Our first year in quotes

We look back at one year of diesdas.digital. Where has the time gone?

2016 was our first year in business at diesdas.digital and each week we wrote a blog post about what we learned and experienced. Ready to take a trip down memory lane? Here’s every single week from 2016 with a thought we had at that particular time + a short comment from the present. Let’s go!

Week 1: “Let’s get this party started!”

Being active on social media as a company is hard … some apps like Instagram and Snapchat don’t allow account switching, but what’s even more tricky is finding a voice for the company. Makes you wanna crawl back into your own account and simply post there. We definitely want to ramp up our activities though (making the classic mistake of talking about it instead of doing it … oh well).

I’d say it turned out rather well, despite the initial worries.

Week 2: “And suddenly it’s Saturday!”

Our corner of the office starts to look like we’re actually doing work. Mainly because we bought some equipment, like two shiny Dell 4k screens. Lars, our third partner in crime, is still working with his old company, finishing up a project, but he’ll finally be joining us next week!

We bought two screens and it was a big deal! Haha, early days.

Week 3: “MfG — mit fetzigen Grüßen!”

I gotta say though, meetings take up a tremendous amount of time … be it for advancing the ongoing projects or for keeping a steady flow of upcoming work. It’s challenging to make time for being in the zone, when you’re getting hammered with mails and messages and calendar notifications. That being said: A) It’s a luxury problem to have and B) it’s only been the third week, so everything being a bit chaotic should surprise no one. We just gotta find a better rhythm to get all this under control.

True that.

Week 4: “Vorsprung durch Hektik”

[…] yesterday I felt stressed for the first time, because things took longer, technology didn’t comply with my expectations and next week looks hectic already. Luckily my teammates didn’t lose their cool, we talked about the worries, made decisions on how to deal with the upcoming challenges and it’s all good now.

Being able to rely on your team is the best.

Week 5: “Report to sick bay!”

Overall project work is progressing well and we are handling the multi-project situation better than in the beginning. Just looking at the workload we could probably already get more people on board … which is a scary thought.

Oh yes, I remember how scary hiring a new person felt in the beginning.

Week 6: “Turning it to the Max!”

But then there are other days as well, when you look at the bank account and realize that clients take looooong to pay and that it becomes increasingly unlikely that we’ll have any kind of salary for January. When the paperwork is overwhelming, and everything moves so damn slow. When meetings fill the days and we’re behind schedule with the actual work. When I feel like it’s impossible to get into the zone to write code. When little things like buying a printer eat up so much precious time. When you start thinking about efficiency and that these little projects would need to be finished much more quickly to make sense financially. Then you feel the pressure. Oh well.

Relax, buddy! That’s just normal!

Week 7: “Brrrrraaaaak!”

It’s always astonishing when you get a phone call out of the blue and the person says they found us because a friend bumped into someone else on a train who knows Lorenz and that they need a website now. Mind boggling. If you are one of these people referring us, please stop by our office, we’re gonna buy you lunch!

This is still happening, most projects come in through recommendations. And the lunch offer is also still valid! 🍝

Week 8: “Woot? Two months already?”

We’re looking back at a packed, but extraordinary week … many meetings, even more email, but also steady progress, our first salaries, and a few interesting developments for new projects.

First salaries at week 8! Oh my, those were the days when I had exhausted all my meager savings and my bank account was down to 50€. 🙃

Week 9: “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this!”

Lots of people ask us if we work crazy long hours and only then I realize that this could be the norm. So for the record: No, we don’t. We start at 9 and finish around 7, pretty much every day. Like a regular job, but more fun!

Still true, most of the time!

Week 10: “Blue Steel, Le Tigre or Magnum?”

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t quite believe myself that I’d still be writing these posts by now. And yet: here we are.

Haha. Joke’s on me.

Week 11: “Singing, Schnapps & Schrippen!”

This week Max finally joined us full-time and in the office.

Yay, Max! 🙌

Week 12: “Man, this week was crap!”

Let’s cut to the chase … this week was shit! Lorenz started out being sick, then my laptop broke, followed by a project completely exploding, then Max got sick and Lars spent the whole week doing accounting. All while we’re working towards two pretty ambitious deadlines. Meh. Not fun.

I still love the honesty in this post. Not everything is always awesome. 😞

Week 13: Three months in and it still feels like the first week!

Next week we’ll vlog as much as we can through Snapchat, starting Monday morning! I’m gonna buy a selfie stick today, so shit’s getting real!

It was fun while it lasted. Definitely a goal for 2017: bring back the Instagram/Snapchat stories! 📹

Week 14: Full steam ahead!

Regarding project work we made fantastic progress, had a great vibe and lots of fun. An online shop we’re building is coming together, we officially joined forces with Dropscan and received the most awesome briefing in the history of project briefings.

