.The GWS Mission

Golden Wattle Studios (GWS) was founded in 2015 by Ryan Thomas. The business began strictly as a web development business while Ryan was working full time as a Systems Administrator. At that time GWS was servicing just one customer on an ongoing basis and performing smaller tasks for other businesses on an Ad-hoc basis.

Fast forward into 7 years and GWS has grown to be more than a Web Development business, oh and Ryan is now working full time as a Digital Strategy Manager at Golden Wattle Studios.

My name is Ryan Thomas and I’m the founder of GWS mentioned in the opening few paragraphs. I want to share with you some insights about myself, my journey and the mission that defines everything that is done at Golden Wattle Studios.

One of my business coaches used to repeat a line from Alice in Wonderland which went something like, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”. The message eventually got through to me. Without a goal or a predefined destination you aren’t really going anywhere.

There’s a fantastic speech given by the renowned Steve Jobs in which he says, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards”. I remember watching this speech on YouTube a few years ago. At the time I thought it was a great speech however it didn’t mean a lot to me. I watched this speech again a few days ago and the message suddenly became clear.

We’re all heading somewhere, we’re moving through life in a direction and the choices we make along the way are those dots. When you get far enough through your journey and you stop to look back you can see all those choices, or dots as Jobs calls them. You can see how they eventually got you from where you were, to where you are.

I’ve always loved working with technology. I remember as child getting excited about figuring thing out. My parents bought the first Sony Playstation and I remember the excitement of connecting it to the television. Sure the excitement was also driven by playing the games but figuring out how to make it work was equally important.

I remember when my parents got our first computer, one of those “beige boxes”. It was ridiculously slow and we had dial up internet. Someone was using the computer to edit a document and accidentally hit a key sequence which flipped the image on screen upside down like the image below.

I remember how it drove my whole family nuts as they tried to figure out how to reverse the accidental changes. Turning it off and on again certainly didn’t do the trick. While the rest of my family gave up, I couldn’t. I needed to know how this happened and how to fix it. Moments like these happened all throughout my teenage years as well. I didn’t know it at the time but that feeling of needing to solve the problem would become one of those dots that Steve Jobs mentioned. Looking back now I know why I love working with technology and solving problems.

In my final years of high school I did a traineeship in Multimedia and actually worked at the school I attended one day out of the week. The role was a bit of everything related to technology. I became pretty well versed in Photoshop and some other design tools. I combined my love of drawing with a vector animation tool called Flash which gave me a pathway to create some simple games. It was through my time creating games that I started learning how to write code in a language similar to Javascript. The best thing about writing code was being able to give the computer some instructions and watching them be performed. This also aligned with my obsession with figuring things out.

Drawing of Gandalf
My drawing of Gandalf from LOTR

It was in my final year of high school that things would change for me in a very big way. I was in a motor vehicle accident. I suffered a broken pelvis and brain damage. I was in hospital for quite some time recovering. I had a lot of trouble with memory and other cognitive tasks. The brain injury was classified as severe and as the Glasgow Coma Scale goes, you’re either mild, moderate or severe so I was right up there. I had to learn to walk and talk again before doctors allowed me to go home. As a teenager that’s a pretty tough thing to come to terms with.

Having suffered such an impairment at a vital time in my life left me in a state of depression. I put on a lot of weight and really self sabotaged for a long time. I didn’t know what I was going to do or how I was going to do it.

Despite the ongoing issues from the brain injury my love of “figuring things out” had not gone away. In fact I think my need to figure things out had expanded from computers to other areas like how does a business like Google make so much money when they give their primary product away for free. Questions like this really started to drive my way of thinking. I would question more and more things until I understood them. There was almost this internal struggle to make sense of things. When you go from joking around with your friends at school to laying in a hospital bed struggling to read the time on the clock it just became so much more important to understand why things are the way they are.

I bought a book titled, “How to build and understand Computers”. After I read the book I built my first computer. It was an incredible experience to put the hardware together and install the operating system. Everything worked because I made it work. What a sense of accomplishment. I went on to complete a Certificate 3 in Computer Networking.

After a few part time jobs in Computer Repair shops I had a goal of working in a corporate role. I wanted to work in an IT department. At the time I saw a role like this as a big step because of the set backs I’d faced with having a brain injury. I eventually achieved this goal and worked at the same company for nearly ten years. I started off working in IT Support where I got to figure out a lot of problems. The role expanded into Web Development and at one point I was managing around 80 individual websites while doing IT Support internally for the company. I was later promoted to Systems Administrator which was a very similar kind of role to what I was already doing anyway. After working for the same company for nine years I’d lost passion for the role and started to feel like it was time for something else. Something was holding me back though.

