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|Articles - October 2010|
|Tuesday, September 28, 2010|
It was a classic dotcom deal. ISITE Design co-founders Paul Williams and Jeff Cram were on the 70th floor of the Trump Building on Wall Street in 2000, entertaining a tempting offer from an investment firm pushing a reverse merger with a publicly traded company. Everything was first class, including the meal cooked by the chef flown in from Italy to celebrate the birthday of one of the firm’s partners.
Williams and Cram, who met as Linfield College fraternity brothers with a shared love for baseball, were star-struck by the experience. But they didn’t like the fine print, the part where they would lose control of the company they had built.
“We got our offer and took a walk around the block,” recalls Williams, “and we decided it just didn’t feel like us or what we want to do. If we can’t understand this, we’re not going to do it.”
That decision kept Williams and Cram out of the full-tilt expansion party that characterized the Internet boom years. It also allowed them to survive the inevitable crash and maintain control as their peers and competitors went down in flames. In the decade since, they have built ISITE into a Portland company that powered through the recession without eliminating jobs and now is hiring to keep up with demand for website design as well as high-level digital strategy consulting. Williams is forecasting revenues of $6.5 million to $7 million for 2010.
“A lot of large agencies had to cut people during the recession because their forecasts didn’t show the right numbers,” says Williams, the 35-year-old CEO who works out of ISITE’s headquarters in Portland’s Old Town. “So they lost good people and we were able to pick up good people.”
ISITE more than tripled its revenues from 2005 to 2009, while growing from 14 employees to 53. The company is expecting growth to accelerate as companies continue to seek insight into how to make the most of the Internet to improve everything from e-commerce to marketing to analytics. Strategic consulting with global companies such as Siemens and SolarWorld is increasingly important to ISITE, generating about 20% of the firm’s business and growing.
“We’re coming into large organizations more as a management consultant than a website designer,” says Cram, the 34-year-old chief strategy officer who works out of ISITE’s office in Cambridge, Mass. “We’re helping them figure out how technology is going to change their business, or enable them to change. It’s a very different conversation compared to what we were having four or five years ago. And more organizations are figuring out that they need this.”
This growing portion of the business can become complex quickly. ISITE’s work for Siemens involves websites in 28 countries and in eight languages.
That’s quite a journey for a McMinnville startup that nabbed its first paying client worth $5,000 after someone found an ISITE business card lying on the floor. Williams and Cram had just graduated from Linfield with degrees in communications and were working for the McMinnville News-Register at a time when newspapers and their advertisers first began confronting the enormous potential and challenge of the worldwide web. They recognized the opportunity within the disruption, and so did the team of 45 or so developers they recruited from local colleges in the low-budget days before they were able to hire people.
Before long they had an office and "real" employees. They rode the Internet wave but not foolishly, building relationships with local business leaders such as the Tonkin family, with whom they built a whole new way of selling cars that eventually became a stand-alone company called DealerPeak. They resisted the temptation to move jobs overseas to save money, opening an office instead in the Cambridge Innovation Center near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a 14-story building packed with businesses studying everything from using algae as a biofuel to the latest in video game graphics. MIT is now a key ISITE client, as is Boston-based Zipcar.
Cram oversees just six employees in Cambridge, but he expects that number to grow. The same trend applies at the stylish Old Town office, where ISITE is hiring developers, project managers, marketing managers and strategists.
“We get hundreds of applications for entry-level positions, but for senior-level strategists we have to go out hunting,” says Williams. “These aren’t people who are sitting around unemployed. Digital strategy is an area that is taking off.”
It’s a subject Williams and Cram have been studying since their early startup days. “We’ve had digital strategy in our DNA from the start, but it takes a while to develop to that level,” says Williams. “Now people are bringing us in as an extension of their team and looking to us to help them chart their future.”
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BY LINDA BAKER
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BY NISHANT BHAJARIA | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
By now, anyone who knows about it has a position on President Obama’s executive order on immigration. The executive order is the outcome of failed attempts at getting a bill through the normal legislative process. Both Obama and his predecessor came close, but not close enough since the process broke down multiple times.
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BY OREGON BUSINESS STAFF
An SEC rule targets the disparity between executive and employee compensation, reigniting a long-standing debate about corporate social responsibility.
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BY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR
A market for low-carbon transportation fuels has a chance to flourish in Oregon if regulators adopt the second phase of the state’s Clean Fuels Program.
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BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
We ask business and nonprofit leaders how they survive the season.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:
The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace.
Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.
This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay.
Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.
New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”
That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!
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