A look inside Canada’s fastest-growing digital agency

Staff at Ottawa-based OPIN share some of the secrets to the firm’s success
OPIN

The first thing visitors notice when they walk into the Catherine Street headquarters of OPIN Software – an Ottawa-based digital agency specializing in a versatile, open-source content management system (CMS) called Drupal – is the buzz of activity.

You’ll see diverse employees at work, huddling together around computer screens, scribbling on white boards, refilling mugs of coffee – maybe even taking a well-deserved break at the office foosball table. 

OPIN’s modern workspace has all the hallmarks of a growing tech firm. But OPIN isn’t just expanding – it’s exploding.

Founded in 2011 by CEO Chris Smith, OPIN’s sales figures have ballooned, doubling over the past few years and are currently tracking towards $10 million.

Adrian Rylski, a product owner at OPIN, has been with the company since the beginning, and is thrilled with the growth he’s seen. He attributes much of that growth to the vision and innovative approach of the firm’s leadership and Smith in particular. 

“He’s so focused on making OPIN the best of the best, and he’s still true to the philosophies that I first learned seven years ago,” Rylski says.

Smith’s philosophy for OPIN is based on three key pillars: a mutual and reciprocal trust between the company and its employees, an on-going desire to learn, and a focus on clear communication throughout every project. Trust, learning, communication – TLC. 

This might sound a bit like something out of a self-help book, but it is working wonders for both OPIN and the agency’s clients. 

The proof is in the feedback. 

“OPIN’s teams are highly skilled, professional and a pleasure to work with,” says Terri Harlow, digital platforms manager at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax. “We felt that were full partners in the project. OPIN kept us up-to-date with frequent communication, guidance and transparent processes.” 

Harlow’s comment represents just a sample of the positive feedback that OPIN receives. The combination of Smith’s TLC philosophy and OPIN’s use of the Agile methodology, which breaks projects into bite-sized pieces and allows constant collaboration with the client, have left a long list of high-profile clients happy. 

Overcoming challenges

Of course, tackling complex projects for large enterprise clients isn’t always easy. But OPIN is well-equipped to overcome challenges through its expertise and focus on Drupal, rather than attempting to be a jack-of-all-trades.

“We’re dedicated to doing something very, very well.”

“We’re dedicated to doing something very, very well,” says Arlen Bartsch, director of sales and marketing at OPIN. “Many agencies will say they’ll work in Wordpress, Sitecore, whatever. We don’t say that. We specialize in Drupal, and we’re constantly advancing our certifications in that area.” This philosophy of developing specialized expertise extends into how OPIN staffs its project teams, known as “pods.”

“We have a combination of people with multi interdisciplinary expertise – designers, developers, product owners and so on,” explains Chris Fenn, a senior account executive at OPIN. 

With its growing client roster, OPIN is continuing to expand both in the National Capital Region and in the U.S.

The agency has already opened a new office in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and has plans to open additional offices. OPIN is also expanding its Ottawa workforce, which has now blown past the 40-person mark.

Julia Adler, a marketing coordinator, is one of OPIN’s newest hires and says she’s excited for her future with the company. 

“What OPIN is doing is interesting and innovative, and I wanted to be a part of it,” she says. “I’m excited. I’ve already done a lot of learning, and I’m excited to put it all into action.” 

In light of its recent successes, OPIN’s team continues to look for opportunities to further advance its offerings.

“We’re growing and expanding,” says Rylski. “As we grow, we have to re-evaluate every aspect of the way we grow. We have to have a constant re-birth of the company, with the same goals at hand.”

To help companies navigate their digital projects, OPIN has created a guide to planning your enterprise website. In the guide, they dive into the top considerations and pitfalls for organizations launching a new website. Download your copy here: http://bit.ly/OPIN-guide

The TLC philosophy of OPIN chief executive Chris Smith

OPIN founder and CEO Chris Smith applies three key philosophies in his leadership of the company: trust, learning and communication.  

Trust:

“We not only put faith and trust in our employees, but they do the same for us,” Smith explains. “We provide an autonomous environment, that allows employees to step out of their comfort zone and innovate, promoting personal and professional growth. 

Prioritizing trust allows new graduates and emerging experts to further their professional skills within a supportive work environment to become the best they can be.”

Learning: 

“There is a high focus on mastery, a lot of career development focus and learning plans to allow our employees to explore areas of unfamiliar territory,” Smith says. “I think the best lessons are learned while out of your comfort zone, while also being within a supportive environment.”

Communication: 

“I believe a large aspect of the company should be one in which the team is stronger than any one individual – teams that are dynamic central units,” Smith says. “At OPIN we focus on the development of highly functioning groups where teamwork is paramount.”