I believe that 2020 will be a big year for SuperFriendly.

Midway through 2019, we officially and publicly repositioned the company to focus solely on design systems. An overwhelming majority of the work we were doing over the last few years was design systems work anyway, so we decided to be upfront about this focus in hopes that the narrower positioning would bring some advantages.

And boy, it did. The end of 2019 bore plenty of fruits of that labor. We’ve seen a 1,000% increase in the amout of leads in our pipeline compared to what we had at this time last year.

In order to figure out how to set up well for a great 2020, I found it useful to look back at how SuperFriendly has done thus far. (I shared a more detailed version of this with the team and thought it could be helpful to share some of this publicly in case it helps any other agency owner out there.)

Time spent #

At the end of 2012, I shared some data about how I spent my time in year one as an owner of a new agency that was still primarily responsible for the majority of production work. Nowadays, at the close of year seven, I’m much less involved. Here’s a comparison of how 2019 compared to 2012. 1

2012 vs. 2019
  Total Hours Worked Average Hours per Week
2012 2,430 47
2019 2,040 39
Hours Spent per Task in 2012
Task Hours Percentage
Design 819 34%
Admin 700 29%
Front-End Development 352 14%
Business Development 276 11%
Speaking/Conferences 96 4%
Vacation 64 3%
Hours Spent per Task in 2019
Task Hours Percentage
Creative Direction 587 30%
Business Development 283 14%
Design 237 12%
Speaking/Conferences 222 11%
Vacation 224 11%
Admin 110 6%
Front-End Development 70 3%

A few takeaways here for me:

  • Though I’m still involved in project work a bit, my project time tends to be spent significantly more on direction than actual design and coding work. That said, we’ve made some pretty major changes that will now further remove me from both direction and production work in 2020, so I’ll be really curious to see how this graph changes over the next year.
  • I’ve been a fan of Cameron Moll’s Minimum Vacation Policy since he wrote about it, and I’ve been trying to put it into effect more and more each year. My general premise was to pick 2 days at the beginning of each month that I was going to take off, not to do anything specific but really just to give myself a break and time to recharge. That didn’t really go as planned, as I instead took longer breaks in big chunks, but I’m still pleased to see that I averaged 28 days of vacation in 2019 which computes to a little more than 2 days per month.

Profit #

Our profit has really fluctuated over the years and is generally trending downwards. A major focus for 2020 is to at least level this out, if not trend upwards. A profit of 58% would do the trick, but it’s a touch too ambitious to be realistic. We’re shooting for 50%.

SuperFriendly Profit
Year Profit %
2012 29%
2013 22%
2014 36%
2015 9%
2016 36%
2017 24%
2018 -18%
2019 28%

Purpose-driven goals #

As I reflect on and continue to refine SuperFriendly’s purpose, I’ve realized that a grand opportunity is to create better opportunities for creative people to flourish. Against that criteria, I think it’s important to continually evaluate how many opportunities we’re creating, for whom, and how good those opportunities are. A quick rundown:

  • In 2019, we worked with 23 different SuperFriends.
  • We paid those 23 SuperFriends a total of $325,000 (an average of just over $14,000 each).
  • Of the 23 SuperFriends, 8 are women and 15 are men.
  • Of the 23 SuperFriends, 6 are people of color and 17 are white.

Choosing a growth rate of around 20% 2, I’ve set these goals for 2020:

  1. Work with 30 different SuperFriends.
  2. Pay all SuperFriends a total of $500,000 (an average of just under $17,000 each).
  3. Of the 30 SuperFriends, let’s work with at least 15 women.
  4. Of the 30 SuperFriends, let’s work with at least 15 people of color.

(Dividing each of those things by four gives us our 2020 Q1 OKRs.)

Honestly, those feel like really easy metrics to hit. I’m hopeful that we’ll reach those numbers much earlier than the end of the year and be able to set our sights on more ambitious things.

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