Co-Owner & Technical Director, Bournemouth Digital.
The Etch Spotlight series lets you get to know the talent that makes up the Etch Community. Find out their successes and challenges, how they got started, and what they like the most about working with Etch. This week, we meet Dan Griffiths, Co-Owner & Technical Director of Bournemouth Digital.
Hi Dan, please briefly explain who you are, and what you do…
My name is Dan, and I'm one of the owners and directors of Bournemouth Digital, a tech-focused digital agency. We partner a lot with creative companies and other larger agencies like Etch, providing tech support. From.net development and PHP development front end and back end to hosting.
Tell us about your story, how did you get to where you are today?
I am a software developer, that's my background. After Uni I worked in London but moved down to Bournemouth a few years later. I worked for several agencies before becoming the CTO of an agency in Christchurch.
At the same time, my business partner was a technical consultant for Netsuite, which is a company owned by Oracle. We saw an opportunity to create a purely technical agency. There was a big gap in the e-market and business systems market at the time. That's what we initially focused on, his experience in that market, with my technical leadership and development skills.
Eventually, we started branching out into more typical digital agency work of websites and web development. And that's how we ended up working with Etch. I think our first project was working with you guys on The Pig. And since then, we've done loads, working on The Swan, Lime Wood. Most of the hospitality systems we’ve touched at some point, in a .net capacity.
Do you solely work in the hospitality sector?
We work across multiple sectors. We do have lots of other hospitality clients, but that’s not the only sector. What we focus on is the technology gap. It’s why we fit well with creative agencies. Quite often creative agencies will have to turn down projects because they don't have the technical skills in house to fulfil the entire contract.
We will work with other agencies, either white labelled or otherwise. For example, with Etch, we eventually built up such a strong relationship, Etch felt comfortable with us being in front of the client. Even at the pitching stages, we get in front of the client, which is nice.
What motivated you to start an agency?
Well, if you'd asked me five years ago there's probably a less romantic answer. But fundamentally I have always wanted to achieve the most, the biggest, and the best thing in my career and life as I possibly could. To fulfil that I’ve always seized opportunities when they turn up. So, when the opportunity came for me to join forces with my now business partner, I couldn’t turn it down.
I was in a great job, and I was set for life. I had an amazing boss, at an amazing company. But there is something prestigious about owning your own company. And there’s something enviable about owning your fate as well. We started the agency because it was the best possible thing we could achieve at that time. But a by-product of creating your own business is owning your own time, choosing your work, and choosing who you work with.
What’s the best moment you’ve had in the time of running your own business?
Moving into our new office was a real moment for us. We were in a box room on the outskirts of Bournemouth. Eight of us working shoulder to shoulder in a single room. Now we're over two floors in these amazing offices up in Lansdowne. I remember moving in with the entire team and just feeling a part of something. Feeling a part of this entity that we all had a hand in creating and was growing and seeding.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to face?
We’re a small agency. Eleven full time. Fourteen if you include contractors. Nine of us are developers and only two aren’t. As such, we all share similar interests, we all hang out, and we all go to the pub together. We all know each other's families, and you know we're all very, very close.
When one of us has a personal difficulty, as the paternal figure of the company, it's on my shoulders in some ways to make sure that gets resolved. And I'm not talking from a horrible corporate standpoint of productivity. More from a human perspective. So there have been a couple of times where the human aspect of owning a company has been personally quite difficult to manage. But I've got a crazy supportive wife that lets me lean on her emotionally, and I couldn’t have co-created this company without her support.
What are you currently working on with Etch?
We’re working on loads of projects with Etch. We are somewhere between 30 and 45 days a month with you guys. I am personally working full time on a project for one of your biggest clients in retail, alongside your dev team. Two of the team are doing support and general retainer work. So, they're working across the system base. The team are heavily involved in the support contracts that you provide. If someone reports a bug, we jumped in there and fix it.
Why do you enjoy working with Etch?
The biggest thing is the personality fit. While Etch is much bigger than us, say ten times bigger in terms of staff, you still have the mentality of a start-up agency, but with the maturity of a larger agency.
The personality of everyone I've worked with at Etch is super agile, accepting, and friendly. When you’re a company of Etch’s size, it's quite easy to get sucked into becoming a corporate machine that sees people as resources and has an obnoxious number of processes in place. But you guys cut straight through that. Etch treat everybody in the company as human beings, including the contractors.
Since I've been working with you guys there's only one Christmas party that I've not been invited to, and I think that's a really lovely human thing to do. And it’s exactly how we try to run our business too. There's a big similarity. Even though there’s like 50 of you and 10 of us, you still manage to maintain that family aspect. It’s something that we appreciate in our company as well, so there’s a nice fit there.
Also, in the agency world, there is always this balance that you need to get right. Client satisfaction versus spend on a project. All contractors and agencies understand that you can't overspend on a project, but the client also needs to be satisfied. I know that Etch gets that balance right and quite often, you will make sure that the client is satisfied at your own expense. Delivery of the work and the clients’ expectations are the priority, and that aligns with our ways of working.
James Perrin was speaking to Dan Griffiths as part of the Etch Community Spotlight series. The Etch Community gives digital professionals a platform to grow, and a place to belong. It is for freelancers, business owners, and fellow agencies looking to grow their business by plugging into a community of top digital talent. Visit The Etch Community for more information.