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2023: Our Year In Review

2023: Our Year In Review

Byron Tassoni-Resch

December 13, 2023

Reading time: 4 minutes

During a year of tremendous change and significant challenges, both externally (the country, the market, etc) and internally (the agency), I’m proud of what we have been able to achieve.

 

Although, having a turbulent year has become pretty normal for us. We were founded in 2020, during the week the country went into the first lockdown. Since then, there has been runaway inflation, economic downturns, political unrest, wars, and a client and talent market that turned from red hot to ice cold.

 

At this point, continuing to move forward, one foot in front of the other, despite the chaos going on around us, is all we know.

 

And that is what we’ve had to do this year. Again.

 

So, casting aside the doom and gloom, I’m pleased to say we’ve had another successful year. Top-line revenue has grown +60%, margins have been maintained, the team has grown from 17 to 32, we have a 95% team member satisfaction score and we’ve won our “largest ever client” 3 times over across 2023.

 

Below, we dig into the details of what happened at WeDiscover.

The past year in brief

Our goals vs. what we did

Looking back to our Year in Review 2022, here is what we set out to achieve for 2023:

 

    • Growing to around 30 team members 🟢
    • Increasing revenue by around 75% while maintaining current margins 🟠
    • Expanding our Paid Social technology and team 🟢
    • Launching our Employee Pillars scheme (which will include an employee-led D&I team, amongst other groups focussing on sustainability and CSR initiatives) 🟢
    • Expanding our intelligence services (reporting, insights, etc) 🟢
    • Continuing to build some of the most innovative novel solutions for the most exciting brands 🟢
    • Launching a second round of our Early Career scheme 🟢

Most initiatives were hit (as shown in green) which means we should plan to be even more ambitious with our targets next year. Our revenue targets were our only miss but, although we fell short of our initial growth targets, I’m still happy with how we grew over the last year.

 

During Q1 and Q2 2023, we had 2 clients go into administration, which meant we lost around £100k of booked revenue (which we had to write off), but of course that also impacted monthly income moving forward. The good news is that all of that revenue was replaced pretty quickly, however, it was a call to action to:

 

    1. Ensure margins are at an appropriate level that means we can withstand any (one or even multiple at a time) clients either going into administration or leaving the agency.
    2. Be diversified enough to withstand this type of event, and be very selective with whom we work with.
    3. Change some of our accounting practices to account for bad debt proactively, so if it does happen, it is not a shock to the business.

 

While recruitment remains a challenge for us, it’s once again the most important aspect of our business right now. When we recruit correctly, we can create the teams that give us the best chance of meeting – if not exceeding – our client’s objectives. Currently, we tend to talk to around 30 people before we make an offer. One of our joint ambitions for 2024 is to ensure we continue to attract and develop the best talent in the industry.

 

We have maintained our 90% pitch win record in 2023, which we’re very happy about. We put a tremendous amount of effort into each pitch – it can be as much as 150 collective hours from our team members. While this may sound like a lot – and it is – it is reflected in our win rate.

 

Each quarter we send out satisfaction surveys to our existing clients and gather feedback, notes, comments, etc. Our NPS is sitting around 90 in 2023, and we’re stoked about this. Our client retention rates, which are incredibly high, speak for themselves.

 

During H2 we changed our onboarding approach for new clients. Because of the high demand we have seen and the amount of time, energy and effort that is required to onboard clients – we have implemented a waitlist for when we can have new clients join. We have done this to ensure 2 things:

 

    1. Existing clients do not lose out on our attention. We never want to be in a position where we shift focus from an existing relationship to onboard a new client.
    2. We want to be able to fully commit to onboarding our new clients, which can be an intensive process.

 

By creating a waitlist and staggering onboarding we have, so far, been able to balance both of these considerations.

 

We launched the 2nd round of our Early Careers Scheme. In the weeks after the roles went live, we received more than 300 applications. After a lengthy and involved process involving many interviews, projects, tasks etc, we ultimately welcomed 6 new starters. A lot of lessons have been learnt from our first iteration of the scheme (launched in 2022), and the current group – who are doing incredibly well. They have now each been through 50+ development sessions taught by our fantastic team.

 

AI has been a big global theme for 2023, and at WeDiscover it hasn’t been any different. We have utilised and developed systems to use AI to make us more efficient. Over the last 6 months or so we have developed our Shopping Feed Co-Pilot (a system to make shopping feed optimisations), AdGPT (a custom GPT to help craft new ad copy), used AI to help with software development architecture and automated testing. Of course there is a lot going on within this space and you can expect some public releases from us soon.

The secret sauce

Something we’ve been exploring obsessively this year is understanding how we best work with our clients. Put another way; how do our clients get the best out of us, and how can we create structures, teams, processes and ceremonies to amplify that?

