When and why did you start TEN7, and what were you doing prior to TEN7's startup?
What are your daily responsibilities?
What does your daily routine look like now?
What's your favorite part of the day?
JONATHAN FREED: Hello, you’re listening to a TEN7 audiocast. We’re here today for a team member interview with Ivan Stegic, Founder and President of TEN7. I’m Jonathan Freed, Account Happiness Manager at TEN7. Hello, Ivan!
IVAN STEGIC: Hello, Jonathan!
JONATHAN: Welcome back!
IVAN: Thank you! It’s great to be back after some time off
JONATHAN: I bet you it is. Well, I’m here today with the privilege of interviewing you for the staff interview, as opposed to the other way around. We’ll go ahead and get started right away.
IVAN: Let’s do it.
JONATHAN: Why don’t you tell us a bit about the history of TEN7 and specifically what you were doing prior to startup.
IVAN: Before I started TEN7, I was working for another startup company. It was software company that’s since been acquired. And they were in the property, abstract, and title business. I was an Infrastructure Manager there, I was a Technical Lead, and I spent a lot time away from my wife and my kids, and I kind of worked myself silly, and I decided that it was time to take a break specially with my two kids being so young and I decided to stay at home and figure out what my next step was going to be and that was in, I believe February or March of 2007. And I sat around at home for a little while, we had some savings. It was right before the 2008-2009 property crisis and the market collapse.
In April of 2007, together with a designer, we pitched the Basilica of Saint Mary on re-doing their website, and we won that as a contract. I created an LLC in April of 2007 and kind of just started TEN7 by mistake. Honestly, I was looking for something to do that I wasn’t going to be working for someone else. Mostly because I felt like I could do something with my own hands and with my own brain that didn’t really need another company to help me with. And, so I partnered with Eddie Hofmeister from Hofmeister Design and we did this website and as they say, the rest is history.
JONATHAN: Why did you decide to strike out on your own in such a crowded market place?
IVAN: It is quite crowded, yes. I don’t know that it was a conscious decision, I mean, I think if I had ever thought about how many different freelancers and agencies there were out in the market, I may be would have been a little discouraged, maybe wouldn’t have done it. I did feel like the thing that TEN7 had that others didn’t, 10 years ago, was attention to detail. And so our original slogan or tagline was “Pixel perfect representations of your designs in email and on the web.” The idea was we were a technology outfit that worked with designers who were very picky about their designs and got their designs exactly implemented to the pixel in web-browsers of all kinds, and that was kind of the mindset back then. There really wasn’t a whole lot of attention to user experience. There wasn’t a whole lot of attention to what the client wanted, and it was mostly just “let’s get what we have in designs up on the web”. And that was say, certainly as significant I thought competency that we had, that I had at the time that others didn’t.
When I first started, I kind of looked to see what we were going to standardize on, and I say we, because we’re we now, and I always thought of us as being more than just one person. And so I looked at WordPress, I looked at Drupal, I looked at Joomla, I built a site in each one of them myself, and based on the community that Drupal had at the time and that still exists today, it felt like a no-brainer that Drupal would be the choice that we would specialize in. I didn’t want TEN7 to be kind of a jack of all trades. It always felt that you have to be expert in something and really apply your expertise so that you can get really excellent, and so we’re a Drupal shop now, we have been for almost 10 years. We’ve built one Joomla site in our history. We haven’t built a WordPress site for a client, for paying clients, it was more of a project. But all the other sites have been Drupal ever since 2007.
JONATHAN: Why don’t you give us a snapshot of what your day looks like and myriad of tasks that you perform?
