atlas collective: the first year

Posted by Cameron Shaw on

Atlas collective was born as an experiment.

An experimental business model for the future. One suited to thrive in the new economy.

A new form of social enterprise, a collectively owned and operated open source organization.

Or, more specifically, to answer the question, "Is it possible for a distributed team, to collaboratively produce world-class, service-based highly technical and specialized work?"

And in practice, our launch point, was "Can we build badass websites with a small team, leveraging the flexibility of the Shopify platform, and be a profitable, sustainable business?"

What a wild and wonderful ride it has been.

I'd like to take this opportunity to brag on some of the people involved, outline some of our accomplishments this year, and then share a few thoughts about the coming year and industry trends.

In the last year I've worked with some incredible people...
..alongside me at atlas collective (Johnathan, Clint, Stephen, Hunter),
..within the businesses we support (420 Science, Helm Boots, Vintage Vibe, Texas Humor, Machine Head), other agencies we've been fortunate to partner with (Growth Spark),
..and within the Shopify ecosystem globally (Shopify, Shopify Entrepreneurs, Shopify Partners) and locally (via Shopify Meetup group).

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to work for these amazing companies, and look forward to all of our continued success in 2018.

Here we are, 1 year in. So far we've:

- built numerous Shopify websites, and often converted those clients into customers who will continue to come back to us as their dev needs grow, and eventually may be candidates for other service offerings that meet their needs.
- acquired great customers in a number of different industries and verticals. We have a world famous metal band, an incredibly embedded retailer in the booming cannabis industry, a best-in-class manufacturer of a musical instrument, U.S. Made leather boots, and many more.
- Continued to deliver on conversion rate retainers, which in many ways represent the long-term sustainability and scalability of the company. There's lots of work to be done here, but this is where we may find the geese that lay the golden eggs, duplicating value for everyone.
- Grown the team to three developers with very different but complimentary skill sets. We've all had to wear many hats, and step into many roles juggling tasks to complete projects.

In the coming year I'd like to see us:

- continue to grow the team, as we develop the processes necessary to rapidly onboard people into specialized roles, as soon as but not before it's financially viable and long-term sustainable.
- sell and execute on retainer-based service offerings which can be delivered on for a wider range and larger group of clients. Service offerings around automatable tasks or generatable builds, finding the places where we can 10x value output in a scalable way.
- Developing processes and workflows around project and task templates will be key to refining and improving our services, including core components like setups and migrations, as well as one-offs like performance optimizations or audits, and the conversion rate playbook.
- Master our communication, work cadence, and unity of vision, and be empowered by the tools and platforms which enable an organization like this to thrive by remote collaboration and the ease of remote onboarding.
- Get ourselves out there more. Publishing more on the blog, telling our stories, sharing our work.

Looking forward to 2018, we anticipate...

- The global ecommerce boom continuing as developing nations join the international economy.
South America and the Caribbean islands are well poised to join next as modern infrastructure develops.
Distribution remains the greatest challenge, followed by gaining exposure in an increasingly saturated attention-driven internet economy, a nearly monopolized advertising industry, and the often make-or-break choice between competition or collaboration with Amazon.
- Manufacturing continues to trend towards small scale. Offshoring less necessary than before though still widespread.
- Sustainability and eco-impact are increasingly on the minds of consumers, as a culture we're getting more conscientious of the products in our lives and the stories behind them, aware of the supply chain and concerned with the ethicality of the manufacturing process.
- Consumers are expecting more customized and tailored experiences, online and offline, as well as more transparency and humanity from companies. Corporations no longer have the mass appeal and sticker value they once did (though large brands like Adidas, Supreme, etc. continue to dominate certain markets). Artisan, handcrafted, and handmade are more valued, allowing smaller brands to flourish in niche verticals.

This has been an incredibly trying and rewarding year. Thank you to everyone involved, and here's to 2018!

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