Unacquired: That Time We Sold Our Digital Agency & Then Bought It Back

Unacquired: That Time We Sold Our Digital Agency & Then Bought It Back

At the end of 2016, we sold BuzzShift. This acquisition seemed like the culmination of all our work building the company over the previous seven years; a way for our digital startup to really grow as part of a much larger agency. 10 months later, we bought it back. 

Needless to say, it was a learning experience for everyone involved. We don’t regret going through the process, and we’re now wiser and stronger because of it.

Now that we’re back with what we’re calling BuzzShift 2.0, here are a few insights for other business owners who may be facing similar decisions.

 

A little Q&A with Our Co-Founders

 

Cameron Gawley and Eddy Badrina - BuzzShift

BuzzShift Co-founders, Cameron Gawley & Eddy Badrina at WeWork Uptown

Why did you sell BuzzShift?

We saw the potential in joining a larger, traditional firm like Ivie, getting to work with larger clients, and hopefully helping the team there transition some of their traditional clients over to digital.

The fastest-growing brands in the world are digitally-led brands, but they’re not limited to only using digital channels. Being a part of a more holistic marketing play with brands, which included everything from print ads to in-store signage, was something very important to us. Ivie allowed us that opportunity.  

 

Why did you buy it back?

Like many relationships, you go into it with the best of intentions and on the same page. In the end, though, it simply didn’t work out the way either party thought it would, so we decided to amicably part ways.

 

What lessons did you learn?

There were several big takeaways:

  1. Companies start and end with culture. BuzzShift has a unique culture. We’re very flexible in how we work with clients; when we work; where we work (in terms of being remote or in the office); and even in the types of jobs that each person can fulfill (such as moving from project management to operations, or shifting from graphic design to creative strategy). It’s difficult to assimilate into another organization without losing some of that company culture.
  2. Our team is everything. Very early on at BuzzShift, we focused on ways to create, maintain, and grow a great team. Hiring slowly. Firing quickly, when firing was needed. Instilling high autonomy and even higher responsibility. Creating an environment that promotes authenticity and honesty. We didn’t try to create a family; we took a professional sports approach and tried to create the best team to put out on the field. Team members change, grow, and move on, but we always tried to grow the quality of the organization, so we could better attract high-performing team players.
  3. Looking back, we realize how fortunate we are. Consider the odds:

In short, we hit every milestone we could have in seven years. That’s mainly due to the team we have had the good fortune of hiring. And that goes back to culture. See lessons #1 and #2.

 

BuzzShift Workspace in Lights at WeWork Uptown Dallas

How did this experience change your view on owning a business?

It made us all the more thankful that we could run our own firm. And being a part of a larger company made us appreciate how much tougher it is to scale a small business up and manage it through all the growth transitions. Being a leader in a huge organization is tough sledding, with difficult decisions that are far reaching. It’s no joke.

 

What is BuzzShift 2.0? How is it different from the old BuzzShift?

In some ways, BuzzShift 2.0 is the same as it ever was: fantastic people, great culture, great clients, and a dynamic quality of work. But in other facets, BuzzShift 2.0 is totally different: we’re leaner, more nimble, and even more focused on the future of digital marketing. Our mission of helping businesses grow hasn’t changed, but our digital strategies and tools continue to evolve as the market does.

 

 

Why move to a coworking space (WeWork)?        

For us, it was about flexibility and agility. We needed to figure out how BuzzShift 2.0 would function and operate as a business model, so we had to have an office arrangement that was highly flexible. WeWork didn’t lock us into a 3-5 year contract usually associated with commercial leases, so that allows us to stay nimble and grow as needed. They take care of all the operational logistics that added hours back to our day (utilities, internet, snacks, etc), so it gives us more headspace to work on the business, not in it.

Being heavily connected into the community of other entrepreneurs, tech startups, agencies, and like-minded people is another major benefit of officing in WeWork.

BuzzShift Dallas Digital Marketing Agency Acquisition

Common Space at WeWork Uptown Dallas – BuzzShift

What advice would you give someone who was considering selling their business or getting acquired?

Talk to a good cross-section of business owners in your space. We had great wisdom and input from other techrelated founders and advisers whom we trust, and have known personally for years. We didn’t have to go into details with them, but just the fact that they knew our industry/space, and our business model, helped us a great deal.

