If I had a nickel every time someone asked me where OneMethod came from, I’d probably have a small handful of nickels. But I’ve never been a big fan of that idiom, or nickels for that matter, so I suppose that’s beside my point. My point, is that even though OneMethod opened it’s doors in 2001, the idea of OneMethod started long before that and somewhat surprisingly, a few folks have asked me to tell that tale. So here it is, the story of where OneMethod came from, originally penned in 2011 for the first iteration of the MethBlab.
EPISODE I – THE WONDER YEARS (PRE 1995)
I’ve been asked a few times about what got me to start a Design Agency considering I had no education or experience in that world. My typical answer was “Why not??” – I realize now, that this answer is not ideal in most cases, so let me give you a little Wonder Years background as to where the madness all began. I promise to keep this one short… maybe.
First off, my parents are both Chemical Technologists. I’m not really sure what that means; all I know is that I had a periodic table on my bedroom wall and all the test tubes and Bunsen burners a kid could ask for. Following the tradition of most immigrant parents, they wanted their first born son (actually, I ended up being the only child) to become something that they could brag about in their social circuit – you know, the standard stuff: “my kid is gifted, he skipped three grades, gets straight A’s, draws straight lines, just got knighted by the Queen, and can get through most nights without wetting the bed” – now there’s a son to proud of! Unfortunately, I was only able to accomplish one of those feats 😉
Growing up, I was a pretty disgruntled little dude because it seemed every other kid around me (at least through the family circle) was a prodigy child. Each and every one of these bastards (I’m just being a hater) were fast tracking through high school, pulling 90%+ averages, and working part-time jobs that’d put some business school grads to shame. And then there was me… taking summer school just to catch-up, working hard on that sub-spectacular C+ average, and tossing my paper route in a dumpster so that I could go work on my NBA career. Basically I had a conflicting set of priorities, which in turn, made life with mom and pops a bit of a bumpy one.
It became clear as mud that with my less-than-stellar grade point average and the fact that my notebooks looked more like sketchbooks; medicine, law and engineering weren’t exactly the right paths for me. Luckily, I had dreams of going to art school for design however, unluckily, my financiers/parents weren’t really feeling that, so I tried to figure out a roundabout way of getting back into something creative. My solution: go to business school for marketing and maybe I could backdoor my way into the creative world.
So there it is – I squeezed into Ryerson (much to the dismay of the folks, because in their eyes, RyeHigh did more than just rhyme with Devry – not that there’s anything wrong with that). Moral of the story: Don’t ever listen to your parents! Ok, maybe that’s not the right message. How about: Follow your dreams. Right? Live that Hallmark life.
EPISODE II – THE GRIND (1995 – 2000)
Alright, this is the last post before I get into the real OneMethod stuff; so again, zero offence taken if you would rather watch watch Remi Gaillard videos on YouTube.
So I step out of my house at 6:05 AM to walk down to the bus stop; hop on the good ol’ Mississauga Transit at 6:35 to take me to Square One. Next, I transfer to another bus at 7:25 to shuttle me over to the Islington subway station and then jet across on the TTC to Bloor and transfer down to the Yonge line for the last leg of this painful face punch of a trip. 9:05 AM – 3 excruciating hours later, I stumble out from the Dundas subway station (squinting due to a my general lack of sun exposure) to what I guess was the Ryerson campus aka: a cluster-what-have-you of random office-looking buildings that as a collective, make-up the so called university (kinda like an off-brand Voltron doll).
Based on my experience on day one, you can understand why I wasn’t real motivated to push through the next four years of a marketing degree. I’d go to class (most of the time) and lift my head up (sometimes) to hear my prof babble about the 4P’s of Marketing or Supply and Demand Curves or some other mind-numbing topic for hours on end. Meanwhile, I was buying text books from the Graphic Design program to teach myself Photoshop and Illustrator, and messing around at night with HTML and building my first website in FrontPage (remember that thing?!) and eventually Flash. I was basically working on two degrees at the time, while pushing cell phones at the Rogers store, flipping burgers at Ronald’s, hawking plumbing supplies at Home Depot, selling Smiles n’ Chuckles candy at the CNE, face painting at the Toronto Zoo, and spinning the Hip Hop & Reggae sets at Brampton’s finest parties! I assure you, that final entry on my list was actually fairly fun.
