The aim of this post is to explain why I have chosen to re-design my website. Yes a re-design was probably long overdue and a fresh new look will hopefully attract some more visitors, especially from css galleries. However, this isn’t the reason behind the change. The re-design of this website is actually part of a much bigger re-design, the re-design of my life. (Deep I know.)
In the past couple months there has been quite a significant change in my life.
(Here starts an extended summary of the last 3 year and a half years of my life)
For the past 3 and a half years I have been ploughing most my time and resources into my company I started with two fellow University of Cape Town (UCT) graduates. You hopefully read about my company on the about page of this site. If you didn’t, the company is called Gravit8.
Gravit8 was born out of our enthusiasm for working together in our third year Information Systems project. Upon graduation we brainstormed over the idea of working together, more specifically registering a company and specializing in information technology. That is what we did and there began an amazing learning experience of how a small business operates and survives its first years of existence.
Being the GUI (graphic user interface) designer of the university project team and the one with the creative background in digital design I took on the responsibility of building the Gravit8 brand and offering web services to clients. My work partners took on the technical side of the business, offering networking services and hardware/software sales. Together we could provide small to medium sized businesses with all their IT requirements, e.g. web design, web hosting (reselling web space), hardware and software sales, network installations and support and IT consultancy. We were a one-stop shop. This worked really well and gave us a competitive advantage over other more specialised IT companies. Most companies prefer to phone one company to fix their computer/internet connection/website than phone 5 companies who all shift the blame around each other.
We were fortunate enough to have good contacts in established companies from the beginning of our company’s existence. This helped us immensely in procuring work, and to pay the initial bills! We quickly realised we had a lot to learn about business, the intangible skills that most universities don’t teach you.
The company grew steadily over its first couple years, we hired a couple staff members, but we lost our one business partner to a great opportunity that involved lots of travel. Oh and working off a balcony overlooking a Caribbean beach, over a wireless internet connection.
The network services seemed to be selling much better than the web design, this was largely due to a healthy contract with a company that was growing at a rapid rate. One vital lesson that we learnt early on was that it is vital for a business’s success to use your contacts, whether they be family, friends, or acquaintances. We were often surprised by the amount of work a seemingly small lead could bring to the company.
I continued to learn as much as i could about web design and the forever changing skills it requires, all the while helping manage the network clients and picking up hardware and software from our wholesalers. This is where my blog was born, out of an inspiration to learn more about design and web publishing.
I had many opportunities to learn more about how a computer works, how a network should be set up, how a linux file server works, and how to set up an Exchange mail server, however I wasn’t as inspired by these challenges as my work partner and our technicians were. I was starting to realise what work i enjoyed and what i was good at.
Mid last year I decided it was time to follow my lifelong urge and see a bit more of the world. I always planned on traveling straight after university, using UK as my base camp. where I had a lot of family (including my old man) who i hadn’t spent a significant period of time with. I knew there would never be a right time to go travelling whilst owning a company, but i also knew the longer i left it the harder it would be. Luckily I had a very understanding business partner who understood my predicament, but also realised my services could be conducted from any where in the world, provided I could get on the internet. Pound contracts would actually benefit the company in the long term.
Since being in the UK I have learnt so much. Partly because I have dedicated all my time to web design, and haven’t had any interruptions managing network clients, but mainly because of the huge amount of resources available to me over here. Namely, web conferences, a considerable amount more competition, and a lot of creative inspiration being in one of the world’s biggest and busiest cities.
I’ve now been over here for 1 year and the hard work is paying off, work is starting to find me, instead of the other way around. My first 6 months over here were tough, trying to break into a new market, a very competitive market. As my skills and my work become more specialised so does my business partner’s and our company has become quite segmented.
A year ago when we could both help each other out with each other’s clients, we both knew a bit of the skills involved with each other’s services. Now it is different, we cannot support each other’s clients, we find it increasingly difficult managing the financial books, and we often struggle to decide in which department the profits must be invested. A time has come when a decision must be made.
And it has.
My business partner and myself have decided the time has come to divide Gravit8 into two separate companies. This is both a daunting and an exciting time for me. I will now be working independently of Gravit8 and registering a new company. Gravit8 will only provide networking services, as this is still Gravit8’s dominant work flow.
This finally (apologies for the long post) brings me around to the re-design of this blog. You’ve probably guessed it already now. Why spend more time creating a new brand for my new company, when I have an established “brand” surrounding my weblog? Mark’s Digital Farm.
This weblog has driven me considerable work. In fact in the last year it has driven much much more work than my company website has. I get on average at least one website design request a week. The site is well indexed by Google, gets good web hits, and accurately portrays my personality. Therefore it has not been a hard decision for me to sell my skills on my personal blog.
Currently, I do not plan to hire any staff, I enjoy the flexibility of freelancing and the opportunities of working with such a variety of companies brings. Whilst I am over here in the UK I prefer to outsource work to other designers and developers, expanding and contracting my business as the work comes in.
So that is the change that has been happening. I look forward to what the future holds. I am excited for both Gravit8 and my new company, and I am confident we have made the right decision.