If you saw my posting on Twitter or Facebook yesterday, you know that yesterday (February 16, 2004) was Old Hat's official 10-Year Anniversary. We had our party a couple weeks ago but yesterday was the official date. Ten years ago yesterday, yours truly was sitting alone in a tiny office at 763 Asp Avenue on Campus Corner in Norman wondering what the hell he had gotten himself into. I remember spending about $150 on office supplies and worrying that I couldn't afford it. I remember negotiating my $350/month rent and being sick to my stomach that I wouldn't be able to pay it. And I remember having a LOT of free time.
It seems like forever ago and it seems like just yesterday. We occupied about 100 square feet back then and now our office space is about 5,000 square feet. One employee and now 28. One Apple computer and now more than 30. One client and now more than 90. The only thing that has decreased in the past 10 years is the number of hairs on my head. In celebration of our 10 years in business, I have decided to make a list of the Top Ten things I have learned over the past 10 years (about running a business, that is).
10. Don't be a flake - I feel like one of the primary reasons we have had success is because we actually do what we say we'll do. So many creative agencies are known for missing deadlines, being unavaible, etc. But our focus has always been on giving our clients what they want as quickly as possible.
9. Always say yes - Sometimes a "yes" should be followed by a "but"... but we always try to start with "yes." Yes, we can turn that project around in a less than desirable time, BUT here are the restrictions and/or it's going to cost more. Yes, we know how to do a website that does that. Yes. Yes. Yes.
8. Slow and steady wins the race - I think that some companies simply grow too fast and don't take the time to build a proper foundation that can handle their success. Old Hat has definitely grown rapidly but we've always limited our growth to what we felt like we could handle without sacrificing the quality of our work and of our customer service.
7. Give back - Take some time to do something to give back to the community that allowed you to prosper. We have done an annual fundraiser every year for the past 5 years and it's not only the right thing to do, it's a great team-builder and gives your staff something to rally around.
6. Say Thank You - To everyone that does anything for you, say thank you. Over and over and over again. Thank your clients. Thank your staff. Thank your janitor. Be grateful for what you have and you will have more of it.
5. Have fun - It's hard enought to get through a workday without also feeling like you can't have any fun. Take some time out and do something fun during the day. I don't think we do this enough but we should.
4. Red and Black - If you're running a business, learn how to manage finances. I've blogged about this before but I can't stress the importance of this enough. For 7 years, I really didn't have anything to do with our day-to-day finances. But I was finally forced to learn it and the past 3 years have been by far our most successful because of it.
3. Rotten Apples- The single most important factor in the success of any company is the people it employs. Find good ones and do everything you can to keep them. Identify the bad ones and allow them to find a different opportunity outside the company. One bad apple can definitely spoil the bunch.
2. Read y'all - Another thing I've blogged a lot about. Read! Learn from other people that have been successful. Learn from their mistakes. There are hundreds and hundreds of books out there that tell you how to effectively run a business. If you don't read them, you have no excuse for failure.
1. Be Ridiculous - Less than 4% of small businesses ever make it to 10 years. That's because in order to succeed you have to be absolutely ridiculous about making yourself succeed. Be ridiculous about customer service. Be ridiculous about over-delivering on promises. Be ridiculous about providing the best of whatever it is you sell. Be ridiculous about how you market yourself. For 10 years, Old Hat has been ridiculous. And our goal for the next 10 is to make the first 10 look like child's play. We were just getting warmed up for those first 10 years. The next 10 are going to be ABSURD.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to all of you that have made the past 10 years possible. I'd list out everyone that has contributed to our success but there are too many to name. You know who you are. And know that I'm looking at you when I say:
It is Friday January 31st.Today, we are getting infected.
As Zac put it, he spent all day yesterday getting infected and today he is going to infect us.Staff infection is normally done sometime in May as we gear up for another busy season in college athletics.This year we are doing an extra infection as we gear up for the Duey Does a Decade party.
Are you coming to the party?
Don’t be that guy.Don’t be the one that has to hear the stories about the party and only live vicariously through our twitter feed.Come on, no one wants to be that guy.
I will be there.Duey will be there.Gnorman will be there. Nick Lachey might be there.Ashley and Jessica will ACTUALLY be here.IN PERSON.It’s a crazy world we are living in…
You do not want to miss this party.Worried that you forgot to RSVP.Don’t.Just go here
It is the day after Christmas. A day of work for some. A day of recovery for others. Hopefully, you behaved this year and Santa paid you a visit yesterday. Gift cards seem to be popular but not everyone enjoys the idea. If you got one you will not use or that is to a store you don’t have around you, there are several options for redeeming the cards.
Boxing Day is today. In the US it is not a holiday and holds no significance.It is celebrated in the U.K. and Canada but the reason it is significant for me is the soccer.The English Premier League treats their fans to a full slate of soccer. Most are going to be off from work and the league makes sure they have something to do.Unfortunately, the team I support started at 630 this morning.Great to be able to watch but I would have loved to sleep until at least 8.My team did not start well but are back in the game with it tied at halftime.