I had completely forgotten about that briefing. Sadly it never became an actual project. 😥

Week 15: Crushed it!

These last five days might have been the best we had so far! Even though there was a shit-ton of things to take care of, we managed to get through everything with a smile on our faces.

Way to go. 🙃

Week 16: Booyakasha!

Sometimes good things take time to ripen and you can’t rush or force progress. Lorenz and I tried to wrap our heads around a web shop solution and how to integrate a very specific licensing model. In the end we cracked it and left the office happy, but it was fairly tough during the day.

This is obviously about the TypeMates website when still thought we could make the shop work with Shopware.

Week 17: We need to talk!

Man, running a company with four people is exhausting … so many opinions and so much time spent reaching some kind of consensus. This week we had to make a couple of hard decisions: regarding project work, mainly what to take on vs. what to reject and even possibly growing our team. One time we reached a solid 7 on a scale from 1 (all fluffy and rainbows) to 10 (shouting and throwing things).

Still haven’t been to 8, 9 or 10. 😙

Week 18: Tough decisions.

This week we made the tough decision to entirely switch out the technical foundation on one project, moving to a new framework and pretty much abandoning the work that was done in the past weeks.

Again, this is about the TypeMates website, when we decided to use Craft Commerce.

In other news we looked at office space and considered our options to grow our team, but in both cases we ultimately decided that we’re quite happy with the current situation, renting just a few desks, keeping costs low and dealing with the workload ourselves

That mindset didn’t last long. 😅

Week 19: Peace yo!

Earlier this week one project (a lead we had been chasing) suddenly turned into a pitch and it felt really good to politely decline: “Thanks a lot for the offer, but under these conditions we prefer not to.”

Good job! Would decline again!

Week 20: Tick, tock, tick, tock, …

Also we’re making new stickers. Bigger and better this time.

Yeah, that never happened.

Week 21: Business as usual

And so it happens that Max suddenly has a workshop to moderate and then I hear Lorenz on the phone, talking to a client setting up a project and then there’s a calendar invitation from Lars for a meeting at exactly the right point in time with the right people and all of this just feels really good. To be able to trust and rely on the others, not feeling the need to involve myself and everyone usually using their common sense. A++, would found again with these people!

Still the case, still a fantastic feeling.

Week 22: Design. Bier. Zack. Fertig.

Personally I find working with the students at HTW refreshing and inspiring because the use of technology and design is so different from the real world. Less driven by business goals, more experimental, more daring. Once you’re sitting in an office, with a salary and a job title, start discussing budgets and hierarchies, logging your hours, worrying about deadlines… then that playful ethos is lost. Not entirely, not necessarily, but to a noticeable degree.

I’m very much looking forward to being back at HTW next year, as well as Lorenz, who continues to teach there starting in January!

Week 23: The best is yet to come!

Speaking of money: We are finally at the point where we definitely decided to add a new person to the team … we have the projects, we have the workload across different disciplines and we feel that after half a year of working among us four, we need a fresh perspective and somebody to shake things up a little.
So we talked to a couple of people and while we could imagine working with each and every one of them, one person really stood out and ticked all the boxes. We’re giddy with excitement to get started, but it’ll probably take a few more weeks before we can say more.

I couldn’t say it back then, but I can now: hello Sharon! Great to have you on board! 👋

Week 24: Hang in there!

Up until June we had always been very careful about the amount of concurrently running projects and decided we’d rather operate under less pressure and stress, but now that we intend to grow the team, the situation is a little different. After all a new person is basing their life on the success of our company, so we better get it in the best shape it can be and build up a financial buffer. That meant accepting a few more projects which we might otherwise have declined, mainly burying Lars and Max in additional work.
I think we gotta be careful not to make this the norm. When there’s no time for joking around, discussing, experimenting and learning, then we lose the one advantage we have as a small company that can make its own rules.

Good thinking, still valid observations.

Week 25: Taking a deep breath.

This week had it all: A flight to Basel, project stress, coding, designing, teaching, workshopping, HTML5 ad banners, conference calls, building out an online shop, lots of Snapchat, a birthday, dinosaurs … but honestly all that felt small and irrelevant to me in the light of Thursday’s “Brexit” referendum.

🇪🇺

Week 26: Six months ago we founded this new digital agency — a status update.

Especially here on Medium you read a lot of posts from “founders” who preach that every “entrepreneur” needs to dedicate their whole life to the success of the company, especially in the first year, that it’s a big hustle which will impact your private life dramatically, might ruin your relationship, but that it’s all worth it somehow, yadda yadda. No thanks, all that crap wasn’t an option for us.
Work is obviously a big part of our lives, but it cannot consume everything. Similarly, not paying ourselves (and the people who work with us) a decent salary is unacceptable, as well as working long hours. We always said that this new company must be sustainable from the start, both financially and personally and we would stop if that wasn’t the case. Well … we’re still here, alive and kicking.

