As VIEO celebrates our tenth year in business, it's the perfect time to reflect on the story of how we got to where we are today and what's next on our list.
VIEO officially began in 2008 - a year now known for the worst economic disaster in the U.S. since the Great Depression. In hindsight, it was probably not the best year to start a new business, but thankfully, VIEO co-founders didn't know it at the time. But, our story starts almost 10 years before then with the fateful meeting of our co-founders...
Rob Spurlock and Paul Gibson first met in 1999 through a mutual friend. At the time, Rob owned Infinity Computer Systems and Lock-Net, an ISP company. He was looking for someone that could both design and code websites and in 1999, that wasn't an easy combination to find. With a newly obtained degree in Art and a love for all things technical, Paul turned out to be the perfect fit.
After working for Lock-Net for two years as a web designer, Paul spent the next seven years gaining valuable expertise as the graphic designer and user interface specialist for NetLearning and then the corporate web developer for Dixie Stampede. As Paul pursued his passions, Rob grew the dial-up company he started in late 1997 into a website hosting and IT firm. Over the years, Rob became an in-demand expert in server environment and web security, managing more than 100 congressional websites among many others.
In 2008, VIEO was born when Rob reached out to Paul for a special web project that needed advanced design skills. As the two collaborated, they discussed emerging CMS technologies that were changing the face of web design. You see, in the early 2000s most websites were custom coded, very expensive, and required a techie to make any changes. With the release of WordPress in 2003 and Joomla in 2005, Rob and Paul saw the opportunity to create affordable websites that could be easily extended through the use of plugins and updated by non-techies. As internet popularity was rising, the need for websites was increasing - and in tough economic times, the need for affordable options was key. So, the two joined forces once again, and VIEO Design, LLC was officially launched.
What Does VIEO Mean?
No folks, VIEO is not an acroymn. As quintessential nerds, our founders were inspired by the Latin word vieo (pronounced "VEE-oh") which means “to weave together." The guys thought VIEO was the perfect word to describe a company that weaves together the artistic and technical elements of web design and digital marketing.
Why I Joined The Team
Becoming a VIEO co-owner was not in my plan when I moved to the Knoxville area in 2009. At the time, my two girls were toddlers, and my husband, along with many others in Atlanta's commercial real estate industry, had been laid off. We moved to East Tennessee to get closer to a family support system as my parents and siblings were all located here. My father was getting ready to retire from his 17 year presidency at Maryville College, and my brother Paul (yes, the one you just read about) was looking for help marketing his new agency. After several years as a stay-at-home mom, I was excited to lend a hand.
Prior to 2006, my career was spent in the corporate world as a manager and AVP with Fortune 500 companies, including Rubbermaid, Ameritech, First Union (now Wells Fargo & Company), and SunTrust where I led a team of intranet developers. The positions I held in those companies involved various elements of marketing, sales, customer service, quality assurance, and managing people - all of which came in very handy at VIEO. After leaving the corporate world, I started a small ecommerce business, which led to a heavy interest in SEO and leveraging social media which was still fairly new in 2006/2007.
So, let's get back to 2009 when it was just the three of us. As Paul and Rob built and hosted websites, crafted logos, and executed user interface design projects, I took on VIEO's marketing, sales, and customer service. I started giving local talks about social media and digital marketing, and soon after started hiring new team members as we grew.
Setting Ourselves Apart
No Snake Oil Allowed
From the beginning, we pledged to provide a different experience from the horror stories we heard from prospects and clients. They were spending thousands of dollars for websites that never launched, couldn't get calls or emails returned, were sold things they didn't need, were given one price to close the deal and then charged hidden costs, and were generally confused by mystical digital marketing they weren't sure was happening.
As my mom would love to hear, "that's not how we were raised." Of VIEO's seven core values, the following best speak to how we avoid that snake oil label.
