Part 1 of 2 (link to Part 2)
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Now I try to keep things here at ZN HQ on an upbeat tone. I particularly try to avoid being the bearer of bad news ... However, in case you missed the news last night, well, I hate to break it to you but: the World Economy is not getting terribly much better. And it looks like that’s going to be the case for a while to come as well.
I’ll wait a moment for that to sink in for those of you standing here and sharing the warmth of my last can of Sterno...
I think that with this bit of reality in mind – however shocking it may be – was the reason that a recent announcement on Facebook particularly caught my eye. Not only did I bear witness to someone announcing the start-up of a new company – complete with requisite targets and a list of exciting services in tow as you’d expect – but I was also duly impressed at how steadfastly convinced they were that their goals would be met on both their local as well as the global stage. This after hearing time and again from so many graphic artists, illustrators, service providers and more just how bleak the situation is – and has been since essentially those terrible hours in September of 2001.
But that is in fact what Jonathan Klein was indeed stating, there in the ‘broad daylight’ of social media. Intrigued, I followed up with Jonathan – together with fellow founder Tal Koren – to find out how the newly formed ‘Ascended Media’ was set to face the challenges ahead. After all, we all need business to pick up in any way we can get it going!
I’m pleased to bring you our discussions about their up-and-coming enterprise:
Hi folks, welcome to the show. In 20 (+/-) words or less, who is Ascended Media?
Ascended Media is the synergy of IT, web design, SEO (search engine optimization), graphics, and now promotional services. It is comprised of an engineering group of talented individuals, with 40-plus years of collective support experience!
Can you tell us a little bit about your ‘site’ and the people that you see and interact with every day?
Our 'site' caters primarily to small-to mid-sized business customers and home offices. Our customers are typically those who require an IT department but can’t afford to have a full-time staff.
Because our business model caters for the most part to businesses, well, we don't actually have a retail store-front in that regard. Occasionally, we will have some consumer customers; still, in these cases, we provide service that is on-par with the level of service that we provide all customers, including business customers.
All of our customers demand a high level of expertise and support. Basically they want to know that their needs are met or exceeded and that they are getting their money's worth.
Now if I understand, Ascended Media has been formed by joining the graphic and web design services of Dewality with the IT expertise of RIOTTech (or RIOT TEK, LLC as it is also listed), correct? What was the motivation for bringing these organisations together?
Yes, that is correct. Dewality Designs has been replaced with Ascended Media.
In addition, Ascended Media was also formed so that RIOTTech can focus on the products of SONY, BlackBerry, HP, Lenovo, Toshiba, Cisco Systems, and about 18 others. RIOT TEK, LLC is therefore not a retail sales entity, but rather a business entity of these manufacturers.
When you deal with RIOT TEK, LLC, it is as if you are dealing with the manufacturers themselves, because, you basically are. RIOT TEK, LLC gets its product from manufacturers' distribution centers. Ascended Media will acquire product from RIOT TEK, LLC (if and when needed) and provide service through its own entity.
I’m curious: with the global economy struggling along as it is today, do you think that Corporate Identity or Branding has lost focus? Or do you see companies pushing for this even more than ‘before’?
In our opinion, the global economy should really push companies into getting more of a focus on their identities and brands in order to stay afloat. This is why we have taken this philosophy and formed Ascended Media.
Your list of services for both IT Solutions as well as ‘web’ services – which also includes even apparel design – is quite extensive. Are you aiming to have all of these activities centralised ‘in-house’ or does the Ascended Media approach include outsourcing?
Our target is to have all of our talent in-house. Still, at present, if we need to bring in additional resources, obviously we do. So in that respect, yes, we use outsourcing, but only the ‘best of breed’ talent.
We have to keep in mind that we are also looked at ourselves as an 'outsourced entity.' As such, we aim at bringing back high-quality services to the area when most services of this type were outsourced to Asia.
What criteria do you use for selecting your outsourced activities for both information and graphic talents as well as the actual production companies with whom you work?
Again, we always pick what we call the ‘best-of-breed’. Currently, Tal – again as one of Ascended Media’s founders – has all the graphics associated with the business 'assigned' to him.
Still, we will typically use the same resources. We find that our relationships with businesses allow us to turn around and to provide our own customers with the best possible service. In addition, we strongly urge business entities to cooperate and work together, which we find produces the most effective and best results.
Let's take for example your services for ‘apparel’: what is important for Ascended Media to establish before giving the green light to spend essentially their own clients’ money on a run of shirts or other items?
It is most important to ensure that what the customer wants is actually produced. If what we show the customer is not what they expect, then we have not effectively done our job as a service entity. For example, in this case, we have already established a strong relationship with Sussex Tees out of Delaware. They provide us with outstanding service and the best in quality of fabric in their apparel and design.
(ZN: check out some original designs below and also in Part 2 of this interview!)
How do you manage then all of the various creative talents that you gather? Is there a centralised Project Management approach or do various team members assume the leadership role(s) as needs arise?
All information is gathered at each engineer's level. It is key then that each engineer has his or her own schedule laid out.
The engineer has a briefing period prior to a project's commencement. After that, they review the requirement, make sure they understand the requirement, and then implement its solution. After the project, or as the project is being completed, the engineer reports back to me, keeping also Tal in the loop. There might be times when the progress report is performed at more than one interval, in which case it is basically based upon trust and scheduled intervals immediately post-presentation of said report.
Think of it as a ‘TPS Report’ and cover sheet from the movie, ‘Office Space.’ ^_^
In terms of your customer base – targeted or existing – what are you aiming for? Do you have a particular market segment in mind, or even different size or location restrictions to consider?
With regard to IT, we have been concentrating for the most part on small-to-mid-sized businesses. As mentioned earlier, we also cater to home offices and consumers at times.
With regards to web and promotional services, we are able to provide that both nationally and even internationally, which is something we have begun to integrate. This is due to the fact a lot of what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ can be provided remotely. This brings up another key fact about our daily business: with regards to IT server support, we very often get requests for remote server and even work-station support.
Is there a difference to you between ‘big’ and ‘small’ customers in terms of how you approach the start-up projects or even long-term service?
Again, the bottom-line is that we provide the highest level of service to both big and small customers. We aim for the highest level of customer retention that we can obtain!
And what we have found is that if we provide the same level of service across the board, we will get back what we provide: a happy customer and happy internal operations here within our own organization!
Continued in Part 2