We are approaching the official 20th anniversary of our business!
Wow, have we ever seen some changes. It’s been a long road since that first Provincial business registration of June 11th, 1998. I’m looking at it now, and thinking of all the ups and downs over the two decades, and how we’ve managed to outlive most of those first “internet companies” that had started up, back in those days. We’ve seen a lot come and go.. been through the “internet bubble” of the very late 20th century, and we even lost a great deal of potential money by not exercising stock options that we had, back then.
We always did want to make money, but not at the expense of making promises, we could not keep – and saw much of that going on, in those days. We saw an opportunity that we knew was for the long term, and wanted to cautiously, but realistically, see where it would go.
Twenty years in this business is a long time. And one of the biggest things we’re proud of is that we still have most of our original clients, and in fact, more than 80% of our clients at any given time, have been with us for more than two years. Do you know what that means? We actually help clients move ahead; we don’t make far-fetched promises we cannot keep, just to make some money.
In 1998, most Canadians and many Americans had never even heard of “the Internet.” Unlike today, most families did not even have a computer in their house; it was a luxury item. If you did have a computer system and some kind of online access, it was with, at best, a 14400 bit modem and you might be dialing into a local community “bulletin board.” There were some visionaries at the time who foresaw the potential, in my own case, visionaries like Stephen Henry who provided a local “bulletin board” and Wendy Woudstra, who was figuring out how to learn to make “web pages.” I had never touched a computer in my life, but Steve Henry convinced me of the efficacy of using this new “internet thing” as a marketing vehicle for my part-time custom fishing rod building business.
A 14400 bit modem, 8 MG of RAM, and an amazing 1 GB hard drive – the world could be your oyster. You could send emails to Ireland, and get a response in five minutes. Or two weeks, if the person did not check their email regularly. There as no “spam” in those days; you’d actually be disappointed when you fired up the computer, clicked on Eudora, and there was no new email. But that was okay; there was a dog to walk, places to go see, and you actually read a printed copy of the local newspaper.
Then there was the discovery of IRC – an “app” you could use to talk to people in “real time” and today, we still have fond memories of those crazy “modern” days, learning about Julie, Tawnya, Craig, and people who we still keep in touch with to this day. You could have debates with just about anyone that wanted to debate something while expanding their circle. You could go beyond just reading books, but also have discussions with others about their ideas about books, ideas and creative thoughts.
You could learn about marketing through “news groups” – and learn to also create your own simple websites, and have fun with search engine optimization – we learned about Archie, Web Crawler, Excite, Lycos, and Infoseek. It was fun to figure out how to manipulate Infoseek; just add new content and change some things, and suddenly on a search, the rankings would be different. Then came along Alta Vista, and eventually, Google.
Back in 1999/2000, when e-commerce solutions were rare, my business was busy, creating a PERL webstore for a company in a niche we knew: Custom rod building. It took months of work and testing, and understanding PGP/GPG… but when the site launched, there was so much excitement seeing the first web order come in – the very day the e-commerce site launched. Then there were more to follow.
We even created one of the first “associate programs” that existed, for that company, and we know much of their internet sales was based around that.
We also did work for “The Mining Company,” later to become known as “About.com” and were one of the earliest promoters of them. WE watched as the internet bubble expanded and deflated, never really sure what direction to go in. We woke up on 9/11 to hear the shocking and tragic news, and worked with the then CEO of about.com to figure out internet stability of that network.
We’ve been through dial-up, to Fibre, and even back in 1999, researched wireless via radio towers to provide consulting to a health insurance organization in Pensacola, Florida. To be honest, we did not know half of what we were doing, but we knew more than they did, knew some PERL, knew how to research and learn, and helped them figure out what they needed to do to ensure their network of doctors and medical staff had some kind of connectivity that ensured they would thrive in the 21st century. While doing so, we met armadillos around campfires and suffered injuries on backyard trampolines.
There has been triumphs, tragedies, and amazing things. In our early years, we had to deal with an ex-cop that thought he owned the place and threatened legal action. In the end, he realized he did not own the Internet in Ontario, and people were free to go to where they felt the best service for them, was.
In about 2004/05, we suffered the loss of a great man and friend named Don Brown, one of our greatest supporters, both personally and in business – a great man and interesting friend, to say the least. His former NSA experience (seriously – he was one of the guys stationed in Turkey back during the Cold War) was so helpful to us in analyzing things and figuring out what to do next.
Around that same time, we took on a high school kid for a placement job; the school had no idea what to do with him because, at the time, there was no other business locally that could deal with his interests. We weren’t’ sure ourselves, but we ended up working with a genius kid named Dan McGrady for a couple of years, and with his creativity, intelligence, and talent, came up with things that were just pure amazing. If you ever read this, Dan, please know.. half the time we did not know what to do with you; your genius was so evident but I felt guilty using it and wished I had ways to give you even more than and help you figure things out!
A lot happens over 20 years. In the internet time, a lot more than ever… and we’ve seen many things come and go… fads and all sorts of things, but we know that at the core, it’s not a fad or being good at a fad, that will keep you in business. At the core, it’s having core values. It’s not about selling the latest and greatest to be cool; it’s about solid foundations and relationships, and this holds true whether it is 1718, before tractors were invented, or 2018, when the world could be your oyster.
We have some exiting things to plan for our 20th anniversary… but in the meantime, would like to reflect, be thankful for those who have helped get us here, (The Henry Family.. Steve, Cassandra,) and others who are no longer around.
And of course, to my clients that have stuck around for years and years…. Britannia Printers, The Journal of Rheumatology, RodMaker Magazine, Ian Duffield, Talon Fly Rods, Classic Destiny, R.B. Meiser Fly Rods, Jim Brown Trucking, Paula Kirman, Shirlie Sharpe, SkyScan USA, HTL Laser Products, Hockley Valley Brewing, Mary’s Java, U-40, Trondak (Aqua-Seal), Wise, Young & King, Judy Martene, Jorn and Tom Andersen, and others I am probably forgetting.
And not just clients, but also friends like Tawnya Sutherland, and others that had a dream.
We could not have made this without you. Others have done greater… but have they laughed so much? Have they watched a little kid grow up to be an amazing man in the name of DAvid Hugh Scott? Have they fought so much, and not given up? Ah.. that’s what I love about the merry band of people I’m associated with! MOst of them are about integrity, fight, independence, but also giving best quality!
Thank you so much for 20 years! The past year has been amazing, this one will be even better, and we’ll work at making the next ones, even greater!