- Honesty and Integrity
- We only sell products and services that we think will benefit our clients
- We never promise something we know we can't deliver
- We're honest and ethical with our clients and our team
- High-Quality Work
- We take pride in our work and aren't okay with mediocrity
- We use quality assurance processes to be sure our work is accurate and tested before final delivery
- Return on Investment
- We focus on solutions that create ROI for our clients and measure our success by our clients' ROI
- Accountability to the Data
- We make decisions based on data
- We constantly inspect expectations to continue improving results
- We use a data-driven approach to help us ensure our client's big ideas are elevated as planned
- Creativity and Innovation
- We use creativity and innovation to outshine our competition in our competitive and fast-paced industry
- We keep on top of industry trends and changes to stay relevant
- We think outside the box and come up with creative solutions for problems faced by our clients and our company
Employee & Client Happiness
Employee and client happiness is another core value for VIEO, and the two are intrinsically linked. When I'm hiring, I look for those who have the desire to continuously learn, constantly improve, and exceed client expectations. Trusted and knowledgeable team members who are committed to client success help us win long-lasting relationships.
Agency life has a reputation for being stressful and demanding, but we strive to make VIEO atypical both for our team and our customers. We want each day feel less like "working" and more like winning as we help our clients reach their goals. That involves encouraging employee input, a work/life balance, providing the tools needed to do the job right, and ongoing educational opportunities to keep on top of our game.
We also take a little time each month to do employee team builders which let us bond, share ideas, and practice lots of creative thinking! Each of these starts with a fun theme (thanks to Lauren Nelson and Rachel Vaughn) and an accompanying crazy poster to help generate excitement and plenty of smiles.
Meet The "VIEOians"
Thinking about how people and companies grow and change, here's what some of our team members looked like back when they were a LOT younger. It's hard to believe these cute little tikes became today's VIEOians chock-full of digital marketing talent, creativity, and the desire to delight customers. If you look at us now, can you guess who's who?
VIEO History MILESTONES
2008 & 2009
- VIEO was founded in 2008 by Rob Spurlock and Paul Gibson and I joined the crew in 2009.
- VIEO was one of the first agencies in the area to offer websites built with responsive design.
2010 & 2011
- In 2010, Paul won Best Web Developer in Knoxville in the first annual Big Wig awards sponsored by Knoxville's chapter of the American Advertising Federation.
- By 2011, VIEO had grown from three to six, and Mac Bartine and I became co-owners.
- In 2011, we entered our first American Advertising Awards and won a silver ADDY Award for web design.
- 2013 was a big year of change for VIEO. We implemented our first national ad campaign, became a HubSpot partner agency, won our first Gold ADDY Award, and almost doubled in size.
2014 & 2015
- We achieved Gold HubSpot partner status in 2014 and were invited by HubSpot to lead Knoxville's HubSpot User Group (HUG). We're still hosting free HUG events each quarter, so if you're in Knoxville join us for the next one!
- I was honored to be featured in Cityview magazine’s “Knoxville’s Women in Media."
2016 & 2017
- VIEO received an award for "Top 51 Visually Appealing Websites Using Inbound Marketing" (and we made the list again in 2018)!
- The VIEO blog was included as #31 in Feedspot's Top 100 Inbound Marketing Blogs.
- We launched flex content for websites to make it even easier for clients to create beautiful new pages with drag and drop modules.
- We launched our unique growth-driven marketing approach to delivering inbound marketing and other digital marketing services.
That wraps up some of our highlights, and there's a full interactive historical timeline on our About Us page if you're interested!
So, as you can see, a lot has happened over the past ten years. Our industry is a continually changing one, so there's plenty more in store for years to come. Here are a few of the many things we're predicting, planning, and have underway:
- Further Customized Website Management Experiences - For the past several years we've been building custom "backend" experiences for our clients that make website changes easier and customized to their content. We call these drag-and-drop page building blocks "flexible content." We plan to continue expanding on this concept with added enhancements and features.
- Sales Enablement Services - Driving more leads with strategic digital marketing is wonderful, but closing those leads is key. Inbound selling tips have long been woven throughout our inbound marketing services, but we're seeing an increased demand. We've started expanding our services that help sales and marketing teams better align and leverage the latest technologies to close more deals.
- Conversational Growth Strategies - Today's consumers expect personalized service, cross-channel access to businesses, quick answers to questions, and authenticity. The use of live chat and chatbots is rising to meet these needs and we've started assisting our clients with technology implementation and associated strategies for sales, marketing, and customer service.
Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to join us in celebrating the past ten years as well as those to come! We'd love to continue staying in touch and invite you to and ask any burning questions. Our consultations are free, so there's nothing to lose!