IVAN: Yeah, now my days now look very different a year ago, 5 years ago, and 10 years ago. So when I first started it was I did everything from writing the code, to managing the project, to doing the customer service, to doing strategy, to doing business development, and getting new clients. And I was able to hire people, parts of those items have fallen off my plate. And as you alluded to at the beginning, I did take a little bit of an extended vacation. And TEN7 ran just fine without me. So the first six months of this year were really an exercise in getting everything that was on my plate previously, off of my plate. My days usually start by logging in to slack, looking at any of the issues that have come up during the day. I also log in to my email and look at new email as any professional does these days. I used to attend the stand-ups but I don't attend those anymore so they're really no issues that I need to triage or be concerned about. I spend time looking at Slack and dealing with any issues that might need some sort of strategic decision making or guidance or something that maybe is a standard that we haven't set up internally yet. Usually it's processing email, I also spend a fair amount of time looking and reviewing documents, contracts that, as you know, you are managing with our clients and signing those. And then I have a paper pad that I use to keep track of kind of the high level items, to do items that need to be done. So I'm usually looking at those. In the past, I would be looking at invoices during the day as well, making sure that we're invoicing everyone the appropriate hours. Towards the end of the month, I'm typically reviewing the hours that are being prepared to be invoiced for clients. Lunch usually happens 11 and 1. Sometime during that day, I kinda take a break and walk downstairs to the kitchen and try to figure something out. And then the latter half of the afternoon, again I'm kinda triaging but I'm also thinking about what we're gonna be doing for new clients, new markets. Recently, I've been kind of thinking about what the strategic direction of TEN7 should be. There's a fair amount of time planning that workshop that we had earlier in the year and talking to various business owners and HR people in the Twin Cities. I'm going to be spending sometime at the Yonder conference in October so, I mean, I don't have a typical day. I think that's true probably for you as well. It's probably less true for the devs. They all usually have their own routine and there's more issues-related and project-related whereas my attention is spread across many things.
JONATHAN: I've always felt that the key to topnotch leadership is delegation and the ability to delegate. And the fact that you just came back from a month-long sabbatical which was awesome.
IVAN: That's awesome!
JONATHAN: The fact that you came back and still had a business is a great indication of how well you do delegate. So I can definitely point to that.
IVAN: Thank you for the compliment and that's also a testament to the people that work at TEN7 for not needing the overseeing micromanagement, or some sort of bossy owner of the company to be checking in to see what's going and making sure that things are done. We're all adults and everybody's worried about our clients and all the work that we have, it was wonderful to be able to take time off and not to have to worry about that.
JONATHAN: And we enjoyed it as well. We did. It's like having a responsibility that turned out effectively. And as for our last question, why don't you tell us your favorite part of the day and why it is your favorite?
IVAN: Well, if you, and I know you're familiar with DISC, and the DISC analysis. I'm on a part of the circle that really enjoys interaction with humans. So, I'm partially extroverted although I do have my introverted times as well. My best parts of the days are using Zoom and doing video conferencing. So this interview, I love the staff meeting this morning we had. I loved that. And then looking at Slack and interacting with folks online, that probably is number 2. So there's ever an excuse to have a Zoom because of something technical or something detailed that needs to be discussed in Zoom or that was on Slack that should be discussed in Zoom, I'm all over that. I really enjoy this time. And then meeting with clients, and having lunch with clients, and listening to what their problems are and try to come up with solutions, I really enjoy the problem solving as well.
JONATHAN: You really enjoy the one-on-one's.
IVAN: I do!
JONATHAN: And I think all of us do. And you want to talk about those a little bit?
IVAN: Sure! We have one-on-one's every month. On a Thursday, I think it's the third Thursday of the month. I spend from one in the afternoon to five in the afternoon with everyone at TEN7 and we spend up to half an hour talking about whatever the agenda is that each individual has, so it's kind of my time to hear what people are thinking, how it's going, any successes or challenges that people have had. Listening to what people might be looking forward to, either personally or professionally. Very rarely do issues come up in those one-on-ones that are team based or TEN7 based, usually we take care of those ahead of time. But I do enjoy those one-on-one's. It is mentally taxing to do them sometimes. Towards the end of the day I'm kind of spent but I think we figured out a good time of the month and a good regular process to go with.
JONATHAN: I think we do too. It keeps us in touch and I think it really helps everybody in the long run.
IVAN: I think it does.
JONATHAN: Well, Ivan. I want to thank you so much for your time and sharing your story today. That brings us to the end of this audiocast. Please visit us at TEN7.com and keep an eye out on the TEN7 blog for future audiocasts. This is Jonathan Freed and thank you for listening.