Last week I was straightening up my home office and I noticed an old business card from my very first company, NBN Designs, tacked to the wall.
And then this past weekend I was out in Snellville and realized I was about to drive past our first official office (the first “office” was our dorm room at UNC-Charlotte and our second “office” was my mother’s basement.) So I swung in and checked it out.
Yeah, its kind of a dump now. But, it kind of was kind of a dump in January of 2000 when we moved in. At that time, it was the back entrance to a 2nd rate fitness center. Rent was $1,000/month and it was oddly designed and loud from the fitness center’s aerobic classes and it was hard to find and…it was glorious. Your first office is a special place, and our little dive in Snellville was no different.
The original name of our company was NBN Designs. It stood for Nothing But Net, because Raj and I started the company at UNC-Charlotte which, back then, was a pretty good basketball school. We were building websites in the dorm, and one day I said, “Hey, instead of building websites for fun, maybe we should start a company together.” So we did, and NBN Designs was born.
We didn’t know what we were doing back then. We were 21 years old and we just loved building websites and…well, that was about it. If we had put together a business plan it would have simply said, “Well, we love building websites, so why not?”
I learned so much during the early years of my entrepreneurial journey. I’ve changed how I look at business, how I manage and lead, how I view the digital marketing industry (truth be told, I never “viewed the digital marketing industry” back then at all)…but there is one thing that I did back then that I still do today.
Once Raj, Danny, and I had a few employees, I remember us sitting around one day and one of us said, “You know, these people are spending more time with us than they do with anyone else in their lives. Wouldn’t it suck if they didn’t enjoy it?” And from that point on, I’ve always wanted to try to make my companies have a great culture.
I do believe that Spunlogic (we changed the name of NBN Designs to Spunlogic eventually) and then (to some extent) Engauge had great cultures. Engauge was the new company we formed when we sold Spunlogic, so it was a combination of three businesses, created by my great friend and mentor, Stan Rapp, and the board was run by a private equity firm (who were great, btw,) but the culture wasn’t something we could completely oversee. But it was still solid, and I was proud of it.
I’ve taken my approach to building a great culture to another level with Dragon Army (see: Dragon Army’s Purpose, our VTV, and these two views into our culture.) But at its core, the idea is still the same one we had 20 years ago, which is: