Fewer Hats, Better Work

A year and a half ago, a friend and longtime client approached me and asked if I’d be interested in selling Artletic. It was totally out of left field. It weirded me out, actually. Artletic was seven years old at that point and I’d never considered that kind of thing. Ever. We had a few conversations about the idea of an acquisition, but the timing wasn’t quite right — for either side. So we shelved it. Many months went by and we continued doing good work like nothing happened.

Fast forward a few months… Artletic did some work for a household-name tech company, which was a cool experience. They also expressed interest in acquiring us. This, however, felt like a first date that is going just fine — until the date drops to one knee, pulls out a green box containing a shiny ring, and asks with total sincerity, ‘Will you marry me?’ We had to establish a relationship first to see if we were meant for each other. Things didn’t quite align there, but regardless, it forced me to think some more about the whole idea of an acquisition.

Pause for reflection

Right now, I’m my own boss. I have “freedom.” I am responsible for my own success (or failure). And I have a great team of colleagues creating fantastic work that our clients love. These were exactly the benchmarks I set out to achieve when I had the idea of starting a design studio. No joke. It feels like I’ve checked all those boxes, and it’s great.

Yet, there’s been this feeling, something isn’t quite ideal. Slowly, over many months, I’ve realized what it is — the hats. A sales hat… project management hat… payroll hat… bookkeeping hat… HR hat… tax hat (which is really five hats because we’re a fully remote company with each employee in a different state). Oh, and design and development hats! I’ve managed to offload the main pain points for some of those areas, but they still take up brain space. And my brain is feeling crowded.

I’ve come to realize that I need to make a decision: either put my efforts into building a great company or focus on design itself. I enjoy both, but feel myself being pulled in too many directions; not able to tackle both the business and design sides in a sustainable way that is up to my standards.

A place to hang your hat

Vancouver based ACL Software has been an Artletic client for over four years. That relationship began when a small startup we’d been doing design work for was acquired by ACL. The founder of that startup, Dan Zitting, is also the friend and client I referenced in the first sentence. Apparently he was a fan of the work we’d done, because he kept us on as the design team for his product within ACL. Post-acquisition, they started building more SaaS products. Artletic was involved from the beginning. And it’s been that way ever since. We’ve essentially been an extension of ACL and work extremely closely with them. It’s a great relationship. After thinking of new ways we could have an impact at ACL, I realized there was an opportunity for us to have influence beyond their products.

So, I wrote the most nerve-wracking email of my life: I pitched ACL on acquiring Artletic. They were extremely excited and couldn’t be happier to score our killer design team. This time, the timing was perfect.

And now, the future

I couldn’t be happier to announce that beginning in June, the Artletic crew will become a part of ACL Software. I get to hang up a bunch of extra hats and focus on doing great design. My team will be well taken care of. And aside from where our paychecks come from, better benefits, and occasional travel to Vancouver, most everything will remain the same for us. It’s certainly bittersweet to close down Artletic and all that it means, but I couldn’t be more excited for what we’ll be getting our hands into next.

This quote from philosopher and poet Lau Tzu sums up my feelings well:

Those who flow with life know they need no other force.

Without being aware of it, my wife and I have been living this principle. It’s also how I feel about this opportunity to join ACL.

A huge Thank You! to all the clients, friends, and peers that have helped Artletic grow over the past eight years — they have been the best of my life. Thanks especially to my wife, Brittney, who has supported me and Artletic to an absurd degree. And to the extraordinary designers that have worked with me to make Artletic what it is today: so much love.

Matt Crest
(Former) Owner of Artletic
Director of Design at ACL Software

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