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TamTam: ‘We haven’t finished growing yet’

Digital agency TamTam has created a new brand which it will be using as it realises its national and international ambitions. A number of acquisitions will also take place under the Dept banner over the coming period, say directors Dimi Albers and Paul Manuel.

But it’s not a full name change (so far). Dept, which is pronounced ‘dept’ and not ‘department’, is being used as an extension or umbrella brand for the time being. The company has already made four acquisitions over the past year: Supersteil, Expand Online, a friend of mine and Second Degree.

As a result, they have sought a way to emphasise the link between the companies whilst simultaneously maintaining their individual identity and operational independence.

“We wanted a unique word, something that didn’t include the word ‘digital’, and was around doing something together as a group,” explains Managing Director Dimi Albers. “If you look up the word ‘department’ in the dictionary, it’s defined as ‘a specialised environment of knowledge and skill’, and that’s exactly what we do. We’re going to promote the Dept name, but in a supporting role for the individual labels.”

Target

The first conversations about the change of course took place in 2014. “We decided then that we wanted to grow from being a Dutch agency into a Western European agency. We weren’t quite sure how we were going to do that, but it became our target to aim for,” says founder Paul Manuel. “Dimi and Frank (Schmid – ed.) took over the day to day management so that my brother Bart and I could focus on the strategic side. And last June Waterland came on board as an investor in order to be able to fulfil our strong ambitions.”

The decision was made in conjunction with this investor to adopt a Buy & Build strategy, creating a string of national and international companies. In practice this led to three Dutch acquisitions. They are also studying the German and British markets – countries that are ten to fifteen times larger than the Netherlands.

Consolidation

Manuel expects to make the first major foreign acquisition by the summer. It hasn’t been hard to find suitable candidates. Albers: “Nobody can deny the consolidation that’s taking place. If you’re a specialist of a certain size in your segment, you regularly encounter network agencies. But not everyone wants to be in one of those. Entrepreneurs want to be entrepreneurial, to build. So with us it’s ‘specialist first’ rather than ‘network first’.”

Manuel’s string is starting to take shape, but is certainly not complete. Far from it, in fact. When the first big foreign takeover is completed, the Dept companies will jointly employ some 340 people with a combined turnover of 45 million euro. In due course the aim is to double that figure to reach one hundred million euro – a goal which should be achieved sometime over the next few years.

Nor has Dept finished expanding in the Netherlands. During the interview, which took place shortly before the move to new offices in Amsterdam and the completion of the Rotterdam premises, Manuel identified what his string is missing so far, including an e-commerce Builder, a data specialist and a content business.

Cultural ambassadors

The collaboration between the individual companies mainly happens organically. The colleagues get to know one another during business meetings, trips, hackathons and joint sessions. ‘Cultural ambassadors’ have also been appointed for each company to facilitate the exchange of values and ways of working. “We meet one another and learn from one another. For example, since we acquired Expand we understand websites much better, and our client proposals have become more data-oriented. Look at it this way: even if you do your website and your marketing just a little better, the end result is already a lot better. Having everything in the string fitting together better – that’s at the heart of what we’re seeking to achieve.”


May 16, 2016
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This article has been published in Dutch on Emerce

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