In an at times brutally honest letter, the directors of one of Leeds's most respected digital agencies Sense Internet have announced their decision to close down the business.
The company was launched in April 1996 by directors Aidan Cook, Robert Howes and Daniel James and worked for clients which included Rizla, AMF Bowling, BAFTA, Travel Lodge and the Yorkshire Dales National Park, many of whom had been with the agency for many years.
The agency also won Best FMCG Website for client Rizla at last year's DADI Awards.
It appears that things had become financially difficult for the company and rather than owe money to suppliers, staff or taking the option of launching a phoenix company, Cook and his co-directors decided to close down the company without owing debts.
The number of staff affected is as yet unconfirmed, but The Drum was trying to contact the managing director Aidan Cook for further details.
In the letter the directors state: "This hasn't been an easy decision, or a sudden one, but we've always been firm believers in doing the right thing. We've seen too many people owed wages by an employer that goes bust, we've met clients who were left in the lurch in similar circumstances, and we've experienced the pain of a supplier that finds they're not going to get paid. That's not the way we have ever done business, so we took the decision to close down in a controlled and dignified fashion."
One former employee told The Drum: "Sense is the best agency I have ever worked at, Aidan Cook the MD has the best ethics and ran Sense in a way that would put 99% of other agencies to shame. They never lost a client due to a fall out, no ex-member of staff has anything bad to say about the place, in fact you couldn't be poached from Sense for double your salary, people who left always came back. Many fond memories include desk beers on a Friday, Rota days and the sense that everyone was just happy to be there, something you just don't find in most workplaces. No wonder it was voted the best place to work in the UK! It will be truly missed"
The open letter reads in full:
"Fifteen years ago, four friends sitting in a garden in Headingley set up Leeds's first web design company. We had one borrowed computer, a bit of bandwidth on friend's 56k lease line, and some space on a webserver (P75 processor and several meg of storage). None of us had a suit, a car, or a mortgage, and only a couple of us had any computer experience to speak of.
"Trying to sell our services at the time involved a slow process that began with explaining what the Internet was and then moved on to convincing people that there was anyone using it. To add some more context, Amazon.com sold their first book that month, and there were a mere 20,000 websites worldwide - Netcraft reckons there are now in excess of 240 million. We learned as we went, keeping pace with the development of the Internet (and latterly the broader "new media"), and growing in confidence and competence.
"As we learned, we grew. From our first employee ("Jonny Ram", now pushing Tokyo pixels) to our last, more than 110 people have worked together at Sense, and it has been those people who made the company. Their individual skills and strength as a team took our agency to a point where we did loads of stuff we couldn't have imagined when we started. We got invited to Downing Street (twice), won a pile of awards (some of which now have a new role as pond ornaments), gave speeches and presentations, took £100M's of revenue for our clients, wrote clever articles, paid for lots of training, shared lots of profit, gave cash to charity, and were named SME of the Year (NE) in the 2008 Orange National Business Awards.
"But now we're going to shut down.
"This hasn't been an easy decision, or a sudden one, but we've always been firm believers in doing the right thing. We've seen too many people owed wages by an employer that goes bust, we've met clients who were left in the lurch in similar circumstances, and we've experienced the pain of a supplier that finds they're not going to get paid. That's not the way we have ever done business, so we took the decision to close down in a controlled and dignified fashion.
"Anyway, fuck it, this is a goodbye not a eulogy. We just hope that everyone that was ever a part of Sense (and that includes clients and other agencies we like working with) enjoyed at least some of their time with us. We always wanted to be a place that treated everyone fairly, and while you bastards often made that really hard, we did what we could. You people are doing all manner of random shit these days (TV producer, undertaker, barrister, mother, father, and too many account directors to mention), and in all sorts of random places (even Hull), and good luck to you all. You have all helped to make the last 15 years what they were - thank you."
The letter closes with a full list of the staff members and details of a LinkedIn group for staff called Sense...of nostalgia.