So finally I graduate with a stellar C+ average. At least I’m consistent! And I somehow manage to beat out the rest of my graduating class for an entry-level Marketing Coordinator job at Siemens in their IT Services group for a whopping $29K a year – my first real job (or career I guess). Going into this job, I set a few personal objectives for myself — I actually had this list on the first page of my notebook and I’d read it every day on my way to work:
- Work your ass off – don’t let anyone second guess your commitment to your job or the company
- Squash your ego – be prepared to do anything that’s asked of you (menial or uncomfortable)
- Earn your keep – ensure that all past coworkers would say “there’s a guy I need on my team”
- Stay sharp – your education doesn’t stop with your degree, so don’t get stale
Over the next year and a half, I managed to use my combo of marketing and design skills to position myself as a one-stop marketing team. I was working 60hr+ weeks creating marketing programs and taking them through to design and execution on pretty much everything we put out to market at that time – they put a lot of responsibility on this kid fresh out of school, but I was definitely up for the challenge. It was a real DIY experience that I learned a lot from – a good ‘big company’ foundation for what was to come.
Moral of the story: Nothing comes easy – if you want something you better step up and go get it!
EPISODE III – THE BEGINNING (2000-2001)
What I’m gonna take you through here, is the very beginnings of how OneMethod came to be, or how I grew from a kid to a kid with a company.
While working my first real job out of school at the big international conglomerate Siemens, I stumbled across a young start-up dot com that caught my attention – EquityEngine.com. Before I get into what the company did, you need to know that I searched out the CEO and harassed him on end for about four months until he gave me a job – at a $10,000 pay cut mind you, but I was happy to take it. I knew it was gonna be a killer opportunity, so I was pretty much willing to work for nothing just to get in!
EquityEngine.com was an interesting concept at the time – it was a socially driven, online business incubator. In a nutshell, this is how it worked – people would submit business ideas to the site; the community would vet the ideas and the best ones would filter to the top. Individuals could then offer up their services/time for an equity stake in the venture and then we would step in, pull the final team together, and build the business plan to a point where we could toss the idea in front of our roster of investors/VCs. Cool idea, but if you look at the timeframe of this chapter, you’ll also understand what the problem was.
My time at EquityEngine.com proved to be my real world MBA. I credit this place with teaching me how to get a business off the ground on a boot-strapped start-up budget. The trick, put on a good show and people will typically pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Yes, that’s a Wizard of Oz reference. Now don’t get me wrong, I was working with some of the most talented people I’d ever come across, but the whole operation was based on smoke & mirrors.
So let’s pause for, you know, the cause, and take a quick little stroll down memory lane. Trust me, it’s relevant to the story. I’ve always favoured the finer things (clothes, kicks, cars, and so on). And in my experience, ‘nice stuff’ typically tends to cost ‘big bucks’ – not sure why that is, but it certainly is what it is. Growing up, we weren’t poor, but we definitely weren’t balling. I guess we were somewhere between where the Fresh Prince came from and where he ended up. I pretty much knew not to ask for stuff from my folks, because I learned early on that a backhand was an acceptable answer for asking for the things that I probably should’ve known not to ask for in the first place. Classic Dad! So I had a list (YES, another one!) near the end of high school that went something like this:
- GO IT ALONE – Basically, if I wanted something, I was gonna have to go get it myself – there were no hook-ups or handouts in my neck of the woods
- GO BIG OR GO HOME – Pretty self-explanatory, don’t waste yours or anyone else’s time with half-assed anything
- MAKE MONEY – This seemed like the best way to achieve my goals (both creatively and materially)
- MAKE LOTS OF LISTS – Apparently I make a lot of lists
Simple rules to live by really. So, back to reality – I had this experience in marketing and getting start-ups off the ground, plus this passion for design and technology… AND I had my lists. So, what was I to do? I pulled in a couple of partners, borrowed a partnership agreement template from work, tossed out a bunch of names for the company, went with OneMethod, because the URL was available (I know, not as glamorous as you might’ve thought), scrounged up some money to register the business, got a cheap (and I mean CHEAP) accountant, setup a bank account, designed a logo, printed some business cards, threw up a website, got a phone line, and opened our virtual doors to the world for business. It was as easy as that 😉
Moral of the story: Make lists!
EPISODE IV – THE SLOW ROLL (2001-2002)
This next post will give you a little background on the early days of OneMethod. Some of the things I ended up doing here are not exactly kosher (you’ll see what I mean in a minute) and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this path to most people (especially for any budding entrepreneurs working for me today). So take this, like a shot of tequila, you know, with a few grains of salt.
I kinda screwed over the last company I worked for… kinda.
