Digital marketing agency? Creative tech agency? Consulting company? How about – a hybrid!

Starting off your career in one field and building your personal brand like I did in social media, you find yourself marked with that area for a long, long time afterwards. Which is not bad, not bad at all, but tends to be limiting, especially when you feel there is so much more you want to do.

When I decided to open my own company and did it back in 2013., my goal was to use all of the knowledge and experience I have gained so far in my previous work that focused heavily on social media and digital marketing and grow one step up. At that time I was alone, cashless and ready to start working on anything just to start warming up the engines.

 

Learning from partnerships

Few months after, I found myself in a joint venture with local branch of an advertising giant Grey Group, working with clients on digital campaigns and managing social media creative and implementation. The engines have started which was great but my dream was stagnating. I was stuck doing the same thing again, just with less people and bigger responsibility on my shoulders. Bravo Ida, you fool, I thought to myself, desperately trying to keep the motivation up. Then, a friend told me once: keep an eye on the end prize. In my mind, the end prize is to do what I love, to work with people that inspire me, to create big things that make impact – on a global scale. More than ever, I knew I had to be patient, take things step by step and learn along the way.  

Since I find that episode of my business life very important I will state the things I have learned during our time of joint venture partnership with Grey Group which ended January, 1st 2016.:

    1. TVC copywriting, ATL, BTL, production, pricings on certain offline services, graphic design, big ideas, long ideas, difference between art direction and creative direction – yes, I had no idea what that meant before
    2. big agency networks operations – I have learned how big ad agencies work on an international level, how to setup and track a complete PnL
    3. what it means to make a collaboration and partnership with different mindsets – coming from a fully digital perspective, I realised I lived in a bubble and that in order to dig deeper in the field I love, I need to go wider – though it sounds like a paradox

 

Building the right team – intuition driven

People were always the ones that made all of the difference, especially in a smaller organisations. Just think about it. You bring one designer and your firm goes in one direction. You bring one developer, the focus is on sth else. You bring a PR person, it’s the third thing. In the end it may all turn out the same but the path you take is completely different.  

So, when I was hiring people into my team I had few crucial criteria that I tried to hold on to. The most important one is to trust my gut, my inner feeling. Why? Because if I were just to trust numbers and facts that would enable me to hire when the time is right. And the time is never right when you are an entrepreneur.

That’s why I decided to trust my feeling and create the right time when it comes to bringing right people on board. And in order to do so, when I felt that moment, I asked myself few things:  

    1. is this person somebody who knows something you don’t from who you can learn and grow in new segments?
    2. is this a person who can move the company forward with his/her thinking, knowledge and attitude?
    3. is this a person that will make a positive impact on others?
    4. is this a person who is ready to disrupt herself/himself and learn along the way?
    5. is this person caring, respectful, honest and good, maybe even little bit crazy but crazy good? is the energy I’m getting from the other side right?- this being my most important criteria (I will write about this one in some other article)

In the first 1,5 years I managed to bring in few important people into team that helped agency to grow in digital marketing field, grow some reputation and set out the right roots: Filip, Ivana, Tomislav, Denis, Ivan, Silvija, Stjepan, Luka. Filip, Tomislav, Luka and Stjepan are not with ENTG anymore but they are finding their purpose in other companies and their own businesses which I am also happy about. Ivana (content manager), Denis (lead design), Silvija (designer), Ivan (senior account executive) are still very much part of our common purpose at ENTG.  

ENTG hybrid company team members in HUB385

Creating the right timing instead waiting for one

And then something happened in 2015. when I knew that the time should be made right for a tipping point decision, because it would mean that we would take a whole new direction which I was, trust me, dying to take. Velimir was working for another digital agency and we collaborated on some projects. One day he invited me for a lunch and told me that he is thinking about changing his job. He was a real tech guy, also very experienced and that’s when, for the first time I knew – here is a person that fits all 5 criterias that I wrote above and we need to get him in the team. Plus since we collaborated before I knew that we had a great joint energy. A month after our talk, Velimir joined as our creative tech director. And the firm started shaping more in that direction which I felt strongly is the right way to go.  

One of the first results of that way of thinking was creating face recognition and customer insights based productEmily together with companies Span and InfoCumulus. Our first software/hardware product which is now piloting in some of the most important European markets.

