By Piia Jalonen
- 3 minute read
We are finally able to share some very exciting news! As of today, Dunning, Kruger & Associates joins the family of companies known as NoA – The North Alliance. Together with Bob the Robot, we are the founding partners of NoA Finland.
This spring also marks our sixth year of operation, and as we know all too well in the light of the past couple of years and the most recent, horrific events, the only constant in this world is change. With uncertainty on the rise, it heartens us to be supporting collaboration across companies and borders.
While we’re looking forward to the times ahead, we can’t help but take a small trip down memory lane to reflect on how we got here. We had a chat with our founders – Artur in Poland, Florian in Germany, Tom and Ville in our headquarters in Finland – to share why DK&A was originally founded and what we’re particularly proud of from this journey.
Before we can go further into the what and when, we need to focus on the why. The idea that’s at the core of everything DK&A stands for – and the common ground we immediately found with NoA – is craftsmanship. It’s a word that crops up often in our day to day, and is highlighted particularly in the wake of us joining a family of companies dedicated to excellence in their respective crafts.
Tom: When we founded Dunning, Kruger & Associates, we wanted to do things differently. We wanted to build everything around people and culture — at that point — hoping that the end result will be satisfied customers, satisfied employees and a successful company. None of us had any previous experience or evidence that it worked — we realized we were embarking on an unknown journey from which we even began to use the term Human Laboratory. Intuitively, however, we believed this could not fail. The most important capital of an expert organization is the people and their know-how. If you get people to thrive and give their best time and time again, it is difficult to see that it would not produce the desired result.
The simple goal for strong and conscious company culture is to help people reach their full potential as individuals and team members in a given environment. That it takes talented and skillful people is self-evident, but more than that it takes an environment where people voluntarily want to exceed the set expectations, and they want to do it as a group.
Artur: All of us felt that as great as all the companies we’d worked at had been, something was missing. We, perhaps a bit arrogantly, wanted to see if we could do it better. From my point of view, two things were key. First, the marriage of engineering and design. From the beginning we wanted to have both as the foundations of the company, not by focusing on one and sticking on the other as an afterthought.
Second, we wanted to create a company that would naturally work in remote mode. We established DK&A in several offices almost at the same time. This heavily influenced who we are now, working with friends across borders and having the tools and processes in place from the start.
And of course, we’d all met plenty of people over the years that we enjoyed working with. We wanted to create a place where we could invite those people to work with us, a place we could be happy and proud of.
Ville: We wanted to find out if it was possible to create a sustainable consulting business by focusing on and believing in quality. Who we worked with and what we worked on would define every aspect of what we were setting out to do, not revenue or profitability or recruitment targets.
Florian: I am particularly proud of the brand we have been able to develop. We set out to build a company which would offer services across the entire spectrum of digital product development, while delivering to the highest degree of quality. To communicate this promise, as well as what sets us apart in terms of our culture, in an honest yet intriguing way has been a great challenge.
Starting a New Chapter
Ville: This was a very natural step for us to take. At DK&A we’ve always been ambitious and hungry to take on new and bigger cases, constantly challenging ourselves to grow and do more. In just a few years we’ve come to this point with over 75 employees and running our business internationally.
Joining NoA will provide us with more muscle and wider shoulders to keep working and growing as we have. Both of us believe in quality, people, and collaboration. We believe that good will come out of working on the right things with the right people. On that basis, it’ll be easy to start working together.
And why NoA? To be honest, during the process leading up to this announcement there wasn’t a single telco where we weren’t smiling or even laughing. That says a lot about the underlying spirit, and is not a given in these situations. Everyone respects each other a damn lot, and there’s been great energy all around.
Tom: NoA will help secure and support our growth in the future, scaling our international operations, clients and talent. We share the same interests as the other NoA agencies. It’s a unique setup compared to your usual M&A, where you take down your own logos and assimilate into another company. Here we have the exact opposite: each company keeps their autonomy and unique traits. It’s up to us to decide how and to what extent we collaborate with others in the network.
And – most importantly for us – culture came up in the very first meeting. We share the same beliefs about what makes a good company: people, wellbeing, and culture. I was delighted to realize that we’d been talking about the same things, even using the same words, when it comes to culture and craftsmanship. It’s very inspiring for us to see now that it’s possible to succeed with such a mode of operating on this scale.
Artur: There have been plenty of signals that lead me to believe that our values are compatible, and the way they [NoA] are set up makes it hard to see any of the usual challenges that tend to come with merges. We get the strength of supporting each other in sales and running our business. We may recognize that a client has a specific need that someone else from the family can fulfill together with us.
