HP, Wetpaint and Jake Burton made me contribute

It’s funny what makes you tick. I was reading this post on ReadWriteWeb today when this banner caught my eye.

HP Banner Wiki

Initially it caught my eye cause I wanted to find out what HP was doing. It turned out they was using the Wetpaint wiki tool for a campaign targeted towards smaller and medium sized companies. When I was inside I saw that one of the contributors was one of my sponsors from my snowboarding days – Jake Burton. My interest was raised.

(if you haven’t seen Wetpaint, pay it a visit – a will replace project tools, intranets, etc etc etc)

On the site they asked for contribution, very smart way to build content for their campaign and at the same time make people feel involved.

They got me. On the site they had a section called success stories. Basically they asked people who had started companies to contribute and share their stories. Said and done, I spent the next hour writing my story and sharing my learnings. What can you say…Planning is everything.

Anyway, since I wrote it I might as well share it here too.

A Foreign story

How I started my agency and what I’ve learned from it

Let me share what happened.

Since 1997 I had worked professionally with on and offline marketing for brands such as Nike, Toyota, Nokia, MTV and more. Since years back I had been thinking about starting my own agency. But I never really dared the step. Then in 2002 I just had enough of being an employee. I worked in a company called Abel & Baker, one of the worlds online marketing agencies at the time. And suddenly I felt that if I don’t leave now and start my own business I’ll never leave.

Said and done, I resigned and walked out the door. What a relief! When I smelled the fresh air outside the office that day I realized that I should have done this years ago.

Back in the end of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties I was privileged to be a part of the Swedish National Team in Snowboarding (actually was sponsored by Burton). At the time I felt indestructible, but since then I’d lost some of that feeling. When finally decided to go my own way again, that feeling came back to me and it felt good.

It didn’t really matter how things would turn out now, it was finally daring that was the major reward right now.

The first think I did was asking my former colleague and project manager Viktoria if she wanted to join me. It didn’t take her long to say yes.

Once I was out I started pitching my old contacts. One of my first ‘strikes’ was winning a job for a global adidas campaign. We were given the assignment to launch a new product called adidas a3. We rounded up a bunch of freelancers and 3 month later in August 2002 we launched our first global online campaign (18 languages) for adidas. It was a success! The campaign got awarded is major advertising awards such as Cannes, Clio and Epica. We were on our way.

What struck me quite fast was that this was no different than being an employee…ONLY that I could decide EVERYTHING for myself. And that was of course a BIG difference 🙂

We continued our strive for greatness (smiling) and kept on fighting for new accounts. In 2002 when we started the world was: 1. Not that ready for digital marketing. 2. Not in a great shape when it comes to financials. 3. Short on digital marketing competence. In other words, it was a challenge. Yet we kept on growing. My analysis of this is as I said before, it’s not different to start your own business compared to being an employee. After all, if you ad value to a company, you might as well ad the same value to yourself. And if you don’t…then you should change your line of business, because then you’re not of great value as an employer either.

It’s now been almost 6 years since I walked out of the doors at my former employer. Our company has 28 employees and we work with brands such as adidas, Omega, IKEA, H&M, BMW, Ladbrokes, Absolut Vodka, Intersport and more. Today we create both digital and traditional marketing.

10 things that made it happen. (in no specific order)

1. Doing things.
What ever you do, don’t over-analyze. Do instead. If something goes wrong you’ll learn from that. You can’t predict the future.

2. Hire people better than yourself.
Make sure you have a strategy for how to find the best people. Stick to it as well!

3. Find mentors.
I’ve always tried to find people who are very senior at what they do. Buy them dinner every now and then and soon you’ll have an invaluable source of information, advice and inspiration. The best relationships is when you have something to give back. In my case it’s always been the love for digital communication.

4. Don’t underestimate the force of PR
This is something we did in the beginning. We lost a year or two in our development of the company. Especially finding the right staff would have been easier if we had paid more attention to this. Now were better, but there’s a lot to learn.

5. Take care of your family.
Since start I’ve valued my family over my company. This means I rarely spend time in the office after 5 pm. This has kept me in great mental shape.

6. Keep yourself in good physical shape
In order to start and run your old company you have to take care of your body. This will make you fight harder when it’s tough.

7. Pay back to your staff
Every year we go abroad with all our employees. If we have a good year we pay a good bonus. We supply drinks and we make sure people have fun at work. This takes us through the hard times…those will come.

8. Never stop being curious
I spend about 30 minutes a day reading blogs on tons of different subjects to keep my brain going. I try out every new software there is. I buy a new mobile phone every quarter. I try to teach myself new things everyday. This keeps me on top of the competition (at least some of it 😉

9. Share
Sharing is caring. Make sure you share what you know, then you’ll get things back. Don’t ask for it now it will come back to you sooner or later.

10. Have fun
This is of course the most important thing. Let your heart guide you in what you do. I’ve met a lot of people that have clever ideas on how we should make more money, how we should be structured, how we should do PR. My answer has always been – I’m not in it for the money!

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