Emily team at Web summit 2016.

Adding a strong business and marketing strategy layer

Second of these “creating the right timing” moments happened one day in, I think it was February/March of 2016. Velimir and I have just finished a meeting with a potential client. We got out of a meeting where we talked about strategic business thinking and strategic approach to marketing. We knew we had strong strategic understanding at tech and digital marketing level but we knew we needed something more, somebody who understands different types of strategy, who will join us and make a synergy together with us which will result in creating a completely new way of strategic approach.

And that’s when I decided to approach the point of making a right timing in an even crazier way. Not only I called my future strategic director without even looking at the numbers but that person was also my close friend (which, until then, I had a strong belief that you shouldn’t mix). To make things even better, I called a friend who stated quite clear to me just weeks ago that she wants to become a mother very soon. Soon to be mother or not, I did not care about that, I was fine with both scenarios because I just knew she needed to come since I saw her being the important puzzle in our future growth. 2 months later, Nada (after very very long assessment centre and playing a cat and mouse game – that’s what you get when you try to make a deal with your friend :)) became our chief of strategy.  

 

Structuring creativity

Our internal and external approach completely changed. Nada brought in fresh thinking (yes, traditional marketing people tend to be fresh thinking in a digital mindset) and much needed better structure. That resulted with bunch of new brainstorming methods and bunch of new frameworks (that she will cover in upcoming articles).

All of that has made our company start producing more ideas, better ideas, and more structured ideas. Which are coming from every single person in our team. Ideas not only for clients, but also for us. The only problem with that was…so many creative tech ideas with firm structure and creative and beautiful design in mind but no one to actually develop it.

Ida Pandur building ENTG hybrid company in office HUB385

In-house development or not?

Even today I remember two conversations I had with Velimir on hiring and building our own development department. In the first one, he was like, it’s better to outsource – we manage the ideas and project lead, others develop. I have done several projects already and was like – we will need our own developers for what we want to build. Then Velimir took over few projects that required development outsourcing. A month later we’ve published our first developer job ad. Berislav was hired as our lead developer and recently also Zoran was hired into Berislav’s team as well.

Also, Sanja came into the full team – she was promoted from an intern to our office manager and comm assistant to help me keep complete backbone of the company together. And Antonia, who is our intern that has been with us for some quite time now.

 

The results of our approach

Results of all of our activities in the past 1 year:

    1. we have 3 internal prototypes in progress that our R&D department is working on – some software, some hardware
    2. we have started collaborating with consulting companies and we are working on high level marketing strategies and problem solving challenges
    3. we have implemented SCRUM into our development projects
    4. we are developing our own methodologies for creative processes which enable us to effectively get the best out of our people’s heads – and client’s as well
    5. we have done the 1st hardware proof of concept for a client – successfully
    6. we have delivered brand book identities and go to market strategies
    7. we have our first TVC in production
    8. we’ve done 1st major website for a large client completely in-house – and some more afterwards
    9. we came up with internal gamification and review system that we just started testing (we will also write about this more)
    10. we have also lost some of the digital marketing pitches but that’s ok – that enabled us to learn about what and who we should focus more in the future —> which we already have with the extra time we’ve got

When I look at all of this, I feel proud and super excited because the inner feeling tells me: we are on the right track, baby, we were born this way (Lady Gaga knows :))

Even more because I haven’t even covered some of the things that are going on. But hey, I gotta leave sth for the next one, right?

 

From digital marketing, to creative tech and to hybrid company

The most difficult question to answer sometimes is what type of agency/company are we. I honestly don’t think there is a right name box we could fit ourselves in. The closest to that is creative tech & strategy company. But realistically, we are a HYBRID company or as some might say – agency 3.0. A hybrid bunch of people that look and work together in the same direction and that gain a new meaning and a new upgrade with every situation and person they come to contact with. Which brings me back to those points of hiring. In a culture like ours, these points are crucial. And it’s funny how this points are everything but facts. And that’s what makes them great. And that’s what, I strongly believe, is going to make us chase our dreams even further.

So if you want to join, or be part of the story as a client or a partner, we invite you to contact us so we can become each other’s entourage.  
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