After suffering brain damage I became obsessed with self help books and in particular, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I had a dream of starting my own business but I didn’t have belief that I could do it. My confidence was very fragile and I became afraid of failing. My partner encouraged me to take the leap on a project I had been working on in my spare time. It was for an app targeted at hair dressers and beauty salons. So I took the leap and handed in my resignation. I left the job and started working on the app as my new full time job. I didn’t know how I was going to do it or how I was going to do it but I was going to give it everything. A few months later Covid-19 happened and my plan started to fall apart.

As the plan started to come apart my confidence declined even further. I became so afraid of failing. I didn’t know what to do. It’s almost as if I’d forgotten about just how far I had come since I had the car accident and all the things I had been able to achieve.

At this time I was making small amounts of money by selling website hosting, technology troubleshooting and web development work here and there and I was also managing some share market investments that I had made a few years prior. Things weren’t dire however I began to feel the way that I did after the car accident. I felt helpless and lost. At that time I started seeing a psychologist for depression. You can hit what feels like rockbottom more than once in your life. I didn’t realise it at the time but I had all the skills I needed for a successful business, I just wasn’t using them the right way.

That was when I met a potential client that went on to become my first business coach. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. This client pointed out how terrible my communication was, how unorganised I was and how I was not charging anywhere near enough for the work that I was doing. I didn’t take this criticism very well and had a very long discussion with my psychologist about it. Thankfully that conversion will remain between me and the psych haha. The client loved the work that I produced for her which involved a complete website design and development with eCommerce that allowed for integration with Mailchimp. It was because of my ability to deliver above and beyond her expectations that she offered to mentor me.

After a few sessions with my business coach I was actually starting to see the light. I increased my prices inline with the industry and created a more organised structure for project management and delivery. I was becoming profitable in what I was doing. My confidence grew and I gained a clearer insight into what I wanted to achieve.

Who is Ryan and why do you do what you do?

That was the question that my business coach asked me. While it seems like it should be a simple question to answer, I was stumped. I remember her asking me over Zoom and I just sat there staring at the screen for what felt like 10 minutes. I remember thinking, “I better say something soon or she’ll think the call is frozen”. I had to actually stop and look at myself, say who I am and why I’m doing the work that I do. I didn’t have an answer at the time so I went away to think about it.

When I though back to moments in my past I remembered that I was always very driven by my desire to figure things out. When I worked in IT Support the most enjoyable times in the job was solving a complex problem and explaining it in a simple to understand way. When I though about what I wanted for Golden Wattle Studios though I kept thinking, I don’t want to be just another Web Development Business. I’d seen a lot of Web Development businesses that had overcharged and underdelivered. When I did web developments for my clients I would hear some terrible stories about the prices paid previous developers and looking at the end result and knowing that the client was not happy with what they were given. Then I realised, it’s not that I don’t want to develop websites, I actually really enjoy that. It’s that I don’t want to be another bad web developer that rips people off. I also knew that developing a website is only part of what a client needs, the other part is something that they don’t really know they need. They needed a digital way or an online way for a potential customer to engage with their business which would bring the potential customer into the sales pipeline so that they could become a paying customer. To achieve that, it takes understanding human computer interaction, how the clients business works and the best way for the customer to engage.

By stopping to answer that simple question I was able to clearly define the mission for Golden Wattle Studios; a technology company that helps small businesses gain more customers through the use of technology. A business may start off with a website connected to an email CRM like Mailchimp but then that same business may need a specific application developed to help them server their customers better. Every business is different and to my delight I can now spend time figuring out what each client needs on a deeper level and then deliver specialised solutions to help build their bottom line.

Golden Wattle Studios has gone from providing Website Hosting and Website Development to being more like the IT Department for multiple long term clients. We develop software that solves a business problem. We have developed several platforms such as an eCommerce solution that can be added to existing websites and connect the customer data to Mailchimp. We have a platform for developing secure web apps that can use and aggregate multiple data sources. We have a platform to create online invitation landing pages with RSVP functionality that is password protected, no need to print invites. We’re also developing a community based eCommerce shopping platform for businesses to promote their services which will be launched in June 2022. It’s safe to say that Golden Wattle Studios isn’t just another website developer but we do that too and we’re good at it.

“Technology should not be a barrier to achieving what you want”

My job title is Digital Strategy Manager because my primary role is to formulate a Digital Strategy for your business and then implement all of the requirements. We have a saying at GWS, “Technology should not be a barrier to achieving what you want”. Technology is supposed to make life easier and that’s the mindset that we work with at GWS. We focus on removing the friction for your customers and at the same time we make it easier for you to get paid for what you do best.

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