The hard lessons we learned & how you can thrive from it ✨— 2021 Reflection from Roy Selbach

As the world rapidly changes due to digital innovations and forced COVID measurements, we as a whole team also made quite an astonishing switch in mindset and focus. Adapting yourself and your company quickly doesn’t happen without jumping through different obstacles and pain points.

In the end, one important lesson that I learned is that your people are the most important aspect of the success of your business. And to keep your head cool even in the toughest of times.

I would like to take this time to take you through our journey in the Yeti-verse, which I believe would be beneficial for someone who is aiming for the stars. This can be for anyone from business owners, entrepreneurs, marketers, designers to everyone else in between and outside. ✨

 

A look behind the scenes in 2021

As a graphic service provider, we have to arrange a lot of things behind the scenes. Most people sometimes don’t fully comprehend how complicated it can get to deliver the final designs. While we have developed a tailored platform that makes the custom graphic design experience as smooth as possible, graphic design still remains a creative artwork.

The designers are essentially artists—with each one having their unique specialization, from illustrations to animations. And on the other hand, you have clients who have specific styles and needs. Combine these together, and you need to create perfect synergy in every single aspect. From understanding the client briefing, the design that needs to be delivered and its objective, and finally, of course, the turnaround time. 

The thing that we fully control is the experience and the flow, from receiving the briefing until the final delivery of the request. You can read more about what we have done to make sure our processes are as streamlined as possible over here: 

Hackernoon – How to Optimize Your Workflow: Time is Money by Roy Selbach

 

What we hold dearest

Creating and shaping a company goes with a lot of planning, as well as upholding your values.

You can compare this to the blood running through your veins, or the final DNA that makes you, you. From the start, we set a vision and tailored all of our activities towards accomplishing this vision. Even when times were bad (or good), we always circled back towards the core. This helped create clarity for the whole company.

I want to underline the importance of this for every reader. In our case, we differentiated between the vision for clients and for our staff.

To clients 🎨 

“Becoming the most reliable on-demand creative platform by taking away all the frustrations of the graphic design process.”

To our Yeti’s 👩🏻‍🎨 👨🏻‍🎨

“Providing a friendly and innovative remote environment that supports creativity and job stability with the focus on personal growth and rewards.”

Even when we sometimes moved off-track, we always found a way to dive back into our core, our Yeti-DNA.

 

 

Some of the results we harvested in 2021

And you may ask, what does all that hard work result in? Let’s take a look at the top-level results that we achieved in 2021.

Revenue

As we experienced high fluctuations in revenue with seasonal sales and churns, we still managed to grow over 250% from January to December, with an initial target of 200%. As we are a young start-up, we had seasons that far exceeded our expectations and other months where we saw a huge decline. We learned from this experience and will make sure that these seasonal changes will be effectively tackled in the upcoming year. Having historical data will certainly prove useful in this regard. 

Headcount

At the start of the year we had around 30 employees and this year, we are finishing our rollercoaster year with around 50 skilled employees. I am really grateful to the whole team who are working behind the scenes to make sure that DotYeti is growing in the right direction. To date, we’ve launched several community events and kick-started our internal education programs to give everyone the chance to develop their personal skills.

Registrations & clients

Ever since we launched our new platform this year, we saw impressive growth in registrations. Within one year, we managed to sign-up more than 1250+ people to our platform. Those new registrations resulted in over 125 paying customers. And out of these, many still remain loyal to our service. They continue to enjoy the new features, growth, and high-quality processes that we’ve established and maintained over this period of time.

We quickly noticed that design is still a variable. It depends on the needs at specific moments in the customer journey. By analyzing the raw data that we had from our customers, we are paving the path towards a higher retention rate. Because of our platform and workflows, we are finally able to identify customer pain points in the early stages and come up with a viable solution. Besides that, we recently introduced the ability to pause subscriptions for those who need a short break. In the end, we are training all of our employees to create durable design experiences that are pleasing from the beginning till the end.

Development milestones

Numbers don’t always tell the full story. I have seen large companies with millions of dollars in funding go bankrupt in just a matter of months. Therefore, we decided to almost fully bootstrap our company with just a handful of talented developers (2-4 people) who were willing to go that extra mile, believe in what we do and what we stand for. With a fairly small development team, we were able to move mountains and accomplish so much in such a limited time.

I believe that besides the sales and marketing aspects of the business, the founders also have to understand the core aspects, which translates into building the product from the ground up. Who else should know precisely what the customer needs and what has to be built?

 

Launched our new platform

Important Announcement: We Have A New Platform! - DotYeti Blog

I still remember that in March 2021, our hearts started to pound faster and faster. After months of planning and building, we launched our brand-new platform. It’s always an exciting moment of truth that determines whether your hard work pays off. We were also excited to see if all of our active customers were as hyped as we were about the new dramatic change of business.

But, it was received with open arms! We had many clients even helping us behind the scenes with assessing and improving the platform. They gave us valuable insights about what had to be changed and which small bugs we had to fix as soon as possible.

After delivering the platform, we launched many new features that eventually became part of the Yeti ecosystem. To highlight some of the new features that were rapidly released after our core system:

  • Pay-as-you-go – We made it possible to accommodate one-time projects.
  • Illustration library – We created 150+ illustrations in 4 different styles accessible to everyone for free, client or non-client.
  • Perks program – We partnered up with big names in the industry to offer excellent perks for our clients
  • Credit packages – Credits can be purchased and redeemed for designs, or for a free trial for first-time clients
  • DotYeti Academy – We launched our own course platform, with a very unique and special first course. How to become a deaf web designer by Marvin. 100% done in sign language!
  • And many many other improvements… 

 

Tackle problems and obstacles as fast as you can

As the year went by, not everything went smoothly. Operating a business is like taking care of yourself. But in your life, there are unpredictable bad days. It’s important to ask yourself: what do you do when you are having a bad day? Are you sitting still and not solving problems or are you proactively finding a solution time and time again? You are in control of the final result in your life, and in your business.

