Small Business, Big Brands: Converge SE 2015

The Web Development Group's ConvergeSE t-shirt

When I was asked to give a talk at Converge SE last week, I knew exactly what I wanted to focus on. Since WDG was founded 10 years ago, we’ve made some enormous strides. From a development-focused shop, we’ve transformed into a full-service creative agency that has partnered with some of the biggest brands out there.

One of the most frequent questions I get is “how did you accomplish so much in so little time?“. Success is never easy, but there are 3 things that really helped The Web Development Group grow at the rate it did. I want to share those insights with you, and hopefully you can pick up a few helpful pointers.

Seek Partnerships

When you’re starting out as a small business, it can be hard to keep afloat without a life vest. One of the smartest things I did was seeking partnerships with competing—yes, competing—agencies. Because we started as a development firm, I first offered our services to surrounding design agencies who might need extra help.

As we continued to do more work, those design agencies actually started referring clients to us! Seeking partnerships was a great stepping stone and a way to build deeper business relationships.

Get Out and Network

Everyone hates networking, but it’s absolutely crucial for your small business, especially in the early stages. If you’re feeling nervous, try this tactic out. When going to a networking event, I like to take a networking buddy along. We play a game where the person with the fewest business cards collected would owe the other person dinner. Trust me, it’s a good motivator. If you treat it as just starting conversations with people, instead of “networking,” you’ll be a lot more confident.

Give Back

Once you get into a groove, it’s easy to have a “profit, profit, profit” mindset. Creating an annual giving initiative, GiveBack DC, was absolutely pivotal for our growth. By using our web design and development services to benefit local non-profits, we really stood out as the agency committed to social good. When we pitched to larger nonprofits, they liked seeing we had helped smaller nonprofits. In many cases this actually helped land deals.

Being a small business is tough business, but if you are strategic about your actions and goals, you can achieve a lot. Have any questions I might be able to answer? I’d be happy to help—drop me a line.

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