January 1st of 2012 is the beginning of Lullabot's 7th year. When Matt Westgate and I launched the website and the company on the first day of 2006, we had no idea how successful we would become. Each year around this time, I find myself looking back with appreciation. I thought I'd take a few moments to sum up my thoughts about Lullabot's 2011 and where we're headed in the future.

Accomplishments

As we close out 2011, we have 30 people at Lullabot – most of whom are full-time employees – and we're still hiring. In 2011, we led the Drupal-based relaunch of MarthaStewart.com and WWE.com; we played a key role in the relaunch of Harvard.edu; we helped Sony Pictures move many of their sites to Drupal; we kept Grammy.com running through the 2011 awards night; we built The Grammys website for the 3rd year in a row (be sure to watch the CBS telecast on February 12th); and we worked on some super secret stuff that we're not allowed to talk about. Our Drupal video training site, Drupalize.Me continued to grow and bring Drupal knowledge and expertise to thousands of subscribers. We built iOS, Android, and Roku apps for Drupalize.Me to make it easier to access our huge training library. And we launched Videola, Drupalize.Me's underlying platform, as a separate Drupal distribution and hosted solution for enterprise video management and ecommerce.

Oh yeah, and we also ran our third Do It With Drupal conference, which hosted about 250 attendees in Brooklyn, NY in October. The 35-or-so sessions from DIWD, including keynotes by Jeffrey Zeldman and Josh Clark, are being posted weekly to Drupalize.Me. Also in 2011, after 5 years as a completely virtual/distributed company, we signed the lease on an office space in Providence, RI. We don't tend to work out of that location much, but it's nice to have a home base for meetings, workshops, and the Providence Drupal meetups.

I know I'm supposed to be cool and aloof about my own company, but I'm just so proud of the talented team we've put together, the amazing clients we've been blessed to work with, and the collective impact of 6 years of experience and knowledge on Lullabot.

Scaling Culture

I spent a lot of time in 2011 thinking about culture and whether it would be possible to expand the Lullabot team without losing our mojo. When we had 5 people at Lullabot, I didn't think we'd be able to scale our "vibe" past 8 people. When we had 10 people, I didn't think we'd be able to stay tightly-knit past 15. Things have certainly changed. But we've been able to find such friendly and talented people that even though Lullabot continues to change, we haven't lost the feel of the company. But when we crossed 25 employees, it started to become apparent that if we wanted our values and culture to scale, we were going to need to write some things down.

When we were a young company, it seemed silly – even narcissistic – to try to write down the formula that made Lullabot Lullabot. But as we grew, interacted with other companies, and started hiring people with different backgrounds, we found ourselves explaining the same things over and over again. It wasn't enough just to have people see how others were doing things and imitate. We have our own ways of hiring, communicating, and approaching problems. And as a virtual company, there are very few givens. It's become an art to keep the team tightly-knit even though we're spread apart. If Matt and I were going to be able to grow the company, we would need to make sure our ideas, philosophies, and practices were documented, serving as a solid foundation on which to build the company.

So for me, the big theme of 2011 was "culture." I spent a lot of time thinking and writing about Lullabot's core values as well as the philosophies and practices that make Lullabot successful, rewarding, and fun. At our annual company retreat, we shared a first draft of the Lullabot core values. We had a lot of good discussion about what they mean to us as a company, and as individuals. We're still fine tuning the exact wording of the values, but plan to have them on our website in the next few months.

I also spent a lot of time helping to set up resources so that Matt and I could keep ourselves free enough to monitor and support the team, make sure that things are running smoothly, and make sure that we keep attracting top-tier employees and clients.

Looking Forward

I also spent a lot of time thinking about where Lullabot is going and how we'll get there. When we started out, we wanted to conquer the world with Drupal. We wanted to be the best, most Drupal-y, company out there – promoting Drupal, showcasing what could be done with it, and growing the community. I would venture to say that we achieved that goal for a number of years. But these days, not only has Drupal proven itself as a worthy solution with a very healthy community, but there are a lot of other very Drupal-y companies out there.

Over the years, we've gained a lot of expertise in what I might cheekily call "Drupal-adjunct technologies and practices." Lullabot has gotten really good at project management, project estimation, and clear client communication and involvement. We know about all there is to know about building web infrastructures, scaling and performance strategies, and database optimization. These days we're doing excellent design and UX work and we're providing complete concept-to-launch services. We're doing mobile strategy, design, and development. We're venturing into IPTV development and strategy. We've also added content strategy, community building, and social media strategy to our list of services. And of course, we're continuing to do bang-up Drupal strategy, development, and training.

We're not just a Drupal company anymore. I think we'll always have Drupal at our heart and you’ll still see us at your favorite camps and cons, but it's time to acknowledge that it has become only one aspect of what we do. Lullabot's future is as a complete web strategy, design, and development agency. We're also continuing development of our current products, including Videola and Drupalize.Me - and we've got a few more in pipeline.

We've always had very lofty goals, even if those goals don't tend to be financially based. They tend to be more like "work with the best companies in the world," "kick ass on all projects," or "make sure the work is fun and rewarding." We know these goals are sometimes a stretch, so we're always appreciative when we're able to achieve them. Not everything we've attempted has been a great success, but I'm glad we've got the resources, time, and energy to keep trying things. And when you list off our accomplishments, we look pretty good!

Sometimes I think that one of these days we'll figure it all out. We'll finish making all of the decisions that need to be made. Lullabot will run itself and we can just lean back and relax for the next 10 years. But we keep getting excited about new things. We decide to take on a fun new project, learn a new technology, build a cool new product, or start providing an exciting new service. We keep challenging ourselves. We keep growing and changing. And honestly, we enjoy the challenges.

I doubt that the next 6 years will look much like the past, but we're building on 6 years of experience and knowledge. I look forward to the challenges, the changes, kicking more asses, having more fun, doing more work we can take pride in, and working with more talented and lovely people.

Thanks to our clients, our friends, and everyone who's been involved with Lullabot over the past 6 years. We couldn't have done it without you.

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Jeff Robbins

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Jeff is a co-founder of Lullabot and the company's former CEO.