building responsive websites, soon after offering them for a base price (today, 100% of our projects are responsive). Implementing new technologies (especially in the era of responsive web design) can be challenging when you’re working on several projects simultaneously—jumping from one to the other. Coordinating that with the whole team is not an easy task and proved harder than we thought.
Opening a physical office beside the virtual one was great but far from perfect. We didn’t want to move the whole team to our office location in Zagreb but for me and Emanuel physical office was really helpful and looking back I could say it was necessary—especially when working and collaborating on more demanding projects.
Conferences didn’t help either. Visiting conferences while managing projects and the team was not an easy task. With time passing by, visiting conferences would take a lot of energy and organisation to fit everything into a busy schedule, especially if you are preparing a talk or a workshop while handling lot of client projects. I wasn’t prepared for this tradeoff—I love conferences.
Last several months we were torn apart between two choices:
- Trying to further optimise our workflow so that smaller projects from domestic clients can still be financially viable for us, thus reducing the overhead of managing people and the project itself;
- Rising our hourly rate and taking our work to the next level, losing some of our domestic clients and employees along the way—but focusing on larger projects that paid better and proved more challenging in the long run.
Plan B And A New Beginning
One thing led to another and one of our employes and friends, Zoran, became a co–founder of our joint venture called Tailored Development. Separate company focusing on delivering full–service solutions built on WordPress. This was the first step. Three of us are flexible and competent enough to build the project of almost any size.
After two years, the challenge of trying to build a digital agency from the ground up with a great distributed team was too hard. I wanted us to compete on quality, not price.
Tl;dr. From now on, Emanuel and I will focus on interface design and front–end development while Zoran will be responsible for back–end development. A smaller team will allow us to focus more on our own projects as well, which I’ll write more about in the future.
Thinking About Your Health
Past year was hard for me personally as well. Working hours got pretty long and the stress and my vegetarian diet didn’t help either (Croatia isn’t exactly known for its vegetarian cuisine.) Less time for home–cooked meals and more junk food replacements caused health issues (gallstones specifically), and every several months I’d be reminded by the pain in my stomach. Two weeks ago the doctors performed a surgery and removed the gallstones, leaving me to my habits. This time I’m doing things differently.
When I look backwards, I can say we achieved a lot and failed miserably at the same time. In the end, I found out why I love my job. I’m not in it for the money—just for an opportunity to earn a decent living doing what I love.
I’m hoping this fresh new start will allow me to focus more on education and public speaking, as well to provide the opportunity to work on more challenging projects.