Jump into war mode, when necessary!

As the year went by, we saw many high seasons, but also a lot of low seasons with a higher churn rate than the other months. Running a start-up isn’t always the easiest thing of all, especially since you are always running on a tied budget. But not having a large VC-powered budget, actually makes you take actions at a much higher speed. It pushes you to come up with solutions and spot the weaknesses in your business.

At some point, we decided to take a 48 hours session, where we came together to brainstorm and note down all the obstacles and opportunities that we should handle as soon as possible. We were very enthusiastic and jotted down as much as we could, even though we didn’t have enough space left on the board. This quickly escalated that we used all of our glass windows as a whiteboard. Finally, we moved over everything to a Google Sheet, where we organized everything into and segmented it into different categories such as; high/low impact, high/low impact, high/low cost, etc. This made it easier for us to pick the low-hanging fruits to focus on.

Running an 100% remote business isn’t always easy

The remote work culture has been something that we embraced from the start. It’s efficient, it’s convenient, but it definitely also comes with a lot of challenges. As I am a social person, I like to meet people face-to-face, give live presentations and help people directly. When running a 100% remote business it’s hard to oversee all the work activities and coordinate tasks. That’s why we came up with a few solutions that helped to bridge these gaps.

First of all, we made for each and every department SOPs and workflows that provide all the necessary information to make sure that everyone has the right tools to do their job as well as possible.

In another important element in our success story is that are using our platform as much as possible to empower our designers. In this use case, we made a dashboard that shows which team is working on which client and how busy they are. This gives us the insight we need to make the right decisions in terms of allocation of the teams and finding new talents.

Income vs Expenses

Another challenging obstacle for start-ups is that in the scaling phase, their expenses are significantly growing at their momentum. You feel like this is the actual point that you should start investing more into people, marketing, sales, etc. However, when you start collecting more data and insights and then look at YoY level, then you can identify that it can be just a short spike in terms of revenue. For start-ups, it’s extremely hard to make accurate revenue projections, and making wrong calculations can mean the end for your business. By following the practices of Profit First, we made some radical shifts in our thinking of how we should spend our budget. Which makes the success of our company more definite.

From the book: Profit First

Adapt to your market needs

As the creative space is evolving, we noticed that more and more clients are asking for new tools. There are 2 options;
1) Ignore and just keep doing what you are doing
2) Adapt and fulfill the needs of your customers

Of course, we picked the second option, since we noticed some signals from prospects and current clients that there was a high need for these new tools. Instead of offering it directly, we provided a whole new educational program for our designers that prepared them for the new tools.


The final thought I’d like to share is to focus on the 4% of your business that really makes a difference. In other words, don’t get sidetracked by all the other activities that may come up on a daily basis.

 

What’s upcoming for 2022

As I don’t want to make this article too long and more focused on our learnings from the last year, I still would like to give you a small teaser on what we are working on and will launch in 2022.

  • White-label graphic design solution – Offer the possibility to use our platform, fully branded with your own design and hosted on your own website
  • Integration with Canva & Figma – Making it possible to integrate Canva & Figma to directly start editing and commenting via our platform
  • API Integrations – Make it possible to receive notifications and send requests from your favorite tools such as; Slack, Trello, Teams, Asana, and more
  • Expansion into more countries – Setting up local offices around the globe (be, where your customers are)
  • DotYeti Academy – Adding tons of new courses for upcoming creative talents, which helps in completing our Yeti-ecosystem
  • And much… much more!

 

 

What are we looking for

As a growing company, we are always on the lookout for aspiring talents that could help us get our business to the next level. Take a look at positions that we have open at this moment:

Don’t feel shy to send an email to: [email protected]

Special thanks to

To close off this article, I would like to give a special thanks to all the people who were involved in making DotYeti what it is today.

  • Our clients – Thanks for believing in what we do. We always listen to you, adapt, and take learnings from your feedback to constantly improve 
  • Gregory – My second wife and partner in crime, who manages to drive revenue numbers and growth, while having twin babies on the way. You’re doing an amazing job! Keep it up. 
  • Marc & Kris – Our joyful HR & recruitment killer combo, who make sure that we have the right people for the right job.
  • Ezra – Our rock-solid Operations manager, who is always there to fill in the gaps
  • Angela & Dwight – Our engaging and talkative account managers, who make sure that the clients get what they want.
  • Alex, Bea & Carl Glen – Our highly reliable and excellent art directors who check that every design is the best possible creative interpretation of a client’s idea
  • Vlad & Roman – The agile development team, who are working around the clock to ensure the platform is running smoothly
  • Amadeo – Who laid the groundwork and foundation of the new platform. 
  • Jasmine, Quina, Nat & Marvin – The everlasting marketing team that is able to push everything in the right direction. 
  • All the hard-working designersSign-up and you get the chance to meet them all 😉
  • All the others involved – Thank you to my loving fiancé Chris, our business partners, angel investors, and all the other people who believed in us from the start. 

Wishing everyone an excellent 2022. Let’s make it happen (again)!

PS. If you haven’t signed up, make sure you take a peek into our platform.

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