I went to see the second Hobbit movie last night. The movie was loud and long but entertaining. The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy are some of my favorite books. I was destined to be a bit disappointed with the theatrical adaption and I was. To me there were too many parts from the book that were glossed over while too many events that Peter Jackson decided to invent. Oh well, he knows he has people like me with these movies. I love the books enough to watch whatever he puts out at least once.
The second half is about to start so I am going to wrap this up. Enjoy Boxing day and all the soccer it has to offer!
We are not necessarily hungry or voluntold to take part in these games but for some reason the subject continues to come up in our office. Who would win the office hunger games? Below is a first hand account of how our simulator predicted the “games”, done Mad Lib style. No Old Hatters were actually harmed for this simulation. Thanks to Tricia for completing the process.
As the tributes stand _wiggly______ and __proudly______ gaze at their competition as the announcer speaks about the _______peaceful__________ challenge that lies ahead. Tricia ____dances_______ before she _____sneaks___________ into action, much to the _____surprise________ of Deb who is just _____tripping over a fireplace____________.
Dustin starts rambling about something being “good enough for __cats__________” but quickly trails off as Stevie cuts him down with _____a video cable_________. As Stevie stands there ___laughing_________ Deb reminds her about her task list. Only to distract her long enough to __lasso her _____________ . Deb screams in triumph about being the only person left who knows how to work a ____margarita machine_________ but her victory is short lived as a malfunctioning video camera falls from the ______rainbow________ and quickly ends her victory dance.
Meanwhile, Tanner and Richard are arguing about how to pronounce animated GIF. Little did they know that Geoff was using his ___speedy__________ GIFFing skills to create a ___dancing duck_________ that takes them both out. In a ___flash__________ Geoff disappears into the ____secret cave_______.
On the other side of the stadium Ashley, Jessica, and Luke ___light sabor_______ at each other trying to ______fake________ what is going on. Luke’s evil beard possesses him causing him to _jump______ directly at Ashley. Jessica, realizing this is her opportunity to be the only _____human___ that does not work in Norman starts _____speed reading_______ RFPs at Ashley. Luke’s beard _____grows at____ the interference and _____wraps around him____________ in Jessica’s direction. All three end up in a ___furball____________ ball of hair, RFPs, and ____slime___________ that is _____rolled_________ up by a ___golden_______ gnome.
Traci immediately goes for Robert with a ____ruler_________. Distracted by his hair and a ____picture of Tom Selleck ________ he never sees her coming from _____a dog house_______, missing his chance to escape. With Robert down, Traci turns to Zac in an attempt to ____play darts___________. This ultimately fails as Zac asks her to _find him a new house___ and takes his opportunity to ___electrocute________ while she ponders the question. Zac, upon realizing what he has done, drinks a ___lemonade_______, says the Boy Scout code_________, and runs around in a ____toga__________. Confused by what Zac is doing, Justin runs into Zac causing them both to fall in a ___bear trap________, immediately _______taken to the center of the earth_________.
Kelby, standing in the center of it all trying to communicate to everyone fails to notice the giant ____snowman_________ quickly approaching her. At the last second Hannah ____does a handstand______ to get Kelby’s attention. This only causes Kelby to ____laugh___________ and greet the giant ______snowman__________ with open arms in an attempt to diffuse the situation. This fails miserably.
Hannah, distraught with __the melted snowman___________ starts performing crossfit ___punches__________ for no apparent reason. Bethany sees this and takes the opportunity to ____fly_________ up three stairs, power clean a _____bucket________, and then tosses the ___water________ directly onto Hannah.
Kevin, realizing he has to narrate this in the third person stands gazing __lovingly_________ into the _____field of dreams_________. Jared, wanting to be the only Texan left turns on _____Kenny G_____________ music that scares Kevin so much he ___prances________ while ____picking flowers_______ only to meet his demise by ______picking a poison flower__________.
Bethany, Tricia, and Jared believe they are the only __sane ones___________ left and begin to ___bake______ in celebration. Tricia thinks wobbling(well, her version of it) is _____beautiful________ which quickly causes her to wobble off a _____stage__________ doing her best impression of Ron Prince air ______victory_________ as she falls to her demise.
At this point in time Lil Duey, the Game Maker ____turns________ up a ____texas sized_______ chocolate chocolate donut, directly between Jared and Bethany. They both ___jump___________ quickly and ___swim_________ at a full sprint towards the donut. At the last second Lil Duey ____evaporates _________ confusing both and causing them to ___trip____________ to meet an untimely end.
All this time ___calm____________ Geoff has been ____rapping__________ with the tracker jackers. He has managed to become their ___bestie_____________ and they ______carry___ him to the center of the ________donut hole______________. He ____celebrates________, saying this was all one big animated Geoff.
If you would like to play our Mad Lib, check out the link below and show your results.
Here at Old Hat, there are times when our designers, developers, etc. don't have a lot on their plates. Rather than spending that time posting photos of their lunch on facebook or tweeting about what they're thankful for, we ask that they spend that time working on Toy Cannon projects. I could bore you with the story behind why it's called a Toy Cannon project but that would require that I remember why it's called that. Something about how there was an old baseball player the called the Toy Cannon because he was small but hit a lot of homeruns.