Also, a good accountant and a business attorney are both worth every penny. Don’t skimp on those in the beginning of your venture, and don’t try and minimize their value at the end.

 

Would you do it again (get acquired)? If so, what would you do differently this time?

Under the right circumstances, we would be open to it, but we probably need a little break before the next one! The difference would be that we have an acquisition under our belt, so we have a better sense of what to look for now in terms of due diligence, and we will have our expectations dialed in more accurately.

BuzzShift Team

That’s it for now, but stay tuned for more thoughts and insights about where digital marketing is headed. Feel free to connect with us on social, or drop us a question in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Our amazing Madison Mentesana

BuzzShift Holiday Gift Guide 2017

BuzzShift Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Trying to figure out the perfect gift to get the marketing agency worker in your life?

 

We can help. Our team, though small, runs the gamut of agency roles: photographer, designer, animator, copywriter, community manager, paid media manager, project manager, and whatever it is that Eddy does. We’ve asked them all what gifts they would recommend this year. Here are the results:

What: iPhone Privacy Screen Protector

Why: Get the best of both worlds: a screen protector to keep your iPhone scratch-free and privacy to keep your conversations and information private

Recommended by: Phillip, who we always assumed was hiding something.

What: A Love Supreme (Vinyl LP)

Why: A classic John Coltrane (my dog’s namesake) album. A must-have album on vinyl that works equally well as an introduction to jazz or a reminder of why it is a classic.  

Recommended by: Grant. Hit him up on Bumble.

What: Plush Rabbit Sleep Mask

Why: Because anyone who loves sleep as much as I do knows that 8+ hours of complete darkness is key. And since “adulting” probably means not having stuffed animals in bed, this is a great replacement. Work hard, sleep hard.

Recommended by: Allison, who also dresses her rabbit-sized dog as a shark.

What: Mechanical Typewriter Keyboard for Computer

Why: I hate using typewriters; they make it too difficult to edit documents, and Googling anything takes forever. But I do love the way they look, sound, and feel when you type on them. Enter (return?) the Qwerkywriter, a bluetooth keyboard that combines everything you like about manual typewriters with, well, a functioning delete key. Guaranteed to make you feel like every fictional fiction writer you’ve ever seen on TV.

Recommended by: Kevin, who often just writes using paper and pen.

What: Wheel of Manchego Cheese

Why: For all the lactose lovers. Perfect for holiday charcuterie boards & wine nights. This life-changing, Spanish, sheeps-milk cheese is the perfect gift for foodies, friends & family (or for yourself).

Recommended by: Elena, who has relatives in Spain who may or may not own sheep.

What: Taylor Swift Concert Tickets

Why: Who wouldn’t want the sweet, sweet sight of reputation tickets under the tree? (Don’t answer that, haters). Ideal for anyone with excellent taste in music and pop stars.

Recommended by: Taylon, who has a Reputation as being a verified fan.

What: Sterling Silver Ball of Yarn

Why: Why wouldn’t someone want a sterling silver hand spun ball of yarn? I would give this to someone who likes to knit or a fashionista.

Recommended by: Madison, a fashionista.

What: Apollo Peak Dog Wine

Why: The perfect gift for winos and crazy dog moms alike (and their furry friends). A bottle of Malbark, ZinfanTail, or CharDogNay wrapped up under the tree for your good doggo is sure to get tails wagging. A truly useful and practical gift, Apollo Peak’s fine canine vintage dog wines help to combat rotten doggy breath and drinking alone. Talk about a win-win.

Recommended by: Amanda, and her drunk dog Samson.

What: Thomas Mason White Oxford by Proper Cloth

Why: I mean, who doesn’t appreciate (or have enough) tailor-made, Italian milled white oxfords? It’s a classic piece for any man’s wardrobe.

Recommended by: Eddy, who wears a different white shirt every day.

 

What’s your must-have gift this Christmas?

If you’re in marketing and refuse to learn anything about SEO, quit now.

If you’re in marketing and refuse to learn anything about SEO, quit now.

A look back at all the SEO things I learned from MozCon 2016. Spoiler: All of it still applies.

Bosses and other people who make major business decisions; sending someone who isn’t an search engine optimization (SEO) specialist to MozCon might be the best call you’ll ever make. But you’re probably asking “why should I when they just work in social, design or project management?” or “seems like a pretty pricey ticket for someone who doesn’t know what a structured snippet is.”

