My Ten Years: A Look Back at the History of Portent
Ariana Burgess May 13 2014
I wouldn’t be surprised if some people in the internet marketing industry secretly called me an “old hat” behind my back. I’ve been at Portent for ten years now so maybe I deserve that. The average tenure at a company these days is 4.6 years . Fewer than 10% of people my age stay at jobs longer than 10 years. Now, after celebrating my 10 year anniversary with Portent, I look back and think “Wow, what a ride I’ve been on and I’m so thankful.”
One thing is clear: I am not the same person as I was 10 years ago and Portent has changed a lot too. Here’s a look at who we were and what we’ve become.
One of my first calls that I took was a legacy client from the east coast. Something about his demeanor and how he said “I need to talk to Ian NOW” made me cry. I wasn’t used to those types of calls. Now when that SAME client calls, I know he is a super nice guy who has an east coast edge. I know what to expect when I see his number come up on caller ID.
What happened? I grew as a person. I built a relationship with the client. We have caller ID. We’ve done great work for that client for MANY YEARS.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am good at building relationships. And over the course of the last 10 years at Portent, I’ve done that with co-workers and many many clients and vendors.
Raising the bar
When we moved Portent to a new building, literally 2 blocks away, we had to hire a moving truck and coordinate the 18 employees we had at the time. During one of the last visits to the new office before we moved, I remember Ian saying he would take one of the smaller offices. I told him he was crazy! The President should have the corner office with the windows. He accepted this.
Along the way we’ve learned that we had to think like we were big stuff to raise the bar of our internal expectations and those of our clients. If we didn’t think bigger than we were, we were never going to grow. So first step was to get the President out of his “building it in the garage” mentality. We needed to believe in ourselves and our clients. The more often we do that and think of ourselves being amazing, the more amazing work we did and the more amazing we became.
Before it was cool
My husband and I are early adopters of lifestyle things. We were really early customers of Netflix, we were in love with Kozmo.com, we got the first edition iPhones, etc. And because of Portent I’ve become an early adopter of professional things like social media and new web ideas. When I first told my husband I’d signed up for a Facebook account, all I got was a blank stare, like “What is the purpose?” Now he is a much more active user than I am.
Some examples of how Portent has stayed ahead of the curve:
- Less code = better: Even way back in 2004, Ian was sharing with the whole company that less HTML code is better for SEO. When search engines now talk about load times and the benefits of clean and easy code, we nod in agreement.
- CMS what? Early on, the Portent team had to teach and train clients how to effectively update their sites and most of the time no one knew what a CMS was. It was completely foreign to me as well. But after dozens of different ones, I’ve become pretty knowledgeable and can train clients on them. We have favorites (WordPress) and a slew of least favorites I won’t name here and we’re always excited about learning the next new CMS.
- High quality content: Anyone who has been a reader of this blog for even a short time will know this message, “High quality content is king.” Ian’s been preaching that line since he started to blog. Since I’ve been at Portent, we’ve educated clients about the value of content and now the search engines are singing the same tune.
We have some pretty smart folks here at Portent. I’ve learned so much from my fellow teammates and hope they’ve learned a few things from me as well. Late in 2004, Ian launched Portent U (Portent University). These are training/teaching sessions Ian started to impart his knowledge on us. Nowadays everyone on the team shares their unique expertise with the company.
Not only do we share knowledge internally but externally as well. Over the years we continue to participate in conferences and trainings with clients. This is one of the key things I think makes Portent stand out. We share with both the industry and our clients. We don’t just want our clients to make more money or get more leads, but we want to help them understand the basis of what we’re doing for them.
I started at Portent as “Business Coordinator,” became a Project Manager, Account Manager, Traffic Coordinator, Senior Traffic Controller, Account Manager, Account Strategist and now Senior Project Manager. Through all of these titles, through all the years, what hasn’t changed is my focus on getting things done, getting things for folks who need to get stuff done, and helping out as much as I can.
Time flies when you’re having fun. It’s still amazing to me that 10 years have gone by. It wasn’t all trainings and building websites, we did (and still do) have a good amount of fun around here.
Quake, Penny Poker, Foursquare (the game not the app): These were things we did as a small office at the end of a Friday or project completion to celebrate. Foursquare was played to enjoy the sunshine and get outside. I still find pennies in my drawer from the days we would gather around a small table and play poker with penny bets.
Cold-Stones Throw Away: We once had a couple of employees take an afternoon stroll to Cold Stone by our Tukwila Office. What they didn’t realize when they started was that it was 2.4 miles away. Once there and realizing the frozen cake they procured was going to melt on the way back they dialed the office to have someone pick them up. I drove to get them and laughed the whole time until they were in my car.
It’s impossible to tell how much Portent and I will change in the next ten years, but I look forward to sharing a lot of good times with co-workers and clients along the way. Though I may be considered “old hat” I love the fact that I’m known as the Portent Dictionary or that people come to me and ask me questions. I’ve been told that if I don’t know about it, it likely doesn’t exist. I like being the know-it-all.