 

It’s our secret sauce. The combination of philosophy, skills and technology that make us unique.

 

Of all the things that we have achieved in the last year, I think this is the one I am most happy with.

 

We now have a much clearer understanding than ever before of the perfect clients for us, the ideal team structure, what rituals we need to follow, how to create clear expectations and how we need to communicate.

 

This doesn’t mean we get it perfect all the time, but we are certainly improving all the time, and in a more evolved place than we were 12 months ago. I’ve got no doubt that in 12 months, things will look very different for us.

 

This also feeds into our belief around ‘continuous review and feedback’: the bar we have internally is incredibly high. Our ambition is to be the best and as part of that, we are consistently reviewing our procedures and approaches to ensure they enable us to meet the standards we desire.

What did we get right?

    • 3 times this calendar year we won our ‘biggest ever client’. We have also tripled our spend under management from 2022 vs 2023.
    • In Q3 2023 we were the fastest-growing agency in the Google UK agency network on this measure. In addition, our relationship with Google is excellent and has developed incredibly well this year.
    • High employee satisfaction and team growth. This also includes lots of individual development, with multiple team members getting promoted & becoming managers this year.
    • Our Early Careers recruitment process got a huge overhaul which saved us around 300 hours in time vs. last year.
    • Launched our Employee Pillars Initiatives, which are team member led councils dedicated to giving back to our communities, teams, and societies.
    • Won 5 new awards across the UK Search Awards, UK Paid Media Awards and UK Digital Growth Awards.
    • Launched Event Flow, our first decided product to help brands with their offline conversion processes.
    • Hiring a larger group of Early Careers starters was a great thing. We found that as a larger group, they were able to learn and support each other much faster.
    • We completed a big rebrand and now have an entirely new website, moving us on to a new era.
    • Narrowed our focus as an ‘exec team’ and started to get more organised with things like forecasting and agency focus.
    • Brought in a great support team (people, finance, legal, etc) – allowing us to do very important things correctly.
    • Renovated the office to allow for more desks and better equipment.
    • Making shout-outs and recognition of achievements a big part of our working lives.
    • Adapting to client challenges and opportunities very successfully.
    • Becoming Great Place to Work certified, with a 95% happiness score.

What did we get wrong?

    • At certain times of the year the team has been stretched. This has largely happened when there have been multiple competing priorities (new start onboardings, pitches, big client projects). This could have been avoided with better planning.
    • We trialed a bonus scheme in Q3 this year and it was a disaster. We didn’t create the right expectation around the scheme and what it was intended for. The feedback from the team was overwhelmingly negative. Big lesson learnt.
    • Training and development for more senior members of the team was not prioritised correctly. We know we can do more here.
    • We created cross-functional squads in our technology team and it did not work. After a few months, we moved to our client-team approach.
    • We didn’t place enough importance on small social ceremonies in the media team (weekly get-togethers etc). We’ve made progress, but there’s more we can do.
    • We let our tech stack bills get out of control. We spent close to £200k on various subscriptions and tech-related costs over the year.

Where are we now?

Given that we’ve had a very successful year and grown tremendously, we’re going to rip it up and start again. Ok, maybe not that dramatically. But we’re spending December reviewing almost everything:

 

    • Our internal tech stack.
    • Our current ceremonies and processes.
    • How we create client teams and how expectations are set internally.
    • Progression roadmaps for team members.
    • Leadership structures.
    • Long-term growth plans.
    • Training and development processes.

 

We think it’s healthy and necessary to continuously review what we have in place if it will serve us for the next phase of growth and development.

 

We’re confident in what we need to do internally to ensure that our growth continues and that we are in a position to be the leading agency for our clients.

Looking forward

For 2024, our ambition is to work on bigger and more ambitious client projects, push out even more incredible work and build a strong foundation for our next phase of our growth.

 

We’ll be taking everything we’ve learnt this year into next and given the team we have in place, we feel very excited about the possibilities.

 

In terms of targets, here is what we are aiming for:

 

    • Grow revenue by 50% YoY.
    • To grow the team to around 42 team members.
    • To deliver impactful and relevant training to all our team members.
    • To publish 4 new exciting case studies.
    • Expand our network with more events, content and showcases.
    • Double our charitable donations vs 2023.
    • Introduce ‘training’ as a new service for our clients and non-clients alike.
    • Double our Paid Social footprint – in terms of team and revenue.

 

The strength of our agency is solely down to the people who work here, they are the ones who deserve any admiration or congratulations for the fantastic year we’ve had.

 

We’re also very grateful to every client who we’ve partnered with, and who trust us with exciting projects, increased budgets and expansions into more and more channels.

 

Wishing you the best for the rest of the year and 2024!

 

All the best,
Byron & Adam