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Bridging the knowledge gap

Friday, 14 October 2011 | By Michelle Hammond
Promising the world to clients can be a tempting sales strategy for start-ups, particularly in the early days when sales are scarce, but it can also backfire in a very big way.


Sabir Samtani and David Easton learnt firsthand what happens when you claim to know more than you actually do, but managed to bounce back from the mistake.


Samtani and Easton are the founders of Sydney-based business Reborn, a boutique digital creative agency with a focus on branding, design, usability, technology and media.


Founded in 2008, Reborn now employs 32 staff and recorded $3-4 million in revenue in the 2010-11 financial year. Clients include Chanel, Hyundai, Midori, Colgate, Revlon and Lancôme.


The company recently launched a new arm of the business, known as Lifestyle Media Group, and also won an NBN contract to redesign a government website.


But as Samtani explains, the company’s success would not have been possible had it not been for the humble beginnings of its two founders.


“Dave was working from home servicing small clients and I was selling software to advertising agencies,” Samtani says.


“I did it for six months before one of my clients said they’d rather pay me to produce the work [rather than my employer]... I met Dave on a project about six months later.”


“Each of us was working from home in our lounge room; that sort of thing. We both had itchy feet and didn’t want to be a one-man band.”


“We wanted to grow a bigger, more successful company, so we had the same ambitions.”


Samtani and Easton decided two heads were better than one, joining forces to take on the industry together, but still found themselves a little out of their depth.


“At the start, you always want to sound bigger than you are,” Samtani says.


“Dave had a little bit more experience but we both came from non digital agency backgrounds, so our biggest challenge was our [lack of] knowledge.”


Samtani says he and Easton initially found it difficult to compete with the more experienced players, so they assembled a strong team to give their business the best chance of survival.


“We didn’t come from really senior positions, unlike others [in the industry]... so we put together a really strong team,” he says.


“We brought on the right people in the team, knowing that we’re not precious about thinking that we know everything because we definitely don’t.”


“One of our mentors said, ‘get people who are smarter than you’. We’re completely comfortable with people telling us what to and giving us ideas.”


Reborn recently appointed a creative director, a creative technologist, a client services director and a new senior art director, all of whom have years of experience in the industry.


For example, client services director Samantha Martin – previously employed by The White Agency – has worked for the likes of Uniqlo, Mount Franklin, Coca Cola and Billabong.


“What we pride ourselves on is completely letting people tell us what we should do to make the agency better – we’re very humble about what we do,” Samtani says.


“In the last six months, we’ve taken on 10 people and since February our workforce has nearly doubled... We’ve got a low staff turnover because we’re all in it together.”