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

FYI Friday: Marketing Technology Edition

FYI Friday: Marketing Technology Edition

As a digital agency, marketing technology plays a role in pretty much everything we do. Here, Chief Strategy Officer Eddy Badrina shares what he’s been reading this week to stay on top of marketing technology news.

  1. Here’s where we’re looking first for stock footage – TechCrunch

Pond5 is the latest player in the world of stock visual assets, but this marketing technology company’s forward thinking and emphasis on video, as well as an “artist-first” mentality, has us intrigued and optimistic for its success. The fact that Google’s VP for global agency sales joined the board only boosts its prospects for growth.

  1. “Investing in product” attracts investors – TechCrunch

Quiet and steady growth is the key to Intercom’s success as a marketing and customer engagement platform. Their sixth round of funding, at an estimated $50mm, brings their haul to right around $116mm over four years. We like their intense focus on building a really great product, which has been adopted by some of our other favorite marketing technology companies, like Invision, Moz, and Shopify.

  1. Forget Skynet; AI is taking over online sales – TechCrunch

Another four year old martech company that is making waves, Persado‘s is an artificial intelligence (AI) based copywriting service. Originally used to just optimize existing marketing messages, they have improved the AI so that it can now craft messages itself, with parameters input by the user. “The company has cataloged 1 million words and phrases that marketers use in their copy, and scored those words based on sentiment analysis and the structure of marketing pitches defined by a message’s format, linguistic structure, description, emotional language, and its actual call to action.”

It’s not going to replace our beloved Kevin or Taylon, but it may eventually help them out a lot!

  1. Making money on Medium – Marketing Land

Medium, the blogging platform founded by Blogger and Twitter co-founder Ev Williams, is now letting publishers use the platform to post content and then make money from native ads or paid subscriptions. The kicker for us is that “Medium eventually plans to make it so that publishers’ Medium posts can be reformatted as Facebook Instant Articles or Accelerated Mobile Pages, the Google-backed mobile web alternative to Facebook’s quick-loading format.”

  1. Sorting through the marketing technology stack – eMarketer

Pulling it all together, the biggest theme in marketing technology is that marketers are going away from an all-in-one approach to marketing platforms. “A lot of marketers decided that they want a best-of-breed collection of whatever it is—half a dozen or so different products, maybe two or three main platforms and a collection of more specialized capabilities to work with those platforms. People are getting comfortable with that, partly because vendors have done a much better job on the integration side.”

FYI Friday: Startup & Entrepreneur Edition

FYI Friday: Startup & Entrepreneur Edition

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”70″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]It wasn’t all that long ago that BuzzShift was considered a startup. Two entrepreneurs, bootstrapping a new type of agency, working out of their small office and coffee shops. Ascension literally had a table for us in the back with a sign that said “Reserved for those startup guys.” Though we’ve since far outgrown the table, we still very much keep an entrepreneurial mindset. Cameron and Eddy still love to help out startups pro-bono, and more importantly, we hire people with the same type of mindset. In fact, most employees here often have “side hustles” to fulfill that entrepreneurial itch.

So, for this weekend’s reading list, we have five stories about startups and bold entrepreneurs.

1. How A Little Curiosity And A Lot Of Care Can Get Anyone Started, Even In Grade School- Mashable

This 11 year old entrepreneur thought up the idea for BeeSweet when she was 4. After being stung twice, she wanted to know more about the honey makers and discovered the vital role they play in the ecosystem.

2. How A Librarian And A Social Studies Teacher Put Math In Their Favor – Forbes

Two teachers saw a need, became entrepreneurs, and created a startup for education modules, which now net them $50,000 a month.

3. How Lyft Is Differentiating From Uber, And How It’s Working- Fast Company

The smaller ridesharing startup is getting smart with partnerships and defining its own identity within the “gig economy” by showing that it really cares for its driver-entrepreneurs.

4. #ThinkBigger. Like REALLY BIGGER. – Forbes

Big dreams and a penchant for execution are driving this entrepreneur to remake the land around the Panama Canal.

5. Why This Guy Left Google And Still Makes More Money- Bloomberg

Great insight into the “gig economy”, and how someone can get the best of both worlds of good pay and freedom. “I’d rather control my own destiny and take on the risk and forgo the benefits of nap pods and food.”

Bonus for Kevin, our resident farm boy: How Tractor Supply Is Amazon-proofing Their Business – Forbes[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]