We set out on our journey 10 years ago today! The summer of 2008, when Google first introduced Chrome, Airbnb and Spotify officially launched, and SnapChat, Instagram, and Uber were just a twinkle in their founders’ eyes. The world was a very different place 10 years ago. We were very different 10 years ago.

Where did the time go?

Have you been lost in thought wondering what the meaning of life is? No, neither have we. But we have been reflecting on what 10 years at the sharp end of an HB have been like. What a terrible analogy.

Our partnership started at an agency in the early noughties, learning about what it takes to have an actual job, how to act semi-professional, and what not to say in meetings. Once we realised we could do this for ourselves, we packed our bags, bid farewell, and walked off into the sunset.

10 Years at The Sharp End – FHOKE
Unsurprisingly, we never made it onto Love Island.

Ten years later and we’re no longer the new kids on the block. We have too many grey hairs and wrinkles to care for – the result of kids, dogs, and life’s responsibilities – but at least we’ve not gone bald… yet (every cloud!).

While the sands of time and stress have eroded our devilishly good looks, they’ve not diminished our drive to create our best work while still doing what we love. So after 10 years of graft, I’m holding out for something more glamorous than a tin mug on our anniversary.

What’s changed?

We knew jack about running a business and had no real plan other than to keep a roof over our heads, but in 2008 we set out to conquer the world. We took on everything from logos and brochures to websites and apps. What a time to be alive. A time we like to call, ‘The Golden Era of Web Design’, aka ‘the easy days’,

The golden era

Back in ‘08 most websites were still being designed to a fixed screen width. There was a buzz around fluid sites, but they weren’t mainstream yet. Imagine that, designing and building to one screen size. The dream!

These days we build sites so they work across all resolutions and devices. Whether you’re on a super wide monitor or a four-inch phone, it now takes a lot more time and takes a lot more planning to design the best user experience. While it’s awesome to see sites come alive across devices, the golden era will always be looked upon with rose-tinted glasses.

From designers to business owners

As visual designers, with no experience in sales or project management, we soon learned there’s more to running a studio than just creating pretty images. Over night we became business owners, juggling designs, setting expectations, managing developers and pulling everything together so that we could be proud to stamp our name on it. And some of our oldest clients from those early days like 11 New Square and Kymberlee Jay still remain clients to this day.

Running a business is a funny old thing, you start it to do more of what you love and then end up doing jobs you never imagined. From accounts and marketing to content writing and proposals, you need to wear a fair few hats. It’s only when you expand you can start handing those jobs off to the pros and concentrate on doing more of what you love again.

10 Years at The Sharp End – FHOKE
We only hire the best, people who are better than us.

As we’ve grown, we’ve taken risks and made mistakes (some big, some small), but what we have learned is that building an agency is just like baking a cake. Unless you have the right mixture of ingredients, it won’t rise and will fall flat. A bit like Paul Hollywood’s soggy bottom. That’s why we only hire the best, people who are better than us. Without their support shit doesn’t get done, so if you’re looking to start an agency do it with the right people and build the company around them.

Powering up

We spent years building websites using a custom CMS, which was great for a time. But as websites started to evolve at an alarming rate, our self-built tech was harder to scale and make futureproof. Switching to WordPress was an attractive option and has been one of the biggest turning points in the company’s history. It’s given us the freedom to hire an in-house dev team and offer our clients a ton of functionality.

We’ve also built several online stores using the very capable Shopify CMS, a platform that has added flexibility to our service offering. So don’t be afraid to make major changes to the way your agency runs, if something isn’t working out change it up. Who knows, we might even power up to Ruby On Rails next?

Now all our sites are built using these two systems they’re easy to update, maintain, and bolt on any kind of functionality our clients can dream up. They also help us to sleep at night.

And what hasn’t changed?

So much has changed in 10 years. But why change the habits of a lifetime?

We’re still using Adobe’s Creative Suite and Apple products, like the fanboys we are. Call it our comfort blanket, maybe we’re a bit long in the tooth, but we’re still smashing out the designs using our faithful friends. A MacBook Pro loaded with Adobe’s Creative Suite gets our rocks off – they’re a match made in heaven in our eyes.

Fortune rewards the brave

So after 10 years what’s the best bit of advice we can pass on? Be braver.

Be brave with your ideas, be brave with your hires, and don’t take the easy route – where’s the excitement in that? It took us six years to grow some balls and expand the team, we’ve doubled in size since then and are looking to grow again. So take those chances and learn from your mistakes.

10 Years at The Sharp End – FHOKE
Grow some balls and expand your team.

Having a team is a fantastic experience. Nurturing a culture within your team is tough, but rewarding when you get it right. You’ll meet unique characters, add laughter to your day, and you’ll have a reason to keep going when times are tough.

So next time you’re feeling anxious about the next hire, don’t. Take that chance, and you might surprise yourself.

Talking of new hires, we’re on the hunt for a new designer. If you think you have what it takes then apply today.

For everyone else, you should be following us! We’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. What are you waiting for?