Year of the Dragan - A Tale of Success
By Dragan Marjanovic
Back in 1998 I went to my father for a small business loan, that in itself wouldn’t have been difficult if I hadn’t left the family business on really unpleasant terms. I said “dad, I’m starting a video production company and need help”. He replied in his deep European accent “What do you know about production business – you don’t even know anything about business”. Looking back I must admit the old man was right on both accounts, I really didn’t know anything about business and knew even less about video production. I didn’t even own a camera.
However in that exchange I learned something about my personality, a trait I now see in many of my fellow entrepreneurs – it’s an unreasonable confidence and a deep-down-defiance. I recall thinking to myself “I’LL SHOW YOU, I’LL MAKE YOU EAT THOSE WORDS”. Fortunately I kept those thoughts to myself long enough to get a $3,000.00 check. Thanks Dad.
Now you would think I rushed to purchase camera gear, but instead I spent nearly all the money renovating our first office. I remember it was just under 1500 sq. feet with two small rooms, a reception area and a larger bay-style space that was perfect for shooting indoor footage. I figured, since we had no experience we better at least look the part. We now had a great looking office space with very little equipment and absolutely no work on deck.
Those early experiences taught me another important lesson: It wasn’t about personality or defiance, but instead how important environment and presentation are. The office actually made a difference providing a good first impression and credibility among our first clients. They felt we must be good in order to afford such a professional looking space. For me and my partner it provided a pleasant working environment we actually wanted to be in. Unfortunately, after a couple of years we found that Video Production wasn’t our thing; it was a lot harder than it seemed and you needed real skill for it. Dad-1. Me-0.
Soon after, we converted our video editing computers into development machines. Loaded versions of Photoshop and Dreamweaver and began building sites. We rushed into this as quickly as the video production side, but hey, we had nothing to lose.
A few months in, my partner who had been the technical brains of the operation quickly found himself overwhelmed. We expected him to be an artist, a programmer, a marketer, and business person all in a field no one really knew anything about – it was simply too much. So we hired a talented nineteen year-old guy with no formal education but a great eye for design and some Dreamweaver experience. That combined with my partner’s programming ability we were determined to make it work. AND we did. Dad-1. Me-1.
I now understand, and perhaps what my dad knew all along, that in those early years it wasn’t a lacked business skills or determination – I simply didn’t know anything about video production. It’s amazing to me now, what I didn’t see at the time. There wasn’t anything you could have said to make me think otherwise. Ironically today, I’m on the other side of the table as customers tell me about their wiz-bang product. I can hear my dad’s voice at times “What do you know about wiz-bang”.
As time passed, and our portfolio grew I noticed a pattern in the successful decisions we were making. Truly, understanding this has been transformative and has contributed to every part of our recent success. I realized that nearly all of our good decisions had more to do with understanding human nature and less on technical and product attributes. Determining what to build, business priorities, and customer support services relied on our understanding and empathizing with people and what they were going through.
“I realized that nearly all of our good decisions had more to do with understanding human nature and less on technical and product attributes.”
At the time, updating a static HTML website required business owners to hire web developers to make even minor changes – this was costly and time-consuming. We recognized that customers wanted control so we started developing a system that made it easy for clients to completely manage their site after it was built. This was counter-intuitive for many of our competitors because it eliminated an important revenue stream.
Around the same time, we started using our product to develop our own website. This led to a second realization – our website requirements were the same as our clients. Deciding what to build, how to build it, and everything in-between became crystal clear because “I” needed it AND “I” needed the ability to do it myself. We had an insight better than any developer – because we were also the client.
“Determining product features, business priorities, and customer support services relied on our understanding and empathizing with people and how they thought.”
Today, ShoutCMS – our product – is used by over 400 businesses to manage their dynamic-content websites. While we have allowed clients to take control of their content, we have opened the door to a suite of other of ongoing services that improve their business communications and e-Commerce capabilities. We can truly say that Mediashaker builds more than websites – we support important business processes associated with customer relationship management, product sales, and two-way communications.
So why is this the year of the Dragan? Simply put – ShoutCMS has proved itself in the local market and is now ready to compete in the globally arena. And – oh yea – it incorporates SaaS, Cloud, eCommerce, and all those other technology buzz-words that many customers don’t understand. We compete on good design and enabling tools to get the job done.
As President and founder of Mediashaker, Dragan Marjanovic is instrumental in the design and development of the ShoutCMS platform. Dragan has a down-to-earth approach for delivering simple, elegant and straight-forward solutions. His ambitions are to lead his Edmonton-based development team and the ShoutCMS system as the world’s leading small business solution.