A watercooler moment with Adam Smith, MD and owner of Rawnet, the digital agency
In a nutshell, what does Rawnet do?
Rawnet is a multi-award winning digital agency with offices in Ascot and New York. Our team produce creative commercial campaigns, which help solve our clients’ business challenges and build loyalty with their audiences. We are strategists, problem-solvers and innovators, bursting with knowledge. We provide our clients with a higher level of service through skilled project management, cutting-edge technology and design expertise. Our work has spans a wide range of market-leading brands, including ITV Studios, Ronald McDonald House Charities and Carphone Warehouse.
Where did the idea for Rawnet come from?
I started my career as a designer of CD-ROMs back in the late 90s. This taught me the foundation of creativity and technology at a time when the two were just coming together. However, I found myself enjoying making a difference to businesses with ideas more than making the products. So I created an agency that did champion ROI at the time others were just getting used to the idea of a ‘skip intro’ button. Backed with a bunch of client-side experience, a strong commercial focus with a hint of genuine geeky appreciation of all things technical, we soon found ourselves in a great position and with a strong message.
When did you start up?
In the summer of 2007.
How has it gone so far?
I’ve been lucky to have the help of an amazing team, each of which share the same passion and Rawnet DNA. Within the past three years, Rawnet has grown from a regional web design agency to a fully-fledged, full-service international digital agency with a client list that spans the globe. We grew 60% in the past 12 months and now have over 40 full-time staff. We have produced great, innovative work, which saw us awarded 11 times last year, as well as being named the number one digital agency for companies sized between 26 and 50 employees by The Drum.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Cash used to be a huge issue. When I took over the business it was hugely in debt and it took me three years just to get the balance sheet above £0. No cash makes growth exceptionally difficult and even when delivering all projects to near perfection we were struggling to break even. It wasn’t until we were in a position to invest in growth that we really started to take off as an agency. That was about four years ago and having the resources to invest and grow is a far more positive challenge to deal with.
How would you say you differentiate yourself from the competition?
At Rawnet, we believe that without our clients we are nothing and we’re only ever as good as our last project. I refuse to let ego enter the office or projects and that, in return, manifests an environment where only good work speaks. This naturally results in a structured the business around the needs of the client – not the agency. We organise client work around a user experience producer and a project manager with technical expertise, who is always on the client’s side and knows their business and users inside out. We understand the importance of the project team dedicating 100% of headspace to a client, which is why we separated out the producer role so they can do just that.
What has been the best decision you have made to-date?
Acquiring 100% of the business. It was beyond painful paying off another shareholder with a year’s profit without taking a penny in dividends and I took some convincing. But looking back it gave me the focus to really throw myself at the business and to start thinking more sensibly about the long term. It’s amazing how much more ambitious one gets when you know you can massively influence your own path.
Where do you see the business in 12 months’ time?
2015 looks set to be a very exciting year for us. We have just opened our very first international office in Soho, New York, and expanded the team with the hire of Cesar Sauro, who will be responsible for the New York office. We have plans to open our very own in-house research lab to aid the development of digital services and technologies for the benefit of clients and the industry as a whole. We are also committed to expanding our team of senior strategists and producers. There’s a really positive vibe in the office at the moment and I want to ensure that energy is directed towards more great things.
If you had one piece of advice for entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Drop your ego. If you’re in the game because you like the thought of being an entrepreneur and sitting in a fancy office, you’ll not go far. People don’t want to work for someone who’s just looking to make a quick buck for an early retirement; they’ll work for entrepreneurs with a passion and belief they can offer something unique.