Looking to the future by playing the long game
Let’s roll back that digital server for a moment. Like all good things, they take time. And this merger is no different, having undergone a well-considered 12-month courtship. It began over coffee and cornflakes at a CEO breakfast organised by WREDA (Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency) where Bron and Andrew, ahem, first locked eyes. Metaphorically.
“We would share things in a confidential way and support each other. That’s when we realised Touchtech and Springload had some similarities. The thing I loved was the massive alignment around people and culture. Here’s a tech company that is obviously driven by technology but also creating products that were useful to people,” Bron says.
Individually our strengths are quite different. Touchtech has a deep development focus that encompasses emerging technologies such as AI and Machine Learning. We’re also skilled in native mobile app development, API development, and SilverStripe. While Springload also has a strong development ethos, their capabilities are much broader with a strong focus on customer and user experience, design, and content.
The conversations over breakfast eventually grew into a strategic partnership that we used to test our ability to work together. We started with smaller projects graduating to larger and more complex ones. The real litmus test was working on Inquisitive, which is an artificial intelligence-based, educational platform. Our combined design, development and AI efforts resulted in a unique product and a very happy customer.
The success of the Inquisitive project proved we could work together as a merged entity. But was it the rule or the exception? There are so many examples of mergers failing because of mismatched organisational cultures. How were we going to prevent the same happening to us?
A people-first digital agency
Apart from leveraging our individual capabilities, it’s the similarities in our cultures that makes us such a good fit. We put people first: clients, customers and staff. We share some of the same values such as empathy, honesty and curiosity. We work hard and care deeply about what we do. Improving lives and making a difference come before turning a profit. We’re both quite partial to pizza, too.
To make sure we didn’t suddenly throw everyone into a blender and expect them to mix, we’ve been holding various ‘get-to-know-each-other’ activities over the past year. This has eased the transition.
“We know the success rate for mergers isn’t high and are aware the value of the business is its people. If we join together and a whole lot of people leave then we’ve lost the value of it. This is why we wanted to do it slowly and carefully,” Bron says.
During the courtship period, Touchtech and Springload leadership have been catching up on a two-weekly basis to talk about the combined business. This was an opportunity to discuss any significant hires, and how we might combine on client work and pitches.
“For our [Touchtech] staff the merger is a chance to move up and be part of a larger company that has more diversity in it, which I think our people are hankering for. It’s almost like they’re starting a new job, but they get to take their teammates with them. You’re getting the best of both worlds,” Andrew says.
The merger is also the result of some honest moments of reflection.