Branding & Strategy
David Addison
by David Addison
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The Dirigo of Tomorrow

The Dirigo of Tomorrow

Recently, the staffing firm Manpower surveyed 18,000 businesses who were willing to share their hiring plans for Q1 2014. Only 17% planned to hire. 73% plan to keep their workforce level and 7% plan to let staff go. Dirigo is going to hire.

We’re extremely bullish for 2014. Our Ski and Automotive website platforms are getting solid marks by industry. We have a terrific team assembled for building core CMS features and for extending API access. We'll likely hire one more ASP.NET application designer ace in the first half of 2014.

As we begin to push these platforms to market, Dirigo will need to increase our capacity. By the end of 2014 we'd like to be in a position to build-out 4-6 auto websites a month. We'd also like to put 3 substantial and 4-6 smaller ski resorts on our platform.

Rumor has it that our development team is scouting for a full-time, in-house, on-site Drupal & LAMP-stack EXPERT. We're serious about that "expert" thingamajig. We already have four solid PHP programmers. We do Drupal and WordPress PHP jobs, plus .NET, Java, Python, Rails and ColdFusion. We tend to focus on .NET, PHP and ColdFusion with most of our focus on enterprise-grade projects. If you could add it all up by revenue, we're about 65% .NET, 25% LAMP, 8% ColdFusion and 2% other. Our goal is to be able to skillfully and efficiently handle most any technology in-house with full-time on-site staff. We're not one of those firms that ousources work.

In the interactive and social media-focused agency world, it’s easy to talk a big game. There is a fine line between “understanding” and "expertise". At Dirigo we make stuff, fast. We prove or disprove concepts quickly in ways that non-technologists understand. We need to know how to code economically, efficiently and effectively. We need to use the appropriate technology stack from topmost to bottommost, know the best tools for the job—and most of all, be prepared to pop our knuckles, roll up our sleeves and get neck deep into the code. We often times rapid prototype (we call it "sandboxing" or "stubbing" or "stub it") as part of the discovery process before winning a contract or job.

Dirigo is a lead agency—by "lead agency" I mean the brand agency or idea agency. This means that we’ve got to employ idea people—strategic thinkers. All that really matters is RESULTS. Often times we don’t control the technology. This is a fairly new phenomenon. A few years ago the technology stack didn’t matter. Today it only matters because clients want to maintain solutions in-house with single stack expertise. These days, around 30% of our clients will dictate the core technology. This means that we’ve got to be prepared to get results with .NET, LAMP, JAVA, ColdFusion and a myriad of other technologies. Most agencies focus on a single technology. We’re blazing a different path.

We're looking to expand our LAMP team for the right candidate, but we don't just want a back-end guru—the candidate has got to be ready to rock out responsive front-ends in HTML5, CSS3 & jQuery.

Aside from the Drupal & LAMP expert, we'll likely add 1-2 new front-end developers in Q1/Q2-2014. We'll do the same or better in the back half of the year.

In addition to coders, we'll be hiring a full-time copywriter. And if things work out, we'll need another project manager, another media buyer, and another graphic designer.

In anticipation of growth we're already acquiring more equipment, and we've negotiated an expansion that will provide an extra 1,150 sq ft of office space.

If things go poorly, head-count will increase by 3-4, but if they go well we might do better. Of course things always have a way of taking more time than we plan. And they're usually more costly than we project. This is likely an over-optimistic projection, though if we stay on our current trajectory—and there is no indication that we won't—we're certain to grow. We prefer to grow steadily, sustainably and slowly.

In FY14 we're putting more energy into strategy and off-line media and a little less into digital. By 2015-16 we should be 60/40 (forty percent off-line). That's the plan!

What's driving the growth? Well, the term website inadequately describes what we do (in fairness it is what we did way back in 1999-2003 before we got heavily into direct response or DR). Websites themselves do very little. Our focus is much bigger. We are really in the lead-gen and sales ecosystem ( terms it a "customer platform"). Dirigo engineers platforms, not programs. Some call it information logistics; we call it modern marketing.

We have lots of legacy clients. Some have been with Dirigo for the full 11 years. Several worked with me before I started Dirigo. We support these businesses year in and year out. I don't mean to imply that all is shiny and new at Dirigo. Our focus shifts over time—our commitment to our clients does not.

Conversion-focused websites make up a good chunk of what we do—say 30%. That's only because the web is now the center of the marketing world. How can we create marketing that has an irrefutable and quantifiable positive impact on our clients' business? To Dirigo, this is the question that we obsess about—"moving the dial" or "selling more cars".

This is our future, and it's yours too!

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