When I started Goatsocial five years ago, I never imagined it would turn into a permanent fixture in my life. I was sitting outside of Andrew Kennedy’s (Kennedy Construction) house with a cheque in my hand made out to the new company thinking “Holy shit, apparently, I’m starting a business.”
The name Goatsocial came from a startup idea I had with one of my best childhood friends. “Tradesgoat” never came to be, but I had this nifty illustration that was supposed to be the logo. I’ve always been fascinated by goats, and with fond memories of my time at TELUS -- a workplace that proved to be a real-life “university” -- I wanted to somehow pay homage to my time there. The pygmy goat was my favourite of all the TELUS critters and based on their success leaning heavily into animals as part of their brand, I figured, why not?
Maybe it’s not the most romantic story, but it’s true. Initially, the name had 0 meaning. We get asked all the time,
“Where did it come from?”
“What’s the meaning?”
I needed a word that could append the word “Goat,” and anything related to the services I was offering at the time made no sense.
Goatwebdesign? Even worse.
Goatweb? Sounds iffy.
Done. Had a name. Registered it in the car that day in front of Andrew’s house, and away I went. I built his website (with very little knowledge outside of what I learned at TELUS) and five years later, he’s still a happy client. I think, anyway ;)
I went into it blind. I’m glad I did, though. The design industry is tough to understand, and if you go in thinking you’re going to grow a massive empire, you should look at other options. Sometimes I wish someone said this to me, but I was blissfully ignorant in at the beginning. What I did notice though, was the lack of care and attention being paid to digital communication mediums by small to medium businesses, and this surprised me, given the state of the Internet and Social Media at the time. I also noticed a lack of effort by smaller design teams in client acquisition. The quality of the responses on quote requests shocked me, and in most cases, made no sense. These two things were the motivation to start Goatsocial.
Why the rebrand? Well, our name was fundamentally flawed. We knew internally that the “social” portion of the name meant something bigger than “Social Media”, but having to explain this to potential clients was a problem. How many potential clients did we lose when they stumbled across our listing on Google, because they were told we were the best company to work with when you want to commit to a digital-first strategy, see “social” and assume we manage social media?
I don’t want to know. But I’ll assume the worst.
We’ve also grown up as a business. In the beginning, I was itching for a fun, loose environment that wasn’t constrained by the extremely tight guidelines I was used to. Web design was F-U-N. It was a fun process and the projects needed to be fun in order to be successful. Now, we’re launching products for industry leaders and bidding on large civic projects. Fun is still in our DNA but it’s what I like to call, structured fun. If only my childhood self could see me now…
The point is, locking down our values helps us understand where we land in our marketplace. To this day, we’ve never had a set of core values that we can rally around as a collective unit. It’s always been a bit “loosey, goosey.”
Today, we’re launching our new brand. We are Goat -- a design agency delivering clarity in your brand and digital strategy.
Yup, just Goat. No overthinking it.
The best way to break down the why of our brand is to walk through our seven values and how they came about.
1) We treat unfamiliar clients with humility and respect.
Acronyms. Acronyms everywhere. PPC. CPC. JS. Ember. SOP. CSS. HTML. QA. SEO. FYI. B2B. B2C. TBD. CTR. ROI. Agile. Lean. Waterfall. Gantt. ROI. ROI. ROI. CMS. CRM. ECRM. SaaS. Cloud. AWS.
This was 30 seconds of asking our team to list off acronyms used daily. Does your plumber come over and use acronyms like we do? It makes people feel anxious about our industry. It creates ego that we don’t agree with. This is one example of ways our industry creates a perception that we’re smarter than other industries.
Educating our clients and treating them with humility and respect happens in more than the obvious ways. We’ve eliminated acronyms from our vocabulary with plans on normalizing our industry’s speak.
2) We always have our teammates back.
Playing hockey growing up taught me some valuable lessons as a young man. I’ve always obsessed over the camaraderie that team sports create (when situated in a healthy environment, that is) and many of those lessons are ones I’ve tried to instil in business.
I’ve learned that small teams are filled with roles that require flexibility in your position. Your job description can change and things can maneuver at any point, and the support your team provides is paramount to the success of those changes. You go through various ups and downs, and if you let your team down, the trickle-down effect is immediate. It affects your clients, and your team. We always have our teammates back, no matter what.
3) We’re fun, haphazard and off-the-chart sometimes
Keeping things light is important in a creative business. We are always bouncing ideas off one another and challenging each other to be better. In the wild, goats are mischievous, resourceful, and hardy as hell. We’ll battle through our clients’ problems and make sure we get to the bottom of the cliff. Injecting fun in a professional business is important to us.
4) We thrive on change.
In five years, we’ve seen massive shifts in the way we do our work. Technology is our toolbox. It’s how we implement and execute on the strategies we create for our clients, and staying on top of it is a never ending challenge. The information available to us is vast, and staying current is something that excites us. Understanding what technology products can do for our clients is what we do.
5) We don’t just do as we’re told.
Our knowledge defines us. We question everything and our clients love us for it. The clients we work with come to us for an informed solution to a problem they need help solving. We aim to be the trusted collaboration partner that brings knowledge, tools and hard work to the equation. We’ll always find the balance between what a client wants as an outcome and the recommendations we make to get there.
6) We believe in the power of design.
When I started Goatsocial, design was not my strong-suit. I knew what “looked good”, but articulating what made good design was something I had little exposure to. The first person to teach me the power of design was our first Creative Director, Jeremy Newcombe. It was incredible watching him take the ideas I had for our clients and execute them with a level of finesse I’d never seen before.
At this point, the power of design was real. Today, we’ve made great design a fundamental part of every project we’ve completed. We’ll aim to show how design should be a top priority for any type of business, regardless of industry, with tangible, technical reasoning.
7) We value brick and mortar.
I believe people do business with people. When your brand experience connects at a human level, it means more. Our team has the flexibility to enjoy human experiences outside of the office, but primarily, we’ll keep things human by working together.
Businesses that have a physical presence have the opportunity to make their experience memorable. Supporting brick and mortar businesses that want to use digital tools to elevate their in-house experience is something I take a lot of pride in. We'll aim to provide a rock solid support system for our team while maintaining great flexibility in their roles and working environments, while putting effort into building human connections with our past, present and future clients.
Thank you to our team for working with me during this transition in the business. You’re the reason we are where we are. Not only our current team, but the past team members that helped solidify these values.
Thank you to our past, current and future clients for believing in us. We’ll continue to work our hard to build products you love with an experience you can enjoy.
Terence Sawtell, Founder & Strategy Director — February 28th