First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
David Jarrett: We are all doing well, thanks for asking. Although we’re spread out across the country and miss being able to spend time together in person, we stay in close contact and are looking forward to the day when we can all start traveling and seeing each other again.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Rootstrap.
David Jarrett: My career began in the service industry, first working in then later developing and operating high-end restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. I began branching out into other industries about 10 years ago by founding, investing in, or advising startups working in consumer products, education, and technology, all areas of interest. Rootstrap was created through the merger of a Los Angeles-based digital agency (in which I was a partner) with an Uruguayan web and mobile app development firm. We had developed a great working relationship together and collaborated on a variety of client projects before realizing that we’d be stronger together as one and that a hybrid firm owned and led by a truly multinational team could occupy a unique position in the market. I originally took on the CFO role at the time of the merger and then moved into the CEO chair two years ago. Beyond our US and Uruguayan operations, we expanded into Argentina last year and now have team members in a few other countries as well, thanks to an increasingly remote work-friendly culture.
How does Rootstrap innovate?
David Jarrett: At Rootstrap, our process-driven approach is key to designing and building innovative products for our clients. We practice what we like to call outcome-driven development, which means that we place the same importance on understanding our clients’ unique needs and desires, business goals, and challenges as we deliver high-quality code. We’re highly curious and relationship-driven and believe that this emphasis on creating shared understanding and strategic alignment ultimately helps us make better product, design, and engineering decisions when building and maintaining software and apps for enterprises both large and small.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
David Jarrett: Like all businesses, we were certainly impacted by the pandemic. We began 2020 with very ambitious growth plans, but it became apparent pretty quickly that focusing on stability and supporting our team and clients to the best of our ability needed to be our primary focus this year rather than scaling. As an already multinational company operating in the technology industry, we were, fortunately, well-positioned to adapt quickly to remote work, and our client base was diversified across a number of different industries, which helped to prevent us from getting hit too hard as a result of overexposure to any particular sector. All in all, we are grateful to be holding strong in this difficult environment, and I’ve been humbled and awed by the adaptability, courage, and amazing spirit exhibited by everybody on team Rootstrap this year.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
David Jarrett: There are always challenges to overcome in business, but we were fortunate not to be confronted with some of the really difficult decisions, such as having to furlough or lay team members off, that were faced by so many other companies this year. That said, there were still plenty of tough moments. Slowing down our growth trajectory in the wake of the pandemic meant that we had fewer chances to promote from within than originally planned, but still plenty of deserving people who were looking for ways to continue their career growth and development within the company. As a result, we had to find other ways to create opportunities in the meantime – unique client projects that stretched people’s capabilities, cross-training in other departments and areas to facilitate skills acquisition, internal projects and research initiatives, and so forth.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Rootstrap in the future?
David Jarrett: I find that keeping a constant long term focus helps to alleviate stress and anxiety…things are rarely as important or consequential as they might seem in the moments when we are charged with emotion or spiraling through endless doomsday scenarios in our minds in response to something that might have triggered us. The pandemic and opportunity to work from home have allowed me to focus a bit more on taking care of myself, which has been an unexpected benefit of a generally sad situation worldwide. After 15 years of near-constant travel with a jam-packed schedule and the unhealthy habits that can accompany that lifestyle, it has been great to sleep in my own bed in one time zone for months on end, to cook and eat healthy meals at home, and to be able to spend time out in the sun running and hiking through the parks and trails that we’re fortunate to have all over Southern California. Within the company, we have an open-door policy, and we encourage our team to come forward with any issues they may be experiencing. We recognized that the isolation of working from home would impact different people in different ways – both positively and negatively – and made additional mental/emotional health and wellness resources and programming available to our team during this time. Generally, I believe that maintaining a healthy work-life balance is very important – to borrow an old cliché, we’re running a marathon, not a sprint – and we do our best to encourage and support the wellbeing of all our team members.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
David Jarrett: We compete in a global market against agencies and firms in every corner of the world, and while we obviously keep an eye on our competitors, we try to spend more time focusing on the fundamentals: doing great work, building strong relationships with our clients, and pushing ourselves to keep learning and to be a little bit better at what we do with each passing day. There are plenty of opportunities out there for all of us.
Your final thoughts?
David Jarrett: This has been a disruptive and challenging year for individuals and businesses alike, but also an opportunity to remember that we are all stronger, more capable, and more resilient than we realize. Difficult times can bring out the best in people, and I’ve certainly had the privilege of getting to observe that phenomenon this year through my team members, clients, partners, family, and friends. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next!