So many people to thank, too many projects to recall, countless lessons learned, and yet it all feels very early in thunder::tech's history.
It is humbling to look back across 20 years for a company that started in a dorm room in the late 90s and has now grown into a 40-person agency with clients across the globe.
As someone who grew up watching and admiring entrepreneurs, namely my parents, I can think of no other professional path I could have taken 20 years ago. Luckily, marketing found me.
Since thunder::tech’s humble beginning as a full-time gig, I have always remembered advice that said we were “better off selling pickaxes to the miners of the dot-com boom rather than prospecting with them.” It was solid advice as we transformed to a full-time endeavor and started hiring during the recession of the early 2000s. We failed to accept that the websites we built were merely IT projects and pushed for marketing to understand where the industry’s future was heading.
This opened the door to connect with marketing departments and listen to the changes they were experiencing as consumer behaviors evolved. The remaining “Mad Men” in our field were grabbing their hats and coats and heading for the door in droves while web firms were faced with the chance to grow into digital agencies. thunder::tech not only embraced this, but also traditional fields of marketing.
Enter “integrated marketing.” In the mid-2000s we had this idea that marketing just had to work. It didn’t need a specific tactic and it certainly didn’t matter if some association said it was award-winning. What mattered was if it worked for the client and if they were pleased with the work we did for them. Being in the professional services field, we understand and expect the needs of customers to come first. Naively, I thought this was common sense and only later learned from a very direct client in L.A. that we made them feel “uncomfortable” with how fast we responded to them.
We later found out how our principles were paying off. During the next recession, The Great One, we took care of the accounts who had to consolidate work with us and, as a result, we grew. By following our principles and operating a model that helps us better serve clients with a long view for the future, we never had a mass layoff during that time either.
With an eye always on the future, we have embraced R&D with annual six-figure investments in disciplines like 3D printing, drone videography, touch screens and voice search, among others. It was the same in 2005 when we built our first mobile site... for Blackberry phones. Of course in another two years when the iPhone was introduced, we were more than comfortable with the opportunities that mobile held. This model has since been repeated in every practice area from video to email to social media and advertising.
I am so grateful for the t::team members who took a chance with thunder::tech at every stage we've gone through and am proud to watch the amazing careers of those those that have moved on (Google, Sherwin Williams, Publicis, Major League Baseball, AKQA, Hyland Software and more), but am even more impressed by those who have continued to grow and evolve their careers at thunder::tech. Our number of managers, directors and VPs that have grown from the inside, and even a few who started as interns, is something that I don't take for granted. These professionals have decided to grow their own career and our agency at the same time. To say I have the best agency team in the country would be an understatement.
Of course, these last 20 years would not have been possible without our clients either. I am honored that we have five clients who have worked with us for at least 17 years and of course, many, many other progressive clients who allow us to invent the future with them everyday. You have all helped us grow individually and as a team. You have invited us into your businesses to solve problems, create new opportunities and accelerate growth. We are indebted to your trust and will only continue to improve for you.
With all of that being said, thunder::tech's ride is far from over. In fact, we believe we are just starting what we like to call “Day Two” of our story. In the past two years, we have laddered up more existing talent than ever before in our history, added the most seasoned professionals to our t::team, deepened our roots in a number of regions throughout the Great Lakes including Detroit and Chicago and have continued to evolve and expand our services because of the incredible professionals who choose to be a part of thunder::tech.
So thank you to everyone who made an impact on us over the past two decades. You are all a part of our story and, large or small, contributed to who we have become. We are grateful for our t::teammates, clients, partners, fans, detractors and mentors for these 20 years that I could have never dreamt of. But enough about the past. We are already writing our next chapter and have to get back to inventing the future.
With gratitude to you all,