Name: Diggi Thomson and Gene Tiernan
Business: The Dot Connectors
Founded: 2008, expanded in 2017
Location: Stamford, CT
Diggi Thomson spent 15 successful years at corporate giant Unilever, working in both Europe and North American on leading brands including Axe deodorant. But in 2008, after some deep introspection, Diggi decided he was ready to strike out on his own. For nearly a decade, he single-handedly built and ran every aspect of his marketing and branding company. Eventually, however, he faced a challenge many entrepreneurs can relate to: Diggi wanted to grow The Dot Connectors, but he knew he couldn’t realize his vision alone. He decided it was time to bring in a business partner with a skill set that would complement his own. Cue Gene Tiernan, an experienced agency-side brand leader who was ready to make a professional change. The Dot Connectors was primed to make a big shift – into high gear.
Diggi, tell us about your “aha” moment about doubling the size of your company from one to two.
The year before Gene joined The Dot Connectors, I began to realize that unless I brought on a partner, I would never have the energy and capacity to make my vision and ideas become reality. I had come up against my own personal limit for growth. I knew what the business needed in order to grow and succeed, but I also knew it would require me doing many things I’m not naturally good at or particularly excited about.
Finding the right business partner is no small feat. What was your approach?
I realized a long time ago that my greatest joy and energy comes from energizing and elevating the aspirations of others. My role at The Dot Connectors is to help people do better together. Specifically, after so many years working in branding at a global company, I’ve come to believe there’s a better way for businesses and their creative/agency teams to work together while also bringing their complementary strengths to the table.
My perspective comes from being the client who sat across from an agency team and had countless conversations as a “brand owner” about how to bring an idea or concept to life. I wanted to balance my experience with someone from the agency side. I also see myself as a specialist, and I knew I wanted to bring on someone who was more of a generalist.
Gene’s leadership role on the “agency side” brought balance and perspective – the perfect fit. In fact, our new business model at The Dot Connectors embodies the kind of supportive, complementary relationships we look to power both in agencies and/or brands from the creative and marketing world. Gene and I both know we can dream bigger and better as a team than we could on our own.
How has the business partnership helped you achieve goals you felt were previously out of reach?
One critical area is having the capacity and energy for doing our own marketing as well as
doing “the work.” I would characterize it as a shift from “great things are happening to me” to “I’m making great things happen.”
Before Gene, my work was coming from referrals and people contacting me regarding jobs that were in line with their understanding of what The Dot Connectors offered. That could mean jobs that were interesting and paid the bills but weren’t strictly in line with my business vision.
Now, the exciting opportunity is getting out there and sharing what we believe in and do best, so that individuals and teams can benefit from our energy and expertise.
How can small businesses benefit from your insights and knowledge?
Small businesses are the lifeblood of innovation and growth. We love sharing the learnings and best practices of the world’s greatest marketers with small business owners. One of our current projects is working with marketing agencies who have clients who are small business owners. Gene and I lead agency/client days where we each share relevant best practices for getting the most out of these working relationships, especially when it comes to “starting right” so projects get off the ground successfully.
Small businesses are well positioned to apply and adopt new ideas or practices and run their businesses faster and smarter than ever before. We enjoy giving them the understanding and tools to get the best out of each member of their team which, in turn, builds a stronger whole and helps their marketing efforts be as effective as possible.
Diggi, what has been the biggest challenge of working for yourself?
Until Gene entered the picture, my biggest challenge was being disciplined enough to consistently focus on growing the business. As a curious “specialist” with a touch of “perfectionist” thrown in, it’s easy for me to get distracted by things I find really interesting but don’t necessarily help drive the business forward. I can easily spend too long trying to get to 95% when 80% is perfectly good enough.
One of the benefits of having a business partner is simply being accountable to someone else. The discipline of having weekly status reviews with Gene makes it much easier for me to stay focused on what matters most.
What keeps you going on a tough day?
It’s exciting to know that we’re in charge of our own destiny, and it’s in our power to change things to be the way we want. We’re also driven by a larger sense of purpose that is in line with our personal values.
Gene and I both are genuinely committed to helping marketers benefit exponentially from building and nurturing high-performance working relationships. Our motto is, “Do great work, get great results and have a great time doing it – together.”
Read this article to find out how Diggi and Gene help business teams move from "me" to "we" thinking.
Now it’s your turn!
QB Community members, if you’ve expanded your business by bringing on a partner, please tell us about your experience. Is there anything you’d do differently next time?
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