Life lessons: Ben West

How to harness your “demons” following a business disaster

Ben West: Co-founder of Intergalactic Agency and Xomo Digital

 

Ben West remembers 2008 at his co-founded digital agency company all too well: a surge of business driving the head count up to 25 employees in a "great, big shiny office" – and then the crash.

"Every project that we were doing got cancelled and every client stopped paying," he said, describing the crisis that struck Big Green Technical Solutions Inc., which has since rebranded as Intergalactic Agency Inc.

"We went from pedal-to-the-metal to crashing into the wall in a period of just a few weeks."

To survive, West said, the company laid off 80% of its staff and moved everyone to contract status.

"It was a pretty dark time," he said. "Our staff are our friends; they're people that we drink with Friday after work. Disrupting that relationship is something that I don't think anyone would relish going through."

With some creative thinking and hard work, West was able to use the recession to regroup, reinvigorate Big Green as Intergalactic and launch into the fledgling mobile sector with new company Xomo Digital.

Xomo has since shot to global success as a provider of mobile applications to international events such as the Olympics.

"We went from late 2008 being in a very, very dark place – world ending – to a year and a half later walking the red carpet at Cannes Film Festival and having built the first Olympic app in history."

But West added that for all that success, the 2008 crisis is still with him, shaping how he does business today.

"After a crisis, you're left with a lot of demons – memories of what happened and the decisions you made. You need to leverage those demons so that you don't become complacent."

West said that awareness has pushed him to tighten operations, focus on higher margins and high-quality clients, so that he's in the best position to weather future disasters.

"We are constantly re-examining the calibre of our work and ensuring that we're very focused on building a company that will be around for decades."