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Winning new business with Hack Days

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Hack Days are a central part of pebble {code}’s culture. About every three months everyone at the company stops working on client work for a day and participates in a Hack Day. The theme for the day is given out a few days in advance giving designers and developers the chance to think about what they would like to work on. Previous themes have been ‘The Olympics’, 'Art’ and 'Games’. Some of the projects created on these hack days can been seen on the Labs page.

Hack Days give developers the chance to explore a new technology, collaborate with people from other teams and most importantly the chance to play. Hack Days are a great experience. There is a frenzy of creative energy and at the end of the day each project shows what they have created over a few beers. Normally about four or five different technologies have been used. In essence the day exists for itself but often developers take what they have learned during the day back into their projects or even take their hack forward.

Recently we invited a potential client to see how we worked by being part of a Hack Day. The client is a FTSE 100 company based in the UK. We felt a hack day would show our culture and skills more effectively than a long proposal document. The cost to company was relatively high (the whole company worked on it) but we decided that even if the contract did not convert it would still be a positive exercise for us as a company.

The client got the chance to meet our team, explore our skill set and experience the creativity and innovation in the team first hand. For two days they saw us at work and at play. The theme for the day was related to the client’s problem but not over-prescriptive.

There were some concerns that the exercise would simply be like client work with the potential client directing what they wanted. But it wasn’t like that. The client team engaged in the Hack Day like anyone else creating ideas and helping to develop others. Ideas flowed. Whiteboards were covered. Software was created. At the end of the day we shared a beer.

We won the contract, developers and designers enjoyed it and two of the hacks were taken forward to form the basis for what was eventually delivered to the client. It dawned on us that we had won new business by doing something we loved doing. We didn’t have to spend days responding to an RFP, producing long proposal documents or attending endless meetings. We simply exposed our culture and showed them what we could do.

The feedback that we received from the client was that they really enjoyed the fact that we had thrown open the company for them. They got to see everything about us. The creativity within the team had really impressed them and the hacks had made them look at their problem in a different way.

Moving forward we intend to repeat the exercise if we feel a prospective client is the right fit. It was a positive experience for all involved.

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