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How To Focus And Go Narrow As An Agency

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In a recent post, I talked about how agencies should build a network by either consolidating or coalescing. But that’s easier said than done. As a service business, over time your focus and competencies are defined by the projects you work on. And the scary part is, clients often have more decision-power than the agency.

 

In a nutshell, Wiredelta® builds web and mobile applications. Pretty straight forward, right? Well, this “definition” barely scratches the surface. In fact, there are almost as many ways of building web and mobile applications as there are actual websites and mobile apps out there!

 

Many of Wiredelta’s competitors build native apps – applications developed in the same programming language as the operating system. However, we made a conscious choice to focus on building cross-platform apps where we build in a different programming language than what the operating system runs on. Typically, we use a web technology like JavaScript, using open-source technologies and frameworks like React Native, ReactJS, Ionic or AngularJS.

 

Wiredelta’s cross-platform focus?

Think about it. We live in a world where new devices, new screen sizes, and new operating systems are introduced daily. The need to build cross-platform applications that uses the same codebase has never been greater. As a result, web technologies like Javascript is eating the world, with so many application being rewritten into some type of  JavaScript application.

 

The history of cross-platform applications has been bumpy though. The biggest blow was when Facebook famously switched from cross-platform HTML5 to native back in 2012. Mark Zuckerberg called their early focus on HTML5 and cross-platform “the biggest mistake they’ve made as a company”. However, a lot has happened since 2012. For example, Facebook Ads, Instagram and Walmart started to rewrite their apps to React Native. Other big brands can be listed who started using Ionic and other JS libraries.

 

The great debate between native and cross-platform is on, and Wiredelta recently tried to uncover the differences in A Simple Guide to Native Mobile Technologies and A Simple Guide to Hybrid and Cross-Platform Technologies.

 

What are some Wiredelta-made cross-platform references?

Regardless of how this great debate pans out, Wiredelta has made the choice to go cross-platform a long time ago. It’s unlikely we will make a u-turn any time soon, unless there is a very good reason for it. Especially since we started developing applications for some of the most ambitious companies and entrepreneurs we know. We’ve successfully deployed multiple applications that seamlessly run on the same codebase. A few that come to mind are:

 

  • Executives Global Network (EGN) – The global business network for leaders and executives is increasingly mobile. Yet there are tools offered by EGN that sometimes require bigger screens displaying more information about the network or person you are communicating with. This created the need for applications that sync seamlessly across devices, and at the same time maintaining the same codebase to keep the web and mobile applications cost-efficient.

 

  • Qemploy – We built both a web and mobile (iOS and Android) platform for freelancers that syncs time tracking and invoice data between the applications. This allows both corporates and the freelancers they hire to be in the know also on the go, having a complete overview of time spent and tasks worked on from both desktop, laptop, and mobile.

 

  • GAME Academy – Few have made a WordPress website wrapped into a mobile app using Ionic. It was a challenge for the Wiredelta team to get this up and running efficiently. But combining the largest CMS in the world with one of the most popular Javascript-based mobile frameworks was intriguing. So, challenged accepted!

 

Yup, Wiredelta went all in on cross-platform. So if you run an agency you might ask, how do I find out what our narrow focus should be? I’m glad you asked. After going through multiple iterations with Wiredelta, I’ve picked up three distinct things you need to be super crisp on if you want to build a successful agency:

 

  1. Choose the waves you wanna ride
  2. Built to sustain or built to exit
  3. Work towards a secret sauce

 

1. Choose the waves you wanna ride

Borrowing from the surfer’s community, you can’t catch all waves out there, pick wisely which one you want to hit and then go all in. Be ruthlessly honest to yourself when you choose this or these waves. If you are a newbie, don’t go for the biggest waves. If you are an agency that is incredibly good at designing websites, don’t just assume you can also design crisp mobile applications. Whatever you do you should aim for world-class, so make sure you and you’re team can achieve that someday. Otherwise, you set yourselves up for failure.

 

As a software development company, we saw the writing on the wall when we looked at various technologies. The world of digital was getting more and more complex, and while cross-platform was a new and inferior technology at the time, we knew it wouldn’t take long before the pros would outperform the cons.

 

As a team, it was also important for us to be at the forefront of new technology within web and mobile. Everyone in Wiredelta is very tech-savvy, and while not everyone codes, everyone has worked on building a digital product, even our very own CFO! So when we had to choose our wave, we saw that while native technologies certainly progressed and evolved, far more innovation was happening within cross-platform technologies. After all, it is harder to build technology that accommodates all operating systems than a technology that only focuses on one. The decision was easy, but the path that comes after is what defines you as an agency.

 

2. Built to sustain or built to exit

This might seem very VC corporate bank-like, but when you start an agency, you and your co-founders are best off if you all agree on this. Are you building an agency that should live on long after you are gone, or are you building an agency that is going to be acquired in 5, 10, 15 years from now? One is not better than the other, but your focus will be different depending on what you choose.

 

If you are building an agency to exit, your focus should be short-term. The faster you build up a large portfolio (revenue) with as high margins (profit) as possible, the better the exit you will make.

 

If you are building an agency to sustain, your focus should be long-term. Here you want to build a brand, a reputation, a legacy. There will be times where both your top-line and bottom-line will suffer from this, but if you do it right, the rewards – financial and personal – can be far greater.

 

Wiredelta is a life-long project, and we have clear ambitions to IPO one day. We are not interested in being bought out and make an exit, our legacy will be how Wiredelta lives on when all of us are not here anymore.

 

3. Work towards a secret sauce

What is your IP as an agency? You don’t have a product. As a newly started agency, you don’t have any references or cases you can show either. What you have is your wit and your drive, and if you are good, that is enough. But to sustain and build a successful agency, you need to build up some secret sauce, what distinguishes you from the myriad of other agencies that claim they can do it better than you, or similar to you but at a lower cost?

 

Your secret sauce doesn’t have to be rocket science or a well-kept secret locked behind closed doors at Fort Knox. In Wiredelta, our secret sauce is that we are super focused on training new talent, the next generation of developers. That is actually how Wiredelta first got started, and as we started working with clients we started going all in on building cross-platform applications. This eventually spilled over to the training we gave new talent, where everyone is now trained in JavaScript-based technologies and frameworks to become full-stack. The training institute and the agency worked out well in unison for us, but I would lie if I said that this was part of a grand, multi-step, masterplan. It wasn’t, it just sort of happened, and it’s ok if you are in the midst of figuring out what your agency should focus. It’s all about the journey, but you need to make sure that you are working towards some kind of secret sauce. If not, you might as well break up the agency and simply form a freelancer network working together on some projects but not all.

 

Or of course, if you are unsure how to go narrow and wants to partner up instead, don’t hesitate to head over to our Partner page and check out the options for working with Wiredelta as another agency.

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