Berlin is 10
We recently went on a team retreat to Canmore to celebrate and acknowledge our ten-year anniversary as a company. We turned 10 sometime in the last six months or so, depending on what counts as the official start. Is it the first time you talk about it? Or when you register the name? Or find your first client or maybe cash a cheque? Kind of like a relationship, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly when a company was started. But anyway, we’re definitely 10 now, we are sure of that.
We have gone on five or six retreats over the years in Banff, Jasper and Canmore, but this was the first one in quite a while, and the first time we’ve gotten away as a team since most of the current team has been here. One of the things we talked about was the history of Berlin and highlighted the different offices we’ve had (two in Unit B, then two in the Mercer, and more recently we’ve moved to the Birks Building) and also the different people who have comprised Berlin over the years.
The closest thing we have to a record of these things is our Instagram account, so that’s what we used to show our history. Our Instagram account is mainly just the team goofing off. It’s quite funny in fact, to look at it now. Seems like we must have had a lot of fun. Maybe you’re supposed to show more of the work? Who knows.
It also shows how some really special people have part of our story at different times. And that’s all an agency is, really. The people. We don’t have much equipment, and we definitely don’t own any land or buildings or big whack of capital to wield around. But we are, and have always been, a group of unusual and often unreasonable people who are interested in applying themselves to our clients’ problems.
Building and maintaining an agency is mostly a function of how well you can find brilliant, creative, unconventional people, and inspire or convince them to lend you some of their magic for a while.
And it is often just for a while. If each person who has ever worked for an agency is a thread, running through the fabric of the agency for however long they are there, there are only a few threads weaved through the whole thing, from end to end. Some are longer, and some are quite short. Some let their brilliant colour splash across the fabric from top to bottom, until you can’t imagine that you’d ever run out of that colour. But then, one day, you do.
When you’ve been doing this for a decade, one of the coolest things is to see where your alumni end up. There are former Berliners in different agencies all over town, as well as ones in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. People have gone from here into senior jobs in government, both on the political side and within the bureaucracy. They’ve gotten jobs with big companies and global agencies. And a few of them have started their own things now. This is oddly one of the most satisfying things of being 10 years in: the evidence that the people who came through can do just about anything.
The team we have today is really dialed in. We have a more sophisticated and experienced creative department than we’ve ever had who have won several shelves full of awards that we keep by the door. We’ve built an in-house media buying department for the first time over the past year or so and are working to grow it. We have some savvy veteran talent on board who can really drive our projects forward, mixed with a brilliant early-career group who are astonishingly good at this. 10 years in business hasn’t always been easy, and there have been many failures along the way. But today, when we look at the book of business we manage, the impact our clients have around Edmonton and beyond, and the incredible group who gathered in Canmore just there, there must have been more than a few things we got right, too.
We look forward to another 10 years. Who knows what might happen? Not us. But we bet it will be good.