Starting a business happens in a moment. Choosing to start a business can take a lifetime, and there is never a perfect time to start. Such is true for Red Argyle, which celebrated its ten-year anniversary on approximately November 15, 2010.
Approximately? Yes – somewhere, in a county clerk’s filing cabinet and a copy-in-triplicate in a New York state office building, there exists a business origination document with the words “Red Argyle” hand-written on the appropriate line, and the date of “11/15/2010” stamped in official (and brand-compliant) red ink. An EIN number, domain name, and Google Apps account later, Red Argyle was born. Not much fanfare. And, certainly, no idea where (or even if) the company would be ten years later. And yet here we are, ten years later, 1500 projects later, 40 Argylers strong. It’s working out okay.
When It Started
For me, Red Argyle was a concept for years, perhaps decades. I always knew I wanted to start a business. As a young child, I admired the energy and joy that owning a business gave to relatives and family friends who ran hot dog stands, paint stores, bakeries, and printing shops in my small hometown. I spent a lot of time with my Yiayia (grandmother in Greek) as she volunteered for meals-on-wheels, organized church functions, and cooked for hundreds alongside her fellow Greek friends at community events. I look back fondly on the mechanics, coordination, and interactions with other people, having no idea at the time that I was witnessing “customer service” in action. In hindsight, I also have no idea how I didn’t start a business that was food-related.
Fast-forward through high school, where I spent a lot of time in the yearbook club (nerd alert), feeding 3 1/2″ floppy drives into a vintage computer to load up our publishing software (ever hear of Aldus? They made PageMaker… before Adobe bought it… twenty years later. Am I showing my age yet?) While school taught me how to learn, Yearbook taught me how to work – there were deadlines, multiple streams of tasks to be coordinated, multiple people supporting the work, a manager to be accountable to (the art teacher, in this case), and an expectation of quality in the end, because once that yearbook went to print, there wasn’t much to do but “admire” the mistakes. I spent a lot of nights and weekends on the yearbook, but only recently have I come to reflect on it with an appreciation for the lessons I learned.
I went to college in the late 90s, when the Internet was, well, Internet-ing. Take my experience in publishing, my decent technology skills, and my appreciation for art and design, combine and mix generously, and it’s easy to see why I gravitated to web design and development. I could make stuff from start-to-finish. I didn’t need a lot of overhead to make said stuff, just a computer and some software. The web was approachable and you got results almost instantly. I found my calling, to the extent that I made sure every part-time job and internship I took was web-related from that point forward. I wanted to be immersed in the work and the process to arrive at a final product.
Mind you, I was doing all of this in Upstate New York. I didn’t have an opportunity to head west to Silicon Valley or even much-closer east to New York or Boston to work at the large agencies I admired and aspired to. It wasn’t in the cards – I had to carve out my best approximation of those experiences where I stood between Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, and Corning, New York. It worked out okay – most of those agencies dropped like a stone when the tech bubble burst in the early 2000s. I was fortunate enough to be working in an area sheltered (just barely) from those effects, surrounded by people who not only gave me space to hone my web-craft, but also taught me about the importance of brand, the value of diversity, and the criticality of quality.
Perfect is Never
Let’s all think back to 2010. Two years prior, a terrible thing happened on Wall Street. People lost money, houses, jobs. The economy was in shambles. On the other hand, an amazing thing happened to our family: our first son was born in July. A struggling economy. A four-month-old. This was the “perfect” time to start Red Argyle. Some paperwork (see above) and a little vision and experience (see also above) and Red Argyle was born, four months after my son.
Red Argyle wasn’t started to be a Salesforce consultancy. It started as an information design and management studio (and information is a collection of patterns atop other patterns, hence the term “Argyle”, and “Red” is… my favorite color, so put the two together and *pop* you have a brand). I had a few gigs organizing information for schools and other businesses in concert with web design and content strategy work. I also had a stable of on-and-off clients from my Salesforce development freelancing days, which I thought might fill in some gaps if my primary client base was ever light.
When the Argyler was hung on a shingle, those on-and-off Salesforce clients became my on-and-on-and-on clients. I suppose once they realized I could work more than the nights and weekends I was squeezing in before, they wanted more. Plans are tested on the battlefield. When the wind blows, raise a sail. Name your metaphor, but the market was telling Red Argyle to move in a different direction.
There were struggles and scary moments, but there was enough work to need more help. Garry, our CEO, joined me as a partner in September 2011. We hired our first intern, Jared, shortly thereafter. We hired Lindsey in early 2012, and she still works here today. Things moved faster after that. Not a blur, but a consistent flow of complex, custom, and weird client work, alongside a consistent flow of complex, custom, and weird Argylers that were all crazy enough to go on this ride with us. Not every Argyler stayed forever, but their contributions in the moment shaped what this company is today.
Ten Years, Fast
We’ve tried to grow Red Argyle sustainably for the last decade. Our growth was pretty linear for the first seven years. And while not exactly a “hockey stick”, the rate of growth has increased substantially in more recent times with the good fortune of new clients and the tireless work of good Argylers to support them. 1,500 projects of all shapes and sizes in those ten years have taught us a few things, and we still have plenty to learn.
What’s Old is New?
2010: Global economic crisis and uncertainty.
2020: Global economic crisis and uncertainty, courtesy of a pandemic that can kill you.
I’ll save my sarcasm about 2030 when it gets here (though I’d be delighted at that time to not see history repeat itself). We can’t predict the future, but we can make our own luck with Great Argylers, rooted in Great Work.
I am grateful for the experience Red Argyle has given me these past ten years, and I’m honored to work alongside a team of amazing people.