5 years on, here’s the lessons I’ve learned

by Richenda Vermeulen
June 30, 2017

It’s been 5 years since ntegrity began.

Beginnings are equally exciting and scary; whether it’s a company, campaign, job or relationship. Exciting because the possibilities are endless, but scary because the outcomes are unknown. Every time we kick off a bold campaign or a new project I still feel this. But I’m becoming more comfortable in that space between excitement and fear.

I remember when I first started, and an industry veteran told me that I shouldn’t call the company “ntegrity” because that name wasn’t punchy enough. He recommended something like Cactus or Vodka.

But that’s the point. We’ve always done things differently.

Five years ago I was terrified and full of doubt — not just about the name! I wanted to do something different than the norm.

I often dream I could send a letter back in time and give a pep-talk to myself. I wish I could tell scared, unsure Richenda—who just left her job to start an agency with a non-punchy name—that things are going to turn out so much better than you imagine.

I would tell her…

Where you started is not where you’ll end up. You think you’re starting a digital marketing agency. But the problems companies are struggling with are so much bigger than marketing. The root cause is that digital has fundamentally changed the way businesses operate. So even though you may start in marketing, ntegrity will end up leading cultural change across organisations (executive, marketing, HR and operations). Stay curious about the problems, ntegrity will evolve more than you can possibly imagine.

Pick clients based on their people, not their products. Cool products or great causes will get you excited at first, but in time you’ll see the best results come from leaders with a vision for the future. Change is a marathon, not a sprint. Your greatest commodity is empathy, influence and perseverance: hire strategists that use their EQ as much as their IQ.

It’s ok to get your heart broken. You’ll make mistakes, and your heart will break because of some of them. When you’re the founder you won’t be shielded like you once were in an organisation. But that’s ok, because with each mistake you make, you’ll get better at asking for feedback and using that feedback to shape you. Become a person that fearlessly asks for feedback. It’s a secret weapon.

Every coffee meeting can change the future. You’ll have over 500 coffees with different people. Approach each one with excitement. Some of these conversations are going to change the course of your life, the company and your team – you never know which one it will be!

You won’t be alone for long. You’ll bring on staff that will lead the business to places you couldn’t have imagined. Your interns will end up teaching you more than you can teach them. You’ll get to hire people you admired at World Vision – and your team will love them too! When things are hard, your team will lift you up. When things are excellent, you get to share the joy. In fact, the best part of the journey is who you share it with.

Ultimately, ntegrity will bring you deep pain and sweet joy. But you’ll end up discovering that what you love has nothing to do with the internet and everything to do with people.

Oh, and don’t change the name.

Thank you ntegrity family for making this five years a joy. 🙏

To our clients, it is an honour to work with you. The work you give us is challenging, meaningful and exciting. Thank you for always choosing growth over fear, and for embracing candid conversations about what you need. It’s my heart’s desire that we continue to push each other to grow monumentally. Mediocre is not an option. Your success is our success.

To the team: Each and every day I walk into our office I am so thankful I get to spend my days with you. Thank you for the passion, perseverance, and smarts you put into each project. Thank you for caring about our clients as much as I do. Thank you for dreaming up ntegrity academy, pioneering research, building a feedback culture, for being bold, brave and FEARLESS in every new venture. But most of all, thank you for choosing ntegrity as a place to grow.

To my husband: Thank you for supporting me since the very beginning when this was just a crazy idea. For always encouraging me when I doubt myself. For striving for an equal marriage when we both have busy careers. And for being the best dad to our daughter.

To everyone who has sent an encouraging message, who has recommended our services: thank you. Words cannot express my gratitude. Thank you for being a part of our story.

Next Thursday, 6 July, we’re going to celebrate 5 years. I’d love if you could come along and party with us with drinks, food, and a brilliant inspirational speaker (who we’ll announce shortly!).

RSVP here, and let’s celebrate!