How a Whaling Agency Grew 60% in 2015.
It starts with our boss, George:
After spending 7 years at DoSomething.org (where he oversaw the complete overhaul of their site — twice — and won a Webby Award), George founded Whole Whale at age 27 with the goal of helping more nonprofits benefit from the digital strategies he was using at DoSomething.
So, what do we do? Whole Whale is a digital agency that leverages web analytics and technology to increase the impact of nonprofits. In simple terms, we’re helping nonprofits use web data they already have to do what they’re doing even better. We’re helping them realize that hey — maybe data does matter in the nonprofit world and maybe it’s just as important as those heart warming stories.
George had incredible foresight to create Whole Whale in the first place, knowing that this field would be rapidly expanding in the coming years, but here’s what he did even better: he hired 3 motivated women pretty much straight out of college. Now, in our mid-twenties, we are helping grow a 5 year old company and shaping the way nonprofits think about analytics and technology. We had little experience in digital marketing, analytics, or tech before starting at Whole Whale. So, how the hell have we grown so much?
We knew we had to learn. Fast.
Because we came in with basic knowledge about analytics, marketing, and tech, we immediately went into overdrive. It’s like we were dehydrated and drinking all of the water (or information) we could get our hands on. We took courses. We read books. We went to conferences. We wanted to go up the learning curve as quickly as possible and become experts in our field.
We aren’t afraid to fail.
This is huge. We created a culture of experimentation. We don’t have expectations about the best way to complete a task or the best way to get a nonprofit to care about data. We are open to trying new approaches and figuring out the most efficient way to get something done. This obviously results in some failures, but the lessons we learn by executing and failing are sticky.
We get shit done.
George is a busy guy and one of Whole Whale’s biggest assets. We land a lot of clients because they see George speak at a conference and love what he has to say and the energy he brings to the space. He shouldn’t spend his time managing clients. There was a moment during my first week at Whole Whale when Planned Parenthood had a time sensitive request and George, the client manager, was out of town. I completed the task and then panicked — George wasn’t there. Should I just send it over? Should I wait for him to review it? “Screw it,” I thought, “I’ll just send it over. They need it now.” And although this seems silly now, OF COURSE I should have sent it over. He hired us to take work off his plate, not create excess. Being such a small company, we get to both manage projects (plan out work) and execute (either delegate or get it done ourselves). Being on both sides of the project (the planning and the execution) allows us to work independently and quickly. We also created a new rule: keep client’s off of George’s plate.
Now, about that growth.
In the time that we have worked at Whole Whale, we’ve seen incredible growth. In 2015 alone, we went from 11 to 28 clients, launched Whole Whale University, grew our email list by 103%, spent almost $1 million more dollars in Google AdWords Grant money for our clients, increased revenue by 60%, and by the end of 2015 our headcount was the same: 4 full-time employees — George, and the three of us women who he had hired pretty much straight out of college.
Clearly, something shifted in 2015. Whole Whale found another gear. Yes, because we are young we are hungry to learn, grow, and do more. Yes, Whole Whale offers unprecedented support and work autonomy. Yes, we have a cute puppy in the office that makes coming to work pretty awesome. But despite being four unique individuals (we’ve got an ENTJ, INFJ, ESFJ, and ESTJ — we’re big fans of Myers Briggs over here), we all have one thing common: purpose. We’re all passionate about the mission of Whole Whale and dedicated to helping nonprofits increase their impact. That purpose drives us to work harder, find better solutions, come up with new products, try new things, learn quicker, and grow faster.
Whole Whale’s goal is to achieve 1,000,000 learning engagements (via our free content and products) by the stroke of 2020. With 96,511 learning engagements under our belt, I think we’re well on our way.