Much to my dismay, when we opened the proverbial ‘doors’ at OneMethod, there wasn’t a line-up of clients waiting with open arms and bags filled with past prime ministers. At the time, my partners and I still had day jobs and a stupid surplus of bills, so there was no way I could’ve jumped in without ANY income. But what I did do was change jobs to better set myself up to get OneMethod off the ground. I packed my things up at EquityEngine.com and took on a marketing job at an office at 1 Mount Pleasant Ave (for the sake of argument, why don’t we just call them BigCo). I hate to say it (or maybe I don’t), but on this particular job hunt, I wasn’t looking for a challenge, I wasn’t looking for a raise, I wasn’t looking for a good fit… I was simply looking for a stop-gap. My sole strategic approach was to find something/anything at a large, well-staffed company (and there are a lot of them out there), where the return was reasonable ($$$’s in my pocket) and the expectations were low (output vs. time).
As you can imagine, starting a business is a big commitment. Working 60hr weeks at your day job then another 60hr on evenings and weekends for your own gig is just not ideal (it’s safe to say Brampton’s reggae and hip-hop party scene took a big hit that year as my turntables collected dust). My solution – find a job that would pay me for 5 days a week; get the job done in 2 and use the downtime to get OneMethod rolling. On one hand, I kinda feel bad (even today) for taking advantage, but on the other hand I don’t, because I delivered on whatever it was they expected of the role – I just didn’t deliver any number of iotas more than the minimum requirement. I obviously wasn’t gunning for employee of the month.
On the flip side, we were getting a little traction with OneMethod. Picked-up a couple of clients here and there – not making a ton of money (whatever little we were making was just going to the bank), but at least we were getting jobs and building up some clients and a portfolio, which was good. Back to BigCo, where I had a one-year plan with a personal objective that as soon as I had three months of float in the bank (from OneMethod business), I’d end the farce at BigCo and give OneMethod my full-time commitment. Ten months and two partners later (I’ll explain in a second), I packed my things, said bye to my cubicle and a few coworkers, and tossed my metro pass out the window on the bus ride home. That felt good. Real good.
Back on the OneMethod front, the relationship I had with my two partners got a little rocky along the way in that first year. We all had day jobs on top of all the OneMethod work we had coming in (for no extra money in our pockets), and admittedly, it was a little tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. By the end of that first year, I bought each of my original partners out for a dollar (yes, a shiny loonie) and OneMethod was now a company of 1 – me.
Now running semi-solo, all I had to do was make sure I didn’t have to go crawling back to BigCo after three months 😉
Moral of the story: Respect the hustle – sometimes it’s best to walk before you run.
EPISODE V – THE JUMP OFF (2002-INFINITY)
It was around this time that OneMethod started to kick into overdrive. Year one was under the belt (which was a nice feeling considering most start-ups don’t make it that far), and now it was time to really push forward and make something happen.
Flashback to June 2002. I’ve got my one-man setup in the living room of my condo. My Business Depot desk and matching bookshelf ($399), a suped-up computer that I built myself to save a few bucks ($1575 – ya… I not-so-secretly love computers, tech and Star Trek, TNG of course, none of that new stuff), and my all-in-one fax/scanner/printer ($249) that I gotta run to and swap into the phone line if I hear a fax coming through. Yup, I was living the glamorous agency life that everyone dreams of.
So I’m doing my thing one day, and an opportunity comes across to toss out some pitch concepts on a Nokia project – great opportunity, but we’re up against some of the big boys, so me, I’m not counting on anything. We coffee-up (pre Red Bull), forego that sleeping thing everyone does at night, and do our best to turn around something quickly. To my genuine surprise, we won the thing.
Here’s the problem, I have no idea how to pull this off, but you know I was gonna do whatever it takes to figure it out. When all was said and done, it was a stressful time and we pulled a couple of all-nighters and everything went off without a hitch (well maybe some minor issues behind the scenes, but the client was none the wiser). In the end we produced some work I’m still proud of and executed everything flawlessly.
Sweet! Time to take a well deserved break and bask in the glory of a job well done… but hold up, phone’s ringing: “Hello… oh… you liked what we did on the last project…. uh ya, ya we do that too…. you need it when?! Oh… ok. I’ll have a proposal in your inbox, first thing in the morning. Bye.” What I didn’t realize at the time was that that night was going to be the last bit of REAL sleep I was gonna get for years to come! Welcome to owning a business I suppose. Oh, and cancel most-if-not-all of your plans for the next decade-plus.