… we still are, half a year later! 🙌

Week 27: Here we go again.

That’s Nicolás Bonifer, an excellent front-end developer and all-around super nice person who’s gonna support us in the foreseeable future.

Nicolás is still with us and I couldn’t be happier about that! 😊

Week 28: diesdas.digital does Tough Mudder!

And then, 19km later, we finally reached the finish line … I was barely able to run at this point, my legs hurting like crazy, but at the same time super relieved and happy that we all made it without any major injuries.

Still the greatest team event of all time.

Week 29: Crew reporting for duty.

It feels like the last five days were mostly about preparing the ground for bigger things to come though. Next week everyone will be back at their stations and (most importantly) healthy again: We might kick off a new project, have a couple of client meetings, status updates and will conduct a workshop with good project prospects.

Back to office life, after all the mud, dirt and scratches of Tough Mudder.

Week 30: A wild project appears!

And suddenly it’s all worth it, because you can end an email thread with the Obama mic drop gif. #beingyourownboss

#nuffsaid

Week 31: You win some, you lose some.

The week started with a bit of a setback because a potential client we had been chasing for two weeks announced to go with a different agency, deciding against us. Obviously this is part of the game — you win some, you lose some.

Still a bummer … would’ve loved to work on that project.

Week 32: Bits and pieces.

… now that we’re working on bigger, more complex projects, combined with the overhead of accounting, new business and communications we just can’t do everything ourselves anymore. That’s why we started working with freelancers, which takes some load off our shoulders and is also a breath of fresh air creatively. However, this new situation comes with its own challenges.

Indeed it does. Observations are still spot-on.

Week 33: And then there were six!

Sharon Walsh is joining us as our first full employee!

And there we go, making it official. 🙌

Week 34: Let’s talk about pitches!

The presentation still wasn’t done though and we spent pretty much every available minute on it … in cafés during breakfast, in restaurants and thereby annoying waiters, even the hotel bar counter wasn’t spared.

This was for a pitch we ended up winning. Such a good feeling, when all that effort was suddenly worth it. 😊

Week 35: What it takes to start new projects

The point I’m making is rather that it’s always astonishing how much time and energy is required before a project agreement is reached and you can get to work.

Definitely something I completely underestimated before starting this company.

Week 36: Holidays… relaxing for one, stressful for the remaining!

None of us seriously suggested to skip vacation though, so we quickly decided in unison that something was fundamentally wrong with our approach if taking holidays should turn out to be impossible. After all we sell creative work and everyone’s creative energy needs to be recharged at some point, outside the office, away from laptops and meeting rooms, skype calls and trello boards.

Looking back at this whole year I wholeheartedly agree: No holidays are not an option.

Week 37: Our social media strategy

We are: Humorous and self-ironic, honest and transparent, curious and open-minded, leaving egos but not brains at the door, being approachable and respectful. These values and character traits should be transported through the tonality of our texts as well as the photos we post. It’s the common thread running through all channels.

I hope that’s still the case. 🙃

Week 38: The greatest job in the world

Humans are born to explore. That’s why I am curious about every new project we are working on or every new client we are working with. We can dive into so many industries from newspapers, to medicine, to type design and more, sometimes it’s mind-boggling — in a good way.

That’s Lorenz writing when I was on holidays and he is absolutely right!

Week 39: How to effectively communicate with clients (and your team)

Then there’s the hunt for the perfect office. Our plan is to move into our own office by the end of this year. We already spent time visiting possible office spaces and there is this one place we are quite excited about. The best part about it — we could have our own kitchen and that means office lunches for all of us! 🍕🍅🍝 Can’t wait for this to happen. Next week we’ll pay this place another visit to make office dreams become a reality. Lars and Max are already excited like lil’ six-year-olds and are requesting proposals for tables, chairs and the like. Such excitement!

Lorenz writing again. All these efforts are still ongoing and I also can’t wait. Six more weeks to go until we move into our own space. 👏

Week 40: Hunting for office space

But rarely you walk in and just know “hell yes, it’s utterly perfect”. Which is precisely what happened on Friday when we opened the door to this gem.

This was when we found the office of our dreams in Kreuzberg. 😍

Week 41: Taking time to reflect (ಠ_ಠ)

When emerging from the meeting room in the evening we had a much clearer picture of where we want to go, which goals we want to pursue and how to manage the upcoming challenges — with many actionable items which we will start implementing as early as next week.

We spent a whole day in a meeting room discussing about where to take this company. Reflection is absolutely crucial.

Week 42: The next stage of our company

We’re excited to have set course for what feels like the next stage of our company, now involving employees, freelancers, our own office and a growing team. In the future we will have these introspective meetings more regularly and also open them up for everybody, to get more perspectives and to ultimately make even better decisions.

