Last week, I regrouped with my team at our annual planning meeting. We’ve come along way since we first launched ArCompany February 2013. What follows is my opening speech to my team. This one comes from the heart:)
Today, I’m smiling. There are many reasons why — not least of which that we are ALL here together. For the first time we get to meet each other face to face. Amy’s come a long way and yet, knowing Amy, she’s been here the whole time.
I’m smiling because I feel incredibly blessed to be surrounded by some pretty amazing people, who motivate me, who counsel me and who have contributed greatly to a business that I think, we’ve all grown to feel passionately about. I can’t believe that you continue to stand by me and this vision after all this time.
I’m smiling because as much as we’ve evolved, we are also making some serious revenue. And for a company that officially started a year and 5 months ago, I couldn’t have imagined we would see strong results just 6 months into 2014. It’s clear our message is resonating and we’re breaking serious ground.
Last year we were just getting our feet wet. We were excited. We wanted to change the world.
I remember when I first thought about starting this venture. The inspiration came to me when I was at my last start-up. I was in Hawaii, and chaos was brewing in Toronto. People were being laid off right, left and centre. Management was panicking and changed many things on a dime. The business model. The product. The audience. It was insanity. I knew my time was limited.
So within a short span of time this happened: I was laid off the day I returned from my vacation. Shortly after I took a trip to New York to attend a Social Business Summit. I had booked this some time in advance. It was there I came to a realization that I needed to pursue this notion of the Social Organization. After all, it was the next evolution to what I’ve been preaching and practicing all along. How hard could it be?
When I returned from NYC, my friend, Hugh Oddie, called me out of the blue after he heard what had happened. He asked me to come see him. I didn’t quite know what to expect. But he laid some significant groundwork (allowing me to delve into my past, my preferences, my propensities) to help me evaluate my strengths, weaknesses as I started to think about the next phase of my career. This dear friend has become a significant person to me and ArCompany. He’s one of the reasons we continue to march onward.
I want to read you an “excerpt” from this Business Framework Hugh had me develop. These were my early inklings of this vision I set out for ArCompany:
It’s amazing what time does to a person. If ever there was a time to take the bull by the horns, it’s now. So, here it goes…
My purpose is to make a difference and to die knowing that I affected some positive change in the world. Up until about 6 years ago, I didn’t really have a passion to do anything revolutionary. I just wanted to do some cool stuff. When social media came along, I knew something profound was happening and I needed to get on the bandwagon. I felt the same way when the Internet started commercializing in the early 90’s.
I think we’re on the edge of a communication revolution that will turn traditional organizational structures on their heads and I don’t understand why they don’t see it. I have been frustrated the last few years because as mainstream as social media is, organizations are yet to really understands it yet, or how it will eventually affect business in the short and long term.
Agencies don’t do it well. IMHO, they, largely, just F**K things up for the rest of us trying to evangelize this. It’s more than just promotion. It’s more than just a channel. It’s about a fundamental shift that requires tools and technology to enable companies to adapt and succeed.
My purpose now is to learn everything I can about how this is all going to change and to help businesses transform. I want to be ready when the stampede hits.
By learning, I remain relevant. It’s the only way I’ll be able to keep up and provide any sort of value.
My purpose is to see this current vision through and to do what I can to make it work.
Recruiting…only the best
Shortly after this I began recruiting some pretty talented people.
I spoke to Andrew about my vision and he bought in. I knew Andrew from before my last start-up and for someone as seasoned as he was in the e-commerce space it totally made sense that he join.
Shortly after, Danny Brown introduced me to Amy, whom I liked right off the bat. She was spunky, outgoing, and was looking for something new. My gut said yes to Amy. It was clear she had the passion and the skills. To this day, Amy’s become the team cheerleader… the lone American… and my prime motivator. I recruited like mad–everyone I thought would have a significant role to play.
I wanted to only hire the best. As it were, I brought in way too many. For a company that didn’t even open its doors, it was already getting too unwieldy, managing schedules and meetings. Amy convinced me of that. So we cut it back to a manageable few. This is one of the many mistakes I’ve made early on. As Amy profoundly notes (and has stolen from Zuck),
I was moving fast and breaking things… the earlier, the better!
And then Bob came along, who offered a an invaluable perspective that was beyond my experience or skill set. Bob’s become somewhat of a mentor and teacher of sorts, to this day.
Repositioning… to NSA??!!
Remember our first team meeting? It was about a year ago, May. We realized early on that we needed to reposition. No one understood social media — STILL — let alone, social business. We needed to take a step back. We needed to shift to where the demand was. Clearly, we needed to simplify our message; to bring focus to something other than this “change management”.
That’s when we moved our positioning to focus on the intelligence derived from social media and its inevitable impact to drive business results. THAT seemed to work. The message resonated with our pitches. Amy jokingly said to me —
I tell people we are the NSA for business” and they get it right away
Since then we were able to bring in clients of different sorts:
- Higher Ed Points, Miik who put their trust in us without knowing enough about the merits of this medium;
- Mavens who got what we were about and wanted to drive our skills to new levels – like Jim Young;
- A wavering medical scrubs company, Medelita, that was skeptical at first, but succeeded in spite of themselves;
- BMO, Scala Network, Canada Media Fund, Rotman, Post-Media, Dell –companies vested in the new ways to sell;
- A traditional not-for-profit, AKFC whose culture was counterintuitive to the likes of social but were presented immense opportunities to grow and evolve;
- An agency named Patch – whose awesome clientele, Tosca Reno and TVB, both of whom, have witnessed strong opportunities to scale and deepen engagement within the right communities;
- And even a reluctant, but curious start-up, Virtual Next, that has experienced the true benefits of value content and community optimization;
- And finally, an already successful university apparel company, League Collegiate Outfitters, that are now delving into an awesome social strategy to build their brand presence;
- And the list continues to grow:)
Within a span of 6 months our collective talents grew this client list — so far — to the point of surprising and delighting our clients. And we’re not done yet! The promise of another new client opportunity will bring ArCompany to incredible heights as we begin yet another journey to a road so far untravelled.
We’re a kick-ass group… if I must say so
I love that we’re always thinking of new things to do to build our business. Amy’s relentless passion to build a medical professionals community; and now the rise of Millennial Matters is building a new and exciting chapter at ArCompany–one that I plan to keep nurturing.
We are all thought leaders and we are prolific. And that comes through in our writing. Bob’s The Four Magic Questions (4MQ) and Vision – A Declaration to Just Do it blogs were phenomenal pieces that need to stand out.
Andrew’s public speaking persona is one to contend with as he develops a social selling standard that we could be proud of.
I have to say, in the time that I’ve known you all, I’ve come to trust that the team we’ve put together is the right one. We have the diversity, the skill-set, the personality to balance each other well. We also have the passion and commitment to make this work.
We trust each other and we’re transparent with each other. It’s this continuous dialogue that will keep us connected and continue to keep this company nimble but driven to purpose.
I’m excited to see what the coming months bring. In the end, I know I’ll be smiling.
Founder at ArCompany, and Co-founder of Salsa AI, Hessie is a seasoned digital strategist, and intelligence analyst having held senior positions for top ad agencies including Ogilvy, Rapp Collins, ONE and Isobar Digital. She also has extensive start-up experience in social tech, online publishing and artificial intelligence like Yahoo! Answers, Overlay.TV, Jugnoo and Cerebri AI. Hessie is the co-author of EVOLVE: Marketing (as we know it) is Doomed! She is also an active writer for Cognitive World, Towards Data Science and Marketing Insider Group.