Florian: As said, we are incredibly proud of the brand we have been able to build. Finding a partner who is able to understand who we are and what we represent as a company was paramount. We want to be able to build on what we have created, not watering it down by merging into a much larger player. NoA doesn’t only understand and share this view point, they have built an entire company on top of this very idea. Couldn’t have asked for a better fit.
New Paths to Growth
Ville: We’ll have access to a whole new playing field of cases and clients, and a great number of new colleagues to work and spend time with. That’s a big deal. In the midst of a changing and uncertain market, this brings us security and stability.
Compared to other such networks, NoA’s configuration is exceedingly simple. It’s a family of strong brands, run autonomously without interference from NoA leadership. But everyone has the same agenda and shared interests, without unhealthy internal competition. That’s totally exceptional. In this day and industry, specialized actors will increasingly have to collaborate. A lukewarm, generalized offering is no longer enough in our complex world.
Finally, when thinking about the future and our possibilities therein, we come back to what’s important. Good people and human values. Sustainable and ecological growth, diversity, inclusivity, equity.
Artur: In the short term, joining NoA will not mean any changes to our ongoing business. Nothing about our ways of working will change. Even if we hadn’t teamed up with NoA, we would have continued to develop and learn and evolve as a business.
But this does mean that if our clients so desire, they will be able to buy more from under one roof. Both our clients and we will benefit from cross-pollination between our new partners across the network, and from being able to choose from a wider spectrum of services and capabilities.
Tom: Our offering and talent will multiply, scaling our business and work with increasing speed. We will be able to offer completely new services with the help of our new friends: sales and marketing know-how and technologies, branding, storytelling, data and AI.
Florian: Simply put — we will be able to do more. NoA will allow us to bring what we are most proud of to more customers and more markets. In addition we will be able to get support in areas which we don’t currently cover by collaborating with other members in the NoA family of companies. This should hopefully open up new opportunities for our customers but also enable new ways of thinking about what we do and how we go about doing it.
A Place to Grow
Ville: We’ve already kicked off discussions within NoA of collaborating across companies, countries and markets. As with NoA, our focus is on sustainable growth, in every aspect. Going forward we’ll have a broad palette of capabilities at hand to enable our clients’ visions. We intend to be number one in the creative tech market in Finland while scaling our international business at the same time. It’s in our DNA.
If you’re thinking about joining DK&A, consider this: we’re on the brink of building something new. We have a strong international company, exciting clients, and we’re now supported by 1200+ new colleagues. That’s quite a place to grow and develop.
Artur: We’ve already had a good path forward, and now we’ll have increased velocity and capacity. It’s also worth mentioning that we’ll continue to have bigger and more varied projects because of the aforementioned cross-pollination and cross-selling across NoA companies.
DK&A has been and will continue to be a nice place to work, but the nature of our day-to-day work depends on the clients we work with. Sharing NoA’s brand and clientele also means increased accessibility to projects for our associates. Being part of NoA will allow us to keep working on even more interesting projects with more impact.
Florian: Some of our customers — for one reason or another — require security and infrastructure only a larger vendor can provide. Now they can get access to “Minimum Viable Magic” without having to worry about working with a smaller shop. It’s really the best of both worlds for them and for us. We will be able to bring our way of working, our culture, our brand to many more of the most respected companies out there.
NoA is Scandinavia’s leading creative-tech player specialized in creating customer-driven growth. NoA’s full range of capabilities cover all levels of strategic transformation and helps connect the entire customer journey through business consulting, advertising and communications, digital products and platforms, brand experiences and data-driven marketing. Guided by a belief in the superpower of creative problem-solving, a can-do entrepreneurial spirit, and a collaborative culture, NoA is on a quest to make a positive impact on the future.
NoA was founded in 2014 and currently employs approx. 1200 people across Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Poland and now Finland. NoA consists of the following companies: &Co., Åkestam Holst, Anorak, North Kingdom, Bold, BKRY, NoA Consulting, NoA Ignite, NoA Connect, NoA Health, Unfold, Axenon, Scienta, Agitec, Bob the Robot and DK&A.
About Bob the Robot
Helsinki-based Bob the Robot is one of the most award-winning creative agencies in Finland, both in terms of creativity and efficiency. Bob the Robot’s largest accounts include S-Group, Valio, Elisa, Anora and Veikkaus. The agency, founded in 2002, employs 70 staffers today.