Follow The Leader: Dave Meier, Hidden Depth.

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In the second of our series of interviews with business leaders about their business journey so far, we speak to Dave Meier, who launched his web design agency Hidden Depth in 2009.

What began with just Dave Meier and a laptop has grown into an award-winning business with offices in Dublin and clients across Ireland and the US – Trinity College and hotel group Jurys Inn among them.

What is your business’s elevator pitch?

Hidden Depth creates well-thought-out websites that help brands connect and communicate better with their customers. The thing that sets us apart is that we mix design, branding and customer-profiling psychology to create clear, user-friendly websites.”

What was the key motivation and raison d’être behind your business?

“I came from the sales and advertising world with a digital media company, and I liked the idea of being responsible for my own destiny. I’ve always loved design, but I also love the sales and the psychology part of dealing with people as well; I think that web design is the perfect intersection of that – it’s not just about making something look good. What I’ve always liked about web design is that it allows small businesses to compete on an even field.”

Looking back now at the early stages of your business, would you do anything differently leading the business?

“I would have put processes in place a lot sooner. These days Hidden Depth is run as if it were a franchise, so there are set procedures for nearly everything we do. It makes us way more productive, helps reassure clients that we have a plan to handle their project from start to finish, and it means nothing slips through the cracks.

“I think also, from a financial point of view, I would have concentrated much more on creating recurring revenue from day one. In the last few years, we’ve moved from offering set-and-forget websites into providing more of a full package where we cover hosting, website backups, security and ongoing support for a monthly fee. It means we have an ongoing relationship with clients year-round.”

What’s your driving force? What keeps you motivated to drive the business on?

“I think it’s the excitement of where the web is at the moment. It’s not like any other time we’ve had in history and it’s really exciting to be a small business now because, as I said, you do get to compete on the same level as big brands. It’s a real equaliser and I see every day there’s more potential. What I really like is that we can help steer a company’s perception online and that can help make or break products and services.”

What does achievement and success look like for your business?

“Really, for me, a big part of it is being proud of the work you produce, but also having the freedom to explore your own ideas. And we’ve been able to achieve real results. A good example was an estate agent a few years ago, who were conscious that they couldn’t really compete on the level of the larger, full-scale listings of houses. We helped them to understand that they weren’t just a small business; they were specialists, experts, where one person would deal with an enquiry from start to finish. Now they’re selling a lot more high-end houses – where the client wants that kind of involvement.”

 

“What I’ve always liked about web design is that it allows small businesses to compete on an even field”

 

Dave Meier, founder, Hidden Depth

 

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever been given?

“I try to read a book a week so I can’t remember where this is from, but it’s that you should always start with the outcome. I don’t get involved with how we’re going to do something until I understand what success looks like. When someone wants a new logo or website I ask why, to get beyond them doing it just for the sake of it.”

What has been your proudest achievement with your business to date?

“As a relatively small company, we were the first website design agency to bring a content management system to Trinity College when we built the Book of Kells website. Within a year of us launching that, it won best education website in Ireland, so we were really proud to have been trusted with it and also to usher in a new wave of technology at Trinity College that came with an accolade from our peers.”

Your approach as a leader is best described by which three words?

“Excited, passionate and honest.”

How are you preparing and planning for Brexit in your business?

“The main thing Brexit will affect online is e-commerce, but it’s still unclear whether there will be small or significant changes required. Right now we are keeping an eye on talks between all parties. Since the web is virtual, when a final agreement is passed, changes can be made online reasonably quickly.”

How has the market in which you operate changed since you launched?

“It’s changed significantly. When we started, business was still conducted with a business card and face to face or over the phone, but I think now that mobile technology is so abundant – everyone has a smartphone – that it’s expected that a business has a website.”

“In one sense that’s good for us, but from a negative point of view, because it’s so much of a given I think there’s less appreciation of a website and the potential that it can actually bring to a business. A website done badly can really damage the perception of a brand. Done well, it can put you up in the stratosphere.”

What advantages come with being based in Dublin?

“I think from a staffing point of view it’s great, because we have a really good workforce. The second thing – and this is probably not so much Dublin as being based in Ireland – is that it plays a big part in why we have a lot of clients in the US. We have some clients who are now taking a step into Europe, and a lot of the time Ireland is where they will base their EMEA [Europe, the Middle East and Africa] headquarters, so it’s quite suitable for us to say, ‘Yes, we’re just down the road, we can help.’”

Parting shot: what’s next for your business?

“We have some exciting projects coming up for a software company: we’re doing something else with Trinity College, and I’ve also taken my web design and branding skills to co-found a new start-up, which is called Table Wow. It launched in January and is a new reservation-booking system for restaurants. It’s really exciting to work on something like that which has potential to scale and will also make restaurant owners’ and customers’ lives a lot easier. I also like the way it shows other small businesses that technology doesn’t have to cost a lot or mean a lot of work for you, and that it can actually be really beneficial to your business.”

 

Comments 1

Tara De Buitlear on Wednesday, 21 February 2018 15:05
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