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This year, in fact, this month, marks 10 years of Systemato. It’s a loose distinction to make, given that Systemato changed incredibly in this decade. However, a decade is always a nice round number and achievement to think about, and to see where we are now versus where we’ve come from, and where we expect to go, even given the turbulent nature of things right now.

The Anti-Startup

When Systemato started out, my plan was that I would largely work with writing. I never had any idea nor ambition to set up a full service digital agency.

My goal for Systemato being a success would probably have been myself writing for increasingly higher profile clients, with an admin person to keep us organized and two to three highly skilled writers and editors doing the same thing that I do. That would have been my idea that yes, Systemato is a successful business.

In fact, if we go back further, I started Systemato with an “I don’t know what I want, but I know what I don’t want” kind of attitude because I had tried two very different jobs after leaving university, and had got fed up with both. I’d learned a lot of skills from both jobs, on other people’s dime. However none of those jobs were for me long term. I couldn’t make myself fit that mould and I always wanted to do my own thing.

I also get bored very quickly, so I need to be working on different things throughout a given week. I can’t be working on just one thing for more than a few hours at a time, and focusing all of my time or substantial portion of my time on just one thing. Weirdly, I like diversity even though I love routine.

Our clients became more and more impressive. We got better and better at our work. We brought full-timers on board, people with specific industry qualifications and experience. Our portfolio of services grew – with more hands on deck and more expertise, we could devote more knowledgeable time to a client, as well as do new things for them. We went from providing solitary pieces of content to clients to rewriting their entire websites; from sending out an email shot on Mailchimp to managing marketing for a Michelin star restaurant, for Vileda Malta, and creating new brands of our own along the way too.

March 2011 – One week before quitting my job and getting started on Systemato, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

The remote-first digital agency

Through all this hard work we fast forward to here and today, with myself at the helm of this small organization that we built around our core principles and our hard work and knowledge. Diane is my deputy, my right hand person with everything we do here at Systemato and whose values and judgment and skills I value incredibly.

We have a solid retinue of other people that work with us and who are fantastic at what they do. People for whom a well executed brief is all they need for them to execute and deliver a fantastic piece of content or run a top notch adverts account or anything else.

That is where we are now. I must say that in the current circumstances of living in our pandemic/post-pandemic world, we had enormous advantages. In the ramp up to 2020 and in the nine years before we had essentially set ourselves up to work in these circumstances. We didn’t have any way of knowing this, of course; no one could have foreseen it, but while others were still tying up their boot laces so to speak, we were already six steps into the race because our systems were already set up completely and entirely for remote working for distributed teams.

Where do we go from here?

I think that what we will do is continue to get better at what we do, work with fewer, better clients and carry on working on larger projects for them. Select clients so that there is a strong sense of shared ownership of the account, more knowledge and experience, and higher levels of trust, because we’ve been here and we’ve delivered and have always been honest and trustworthy. That kind of working arrangement results in us doing better work.

So after 10 years I can say that we’ve learned a lot of lessons, we’ve made a lot of silly mistakes and some justified ones too, and that we’ll continue to work hard and run this agency with the values that we hold so central, of honesty, trust, reputation, and competence.

Mark Debono

Author Mark Debono

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