I feel like it's important to encourage our staff to challenge themselves with projects outside their daily routine. We want them to learn new techniques, new skills and have as much professional development as possible. It makes them better at their jobs and hopefully more fulfilled as well. For the past year, our development team has been working on a side project to develop their skills in iPhone app development. Set to launch this week, the Due You Know Sports app (which Kevin will talk about more tomorrow) not only offers Old Hat exposure as an application development firm and provides an additional revenue stream, should people decide to download this app, it ALSO has given our development team that ability to grow in their skill set. Tanner led the programming charge and spent hours and hours and hours on this app. Richard helped with programming at times, Dustin offered design assistance and Kevin oversaw the project and tested it. Four members of our team now have valuable experience they would not otherwise have gotten. And it was all done in between other projects so it didn't cost Old Hat anything.
Many companies do similar things to the Toy Cannon, challenging their teams to come up with new products while at the same time giving those employees the ability to learn new skills. It's been something I've really enjoyed seeing our staff participate in as it gives us the chance to see what they can do if they have no limitations.
Follow @OldHatCreative for this year's #OH12Days. Each day a new Old Hatter will take over Twitter to answer your questions about the given topic. Check the schedule below and get your questions ready! Be sure to use #OH12Days for your tweets to show up in the conversation.
Nellie Logsdon was my grandmother. She passed away when I was 18. But one of her many philosophies was this one. Now, by no means did she intend to say that you shouldn't apologize when you screw up. What she was really saying was, "Don't screw up." She knew how badly it sucks to have to admit when you've failed someone. Looking them in the eye and admitting that you made a mistake and then apologizing for it is really hard sometimes. And she knew that the only way to avoid it was to not make mistakes.
Well, we all make mistakes. And she knew that too. I think that a subliminal part of her message was to say that when you screw up, you MUST apologize. Some people say, "Failure is not an option." But I think she'd say, "Not admitting failure is not an option." And that's the philosophy we have at Old Hat. I cannot tell you how many times we have dealt with vendors that simply will not admit with they've screwed up. And further, they won't try to fix the mistake. Nothing could be more counterproductive to building a loyal client base in my opinion.
Old Hat turns out an absurd amount of projects in a given month. Hundreds of videos/animations, numerous websites and thousands (yes, thousands) of print projects every year. And the amount of times we just completely screw up is nearly 0%. We have many systems in place to prevent such failure. The problem is, we're human and we mess up. Not often, but we mess up. Sometimes we make the most boneheaded, inexcusable mistakes. So what do we do when that happens?
I'm sure all of you have watched a basketball game at some point and seen a player commit a foul. Most of the time, the player (like most vendors) acts like he did nothing wrong. He/she look at the ref as if to say, "Are you crazy?! That was NOT my fault." But sometimes, you'll see the player just nod his head in agreement, point at himself and take responsibility for the mistake. That's Old Hat.
When you fail, you have two choices. You can either embrace it or act innocent. Either way though, the person looking at you knows you failed. Embracing that mistake shows that you are taking responsibility for it and while you may end up looking like you failed, you certainly don't look like a failure.
How to Apologize
We screwed up recently. A couple of times, actually. First step to take when you realize you've screwed up is to do anything and everything you can do to fix it. If we make a typo on a print piece, WE call the printer to see if it's too late to send a new file. We volunteer to go back to the office at 9p on a Friday to revise the file. And if it can't be fixed, just apologize. If you can't fix the problem, at least take responsibility for it. It won't change anything but it'll sure as heck make your client feel better to know you accept responsibility. And don't be afraid to accept responsibility even when it's NOT your fault. "Yes, we just copied and pasted the information you sent us but we should have caught that." Chances are at this point that tempers are high and you should just be seeking to calm things down. The client will remember that rather than being a tool about it, you admitted fault. And it's likely that 24 hours later they'll realize that it really wasn't your fault and they'll respect you even more.
Finally, and most importantly, after a few days have passed, the person responsible for the mistake (designer, client rep, etc.) will send a handwritten note to the client further apologizing for the mistake. By this time, the client is probably totally over it. Which is the perfect time for you to apologize again. Don't just tell them you're sorry. It's imperative that you also outline the steps you will take to make sure that same mistake never happens again. They care that you're sorry... but they care even more that you're not going to let it happen again. They need to be reassured that this isn't going to be a reoccurring thing.
Nellie was right
Your best bet is to follow Nellie's advice and just never screw up. But when you do, nod your head and point at yourself.
A former supervisor of mine used to say "I don't mean to brag but I'm terrific" when asked how he was doing. That's kinda what I'm doing here. Though I'm coming up on my six-month anniversary here at Old Hat, I'm still the new guy - someone who is still learning things and picking up new skills. Even before I got here, I knew this place turned out an amazing amount of quality projects in a variety of areas. You saw several of the great intro videos in yesterday's blog, so here are a few pieces I grabbed from the print realm. With the recent start of hoops season, I'll limit these to some of our most recent basketball schedule posters.