As Dashboard turns 10 in January of 2011, Barry Hillier, our CVO, looks back at the company on where we were and where we are going.
Waiting for the parachute to open…
When Dashboard first started, there were challenges like any other start-up. What I didn’t know was how challenging 2001 would actually prove to be for me and the company. I can tell you that I began with a really simple task list. I sat in my condo and made 25 phone calls each and every day. That was 125 phone calls a week and approximately 500 phone calls a month. My goal in the 500 calls a month was to get 10 to 15 meetings and the ultimate goal was to win one project.
The first project turned out to be for Novocom, a company based out of LA who had television clients throughout the world. The first project was to help rebrand MTV 3 out of Finland. Pretty good gig, eh. Well, you would have thought so at first glance. Now the irony comes out. I’m travelling to Europe, living the life… right? Wrong. I’m working on a great project and travelling here and there, but making no money whatsoever. It’s all going to hotels, flights and overhead that was surprisingly more than you would have expected. While we started out “international”, the business realities became clear quickly that a “national” base would be prudent if we/I was to make money. So we/I decided to keep making phone calls but keep them close to home. Future projects would be based in Canada.
At this stage I’ll point out the we/I comment is intentional as I hadn’t yet realized that Dashboard wasn’t me and I wasn’t Dashboard. Back then, Dashboard was really more of a freelance gig initially and I didn’t have the experience yet to realize how distinctive the difference was and would become as the company grew. Luckily, more calls led to more meetings which led to more national clients, namely Chattem (Sun-In, Pamprin) and Lone Eagle Entertainment (Supermodels, Popstars). Slowly, the company was becoming just that, a company. So I decided to sub-let a room on Yonge street in Toronto from an IT recruitment firm. This was the real beginning of our growth as a company. Dashboard had clients, an office and very shortly… staff. Quickly Dashboard became a “we” consisting of one creative director, one programmer and me.
Onward and upward… right? Remember the .com reference from my last blog? Yup. Started Dashboard in January of 2001 and while the dates differ depending on who you discuss the collapse with, I’d peg it at around Spring (April specifically) of 2001. In other words, this would be just around the time that projects began to land at Dashboard from all of those phone calls and meetings.
When you start a company the unforeseeable happens every day. In hindsight you realize that perseverance and willpower gets you through it, but at that particular time I just thought… “Oh, shit, now what?” But contracts were in place and you carry on. Besides, if there was going to be a recession, better to have it in your first year and follow the growth of the recovery. Regardless, whether the company made it past its’ first year, personal obligations and reputations needed to be managed and so you simply looked ahead at getting the job done, no matter what the cost.
We are now experiencing the beginning of the recession and approaching summer with the first of our sold projects coming due within weeks when my creative director and programmer decided to have a pint at the beginning of the week. Well, one pint turned into several which led to closing time. Most people in this particular instance would go home after that. Not in this case. My team decided that having last call in Montreal was the next logical step for their evening. I didn’t hear from them for three days…