This post outlines many decisions from that full-day meeting in the week prior. Some of them are in effect, some were neglected in the end-of-the-year-stress. Good reminder reading all that again.

Week 43: Pro-bono work… it’s complicated!

Those are fun, fortune and fame, and a project should at least fulfill two of those to be viable. If it doesn’t: don’t do it. This absolutely makes sense, from an economic standpoint. But we did found this company to have certain liberties, to break the rules sometimes and just do what feels right instead of always going for the most profit. And so when three guys came our way, with the idea to team up to organize a design festival next year, we decided to screw the three Fs and just do it.

The collaboration is still on-going, but we’ve been focused on client work in recent weeks. Hopefully we’ll get to continue this in 2017.

Week 44: Ten things we never saw coming

1. Take your time. Trust your gut feeling.
2. You gotta make money. Duh.
3. Understand your finances and the legal side of things.
4. Your required skill set is not what you think it is.
5. Every connection you ever made suddenly matters. Networking isn’t fun, but vital.
6. Everything takes much longer than you expect.
7. Everything is much more expensive than you expect.
8. Skip having your own office as long as possible.
9. Social media has immense business value. Good writing is your secret super power.
10. Miscellaneous smaller insights

Probably my favorite post from all this year. Worth a read, if I dare say so.

Week 45: Transparency is a double-edged sword

I am a firm believer that we will make better decisions if more people with different points of view are included in these discussions. For that to happen the decision making process cannot happen behind closed doors, but needs to be as open and transparent as possible. We have to send the message that this is not just the company of those who founded it, but it is for everyone to shape and weigh in on important matters. Transparency leads to trust, which leads to identification. As an employee, if you know what is going on, you can involve yourself when you feel it’d be beneficial or even necessary, which gives you a stake in shaping your and the organization’s future.

Very true and I hope it feels like that for the people working with us.

Week 46: Hello from the other side!

Before running diesdas.digital I was employed at a couple of companies and sometimes I’ve been kind of a dick. I liked to complain. These days, sitting on the other side of the table, I realize: Complaining is easy. Doing a better job instead? Really damn hard.

This whole year has been one of immense personal growth for me. This quote sums up one of the main insights for me.

Week 47: If not now, then when?

Ever since we founded diesdas.digital in December 2015 we were confronted with an onslaught of decisions to make. While the idea behind the company is pretty common and unoriginal (a digital strategy-design-development studio), we like to think that the way we’re operating is at least slightly unusual.

🙃

Week 48: Digital products are never done…

Especially in the agency business project timelines and budgets are too often calculated right up to the first launch and maybe include another week for urgent fixes, but then the team is quickly reassigned to work for other clients and the product just idles in its initial state. Clients who don’t usually build digital products often get this wrong, too, feeling relieved when the agency finally stops bothering them and everyone can go back to their regular duties. The important thing to realize here is that one will never build a successful digital product this way.

We’ve fallen into this trap as well this year and it’s an ongoing challenge how to balance active and new projects.

Week 49: Our birthday, a case study and we’re hiring!

So many things happened this week that it easily included the busiest days of this year and so we almost forgot that the 9th of December marks our company birthday. It was on that day in 2015 that we signed all the legal documents and made this adventure an official thing. However, one person did not forget and all the stress from the days before immediately vanished with this incredible birthday cake! Sharon brought it to the office on Friday to our biggest surprise and excitement… holy moly, look at us, it’s our faces on a CAKE!

My mind is still blown. 🍰

Week 50: December madness

Everyone who’s ever worked in an agency knows: December is by far the busiest month of the year. All clients want to get stuff done before everyone leaves for the holidays and so there’s an onslaught of tasks coming at you from all directions, with the whole Christmas thing added on top.

Indeed, December was tough, but we made it through together. 🤗

Week 51: Happy holidays!

We all worry about our jobs and careers enough already … these few precious days I won’t be hustlin’. The office is also closed and work resumes on January 2nd, 2017.

👍



That’s a total of 55 posts in one year, with one still to come. I’ll be very satisfied if we manage to be half as active in 2017. 😅

If you liked this round-up, we’d be very happy if you clicked the little heart below … you can also subscribe to this publication to get notifications for new entries! Thank you for following along in 2016 and see you for a final weekly recap on the 31st of December!

Enjoy the holidays,
Harry + the crew from diesdas.digital 💚


diesdas.digital is a nimble branding and product development studio in Berlin, featuring an interdisciplinary team of seven designers, developers and strategists, each with years of experience in branding, interaction design and programming. We create tailor-made digital solutions with an agile mindset and a smile on our faces.

Wanna team up for a project? We’d be delighted! Simply shoot us an email, reach out on Twitter, drop us a message on Facebook, or send us grimaces via Snapchat. We’re also on Instagram and we got gifs over on tumblr, just sayin’.

No matter the channel: We’re looking forward to hear from you! 🙌