What I learnt from a veteran web designer

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Gosh darn it. Website design is a tricky business sometimes.

After nine years of building websites and growing to a team of 10 life can be still sometimes be hard. Sure, we have awesome staff, great systems and procedures and solid IP but there are no shortage of challenges either. I suspect like most businesses, this is not a unique problem.

Over the years, I have thought to myself,

“F*$K ME – Surely there is someone out there that has made this business work!?”

And there have been many people who have. Proof that this can be done.

Take for instance, David Trewern.

Last year he exited his business DT Digital for a very solid multiple.

When I was in Melbourne this week, I asked if he would have coffee with me so I could ask a few questions about his journey. He made time in his busy schedule for me.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous. This was a guy I greatly admired and had followed for years.

I actually saw David present at Swinburne Institute of Design back in 2001 while I was a student studying in Melbourne. Tracking his meteoric rise over the years from a distance, I had become enamoured at the success he had achieved.

And it turns out David is all round nice guy.

Super smart and clearly still passionate about what he does. Even after 20 years at this.

After a bit of small talk he launched into his story.

David started life in the web design game back in very early days 1996 working on the interface design for Looksmart. He told me how he landed his first foundation client Mercedes Benz and he was off. He had some dollars in his bank account, employed some staff, invested in some infrastructure and continued to grow the business.

Mercedes Benz Website
Mercedes website from the year 2000. Ahhh the good old days of 800 x 600 resolution.

Fast forward almost 20 years the business has over 120 staff, national offices and is seen as one of the leading Tier 1 digital agencies here in Australia.

For 50 minutes, David spoke passionately about how the business evolved over the years.

From this conversation, my key take aways were:

  • Think big. Much bigger than I am. Mindset is the key.
  • Pushing web strategy instead of just selling a website is the secret to moving up the value chain.
  • Keep pitching projects to bigger and bigger clients.
  • Continue to build our IP and systems.
  • Form strategic alliances with people who have access to the clients such as ad agencies.
  • Keep on surrounding myself with people whom are smarter than me.

Simple as that!

His final parting words, “This is just the start. There are still plenty of opportunities in the web game”.

I left feeling upbeat and a spring in my step.

Now to get busy.

There is a lot of work to be done 🙂

About the author
Jon Hollenberg
With over 20 years experience within the web industry, Jon is an expert in online marketing and online growth strategies. Over the last ten years he has worked with iconic brands such as Qantas, Jeep and the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary plus hundreds of other businesses Australia wide. Jon is a published author of "Love at first site - How to build the website of your dreams".
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