Flyte turns 10 years old tomorrow. Anniversaries and milestones always make you look back and take stock.
It was 10 years ago, May, 1997, that marked my last days at my previous job. I had already started building Web sites in my spare time, and had decided that I didn’t want to work for anyone for a while. I figured this Web thing would last for a couple of years, at least until graphic designers learned to code or techies learned to design.
I certainly didn’t have any grand plans of running my own company, or hiring anyone else. I called my company b1 communications for no real good reason and got a domain name which I believe has since expired. I set up my Mac Performa in the dining room of my apartment in Jamaica Plain and connected to the Web over a 28.8 modem. It often took over a full minute for every page to load. I learned patience.
My design skills could be generously described as "rudimentary," but there was so little you could do with the Web back then, it didn’t really matter. I had a couple of clients, including my dad and Dr. William Adams, both of whom are still with me.
I started writing a print newsletter in October of 1997, and the first issue was entitled, "What’s More Important: Content or Presentation?" A few months later I wrote my first article on search engines called "Search Engine Considerations." Some of the material holds up, some is out-of-date, and much of it would get you in trouble, such as my advice to create doorway pages.
Back in 1999 I moved the company (me and my computer) to Portland, Maine, because I had fallen in love. (See: Why I Hired a Hot Chick.) I struck up a relationship with a design firm in town who helped me rebrand my company as flyte new media and came up with our paper airplane logo.
I continued to work out of my (now our) apartment, but a few of my clients wanted more work out of me than I could do on my own. So, I hired a couple of people who worked out of our apartment, and later out of our house.
It was kind of weird, having people work in your house. I used to close down the "office" when I had to leave for a doctor’s appointment, and I always felt odd about having clients over. Especially because we’re not exactly the Martha Stewart type.
We ultimately moved the office out of the house and got a sweet spot in the Old Port with signage. I swear it was just about the day we signed the lease that my talented designer decided he had to move to NYC. Within a month my other part-time employee left to work on an elephant farm in Tennessee. No, I’m not making this up.
Luckily, my friend Ryan Goan, who had create the flyte logo, was looking for some part time work and took over the design work. He’s still here, now as our creative director. Soon after, Gloria Maher joined on as a part-time developer. She told me that she only expected to be here for a few months before she’d have to look for a "real job," but I offered her one (she became my first full-time employee) so she stuck around. Robin Lowell joined us soon after, and she’s still here, too.
Some other talented people came and went, and by 2006 there were six of us in 700 square feet, all facing forward towards the door. People joked that coming into the office was like stepping onto a crowded bus. It was time to move again.
We found our current space, which totally rocks. We added Carolyn Phillips as project manager, Jonathan Braden as account manager, and most recently, my wife Cybele as Marketing Director.
Along the way we’ve also established some long-term relationships with contractors that have really helped us handle the growth of flyte. Since some of them work full-time for other companies, they may not want me to mention them here, but you know who you are. Thanks.
And of course, there’s our clients. If you’ve been in business for a while, you know that there are some clients who have been so instrumental in the success of your company, you can’t imagine things without them. Maybe their job got you another job which led to still another job, or maybe they introduced you to another big client. Maybe they took on a mentorship role or pushed you to deliver a better product. Maybe they gave you some constructive criticism that was difficult to hear but made you a better company in the long run. To all of those people, thanks.
So many of my friends have lately been saying, "I can’t believe it’s been 10 years." I feel the same way. Maybe that’s just a symptom of getting older and time flying by, but I think it’s more about how much fun it’s been. (Not every day, trust me, but overall.) Running this company has led to meet a lot of interesting people. I’ve gotten to work with entrepreneurs who were just starting a business and established businesses that were looking to expand onto the Web.
I’ve seen a number of my clients’ businesses grow over the years. (Not just because of the Web site, obviously, but it’s nice to see them succeed.) I’ve seen a few shrink and one or two dissolve. I’ve seen co-workers’ learn new skills and have seen their confidence increase. Although we try and have a good work/life balance, I’ve seen them all work late to finish a project and put in the extra time to make it work well.
Most of all I’ve seen what’s now known as "flyte" transform from an excuse to avoid working in an office to a growing business with seven employees and nearly as many independent contractors, helping other small businesses grow and thrive. Especially in a state like Maine, that needs more vibrant small businesses to succeed, that’s been perhaps the most rewarding part of my time here.
The first ten years have been a grand adventure that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I can’t wait to see what the next ten years bring.
President, flyte new media