Two years ago, with zero technical insight and limited business experience, I chose to take the leap from teaching in order to join my husband in running our growing Drupal agency.
At that time, Five Mile was flooded with projects, all sorts of projects and in nearly all cases, our clients were local or international design agencies. We were working hard, incredibly hard and the projects went well but ultimately, running almost exclusively as a white label agency was helping others to grow their business whilst far-reaching consequences were setting in for our own.
White label work can be good to do, it can certainly help you to grow your business and as it did for us, it can help you to upgrade from working out of the garden shed (admittedly, it was a very lovely garden shed!) but it needs to be managed carefully or the legacy can be long lasting. Whilst your clients keep you busy with flat-out work and pay you promptly in order to ensure your services stay on tap, you can easily loose the energy, time and insight for developing your own business.
The risk is that you become insular and fail to see the bigger picture, the wider community and end up with no real profile of your own. Worse still, the demands of your clients can leave you with no time to get out of the loop and start creating your own identity. In the case of Five Mile, I could see how the continuity of work without the need to do sales, ever-more challenging projects that were helping the team to gather knowledge and expertise can mean the all-important business vision gets lost. In our case, few people knew that Five Mile was a small team, bordering on agency and actually doing really good stuff with Drupal.
DrupalCon Prague was a turning point, it was time to break the white-label cycle. Cue a company shake up by my joining the business and working alongside our newly joined account manager Louise, who thankfully does come from a marketing and project management background, we were able to begin the process of saying goodbye to white label and hello to confidence.
With new clients and bigger, more innovative projects, our developers have had the opportunity to really cut their teeth on some amazing work. What's more, we've recognised the need to plug into the right consultancy support. Most recently we've had the opportunity to work with the insightful and inspiring Lizzie Hodgson and that has been invaluable for our team. Finding a business mentor was another good move.
Before joining the business, I could see a culture of client-pleasing and saying yes to everything. It's good to keep customers happy and whilst a project might be right for your client, it might not be right for your team. By beginning to stop trying to do everything and focusing more on our key ares of expertise and strengths, we have been able to build up our confidence and start believing that we are as good as we are and to begin to stop being so shy and reserved about it.
In many ways we are starting over but with an incredible wealth of experience behind us. In so doing we are developing our own sense of identity that we hope to build on and to finally be able to get much more involved in sharing our stories and of course, much more contribution to the Drupal project.
Barcelona 2015 is my first ever DrupalCon and what I really want to know is how I, a non techy, can get more involved in Drupal and to learn more about how Five Mile can fit in with the Drupal community.