MozCon set the tone with their speakers from a wide array of disciplines within the marketing ecosystem, and didn’t distract us with other tracks on purpose. It was one room, one speaker at one time, for one reason. Not every speaker was an expert in SEO, but hearing how each facet of marketing in tandem with SEO can help achieve larger goals left us feeling lucky our bosses sent three non-SEO specialists to MozCon. One of our favorite presenters barely knew what link building was, but her expertise in storytelling will forever change how we approach creating action-oriented content online.

Basically – SEO is the one ring to rule them all, or the thing that’s gonna destroy your marketing career you if you know nothing about it.

Or another geek reference: Your specialty, a great story, and knowledge of SEO are the deathly hallows of the digital world. [While we can all respect Harry for getting rid of the resurrection stone and Elder wand, we all don’t need to be saints.]
Keep your hallows close and you’ll be the greatest marketing wizard or witch of all time.

If you’re in social media, web development, digital project management, design or copywriting – you need SEO. Here’s some quick insights, inspiration and resources from our favorite speakers at MozCon.


Putting Trust into Domain Authority with Wil Reynolds

“Don’t go viral. Go helpful.”

Wil Reynolds, Founder of SEER Interactive

Don’t always focus on the most popular search trends when creating content. Everyone is going after that audience, and by following suit, you’re missing out on the people who no one is focused on helping. Look at the niche communities that still need your product or service. If you help them, they will listen.

Go to answerthepublic.com and see what people are really searching for with regards to your product or service.


The Irresistible Power of Strategic Storytelling with Kindra Hall

“Too often we allude to the story, but we don’t actually tell it.”

Kindra Hall, Author & Storyteller Advisor

Kindra Hall talked to us about the importance of storytelling. Too often, the story is there, but we do a terrible job of actually telling it. Instead, we hint at a story, or tell part of it, and miss the opportunity to really connect with our audience on an emotional level. This is
important because stories are what makes your brand memorable. They differentiate you from your competition, and foster a loyal customer base.

Focus on the transformation of your hero and ask yourself “how did things change for them due to your purposeful message and product impact?” because stories are what people remember.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image media=”49489″ media_width_use_pixel=”yes” alignment=”center” media_width_pixel=”500″][vc_column_text]


Reimagining Customer Retention and Evangelism with Kristen Craft

“Don’t try to be all things to all people.”

Kristen Craft, Director of Business Development at Wistia

Kristen Craft talked to us about the importance of capitalizing on what makes you stand-out. Don’t be all things to all people; instead, use precise language, and showcase your idiosyncrasies. By revealing what makes you different, you are more likely to attract the people that you want to attract. The people who like what makes you stand-out, are more likely to take action and engage with your brand.

A great dating analogy and helpful read to increase conversions:
Datacysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudder


Breaking Patterns: How to Rewrite the CRO Playbook with Mobile Optimization with Talia Wolf

“One can never have enough socks. Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.”

Albus Dumbledore

Talia Wolf challenged us to be the mentor that our customers need. Basically, we are Dumbledore and our target audience is Harry. Our users have a challenge and our products or services provide them the tools they need to overcome it. In this session, Talia begged us to look at our mobile and desktop experiences and analyze how our audience behaviors and needs differ when interacting with us on the go, or at a desk, or on the couch. To help gain clarity on these differences, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you know your conversions are on mobile?
  • Do you know how many people are going from desktop and then to mobile?
  • What are people searching on mobile to get to your site?
  • How do they interact with your site on mobile vs. desktop?
  • How are you helping them find what they’re looking for?
  • How are we making their life better? (e.g. you don’t sell t-shirts, you sell self esteem)

How to Be Specific: From-The-Trenches Lessons in High-Converting Copy with Joanna Wiebe

“We see 5K ads a day. We recognize 50 — We remember 5.”

Joanna Weibe

It’s a world of 5,000 competing messages a day, but people only remember a few. Don’t focus on being in the top 10, you’ve got to be better than that and every other piece of noise doesn’t matter.

And don’t dumb down your audience because you think they don’t like to read. They just don’t like to read messages that are unhelpful, vague or not directed to their specific needs. Because why? Answer: Our brains are exhausted.

Tip: Try something new and see how people-centric and more individualized and conversion-oriented copy can help you create action with this approach.

Helpful Resource:

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