2017 marks fifteen years that ZAG Interactive has been in business, opening officially in 2002. That year, Winona Ryder was sentenced for shoplifting, Michael Jackson was dangling his infant son off a balcony – and ZAG launched its first website. They say, “the more things change; the more they stay the same.” That must be why the New England Patriots are still winning championships and ZAG is still earning awards after all these years. From its humble beginning as a one-person operation to a full-service digital agency today, ZAG continues to be fueled by a “work hard, play hard” attitude instilled by its founder – President/CEO Larry D. Miclette. We recently caught up with our fearless leader, Larry, to ask him about ZAG’s major milestones.
Q: Why did you start ZAG?
Larry: The Internet was showing massive potential after Y2K. At the time, I was working for Open Solutions, a precursor to FiServ, a leading provider of digital banking solutions today. I was grateful to have a job there, but my life felt like it was taking forever. My friends and family will tell you that I’ve always been a bit of an entrepreneur. So, ZAG was born out of a desire to build something from ground up, my passion for technology, as well as a familiarity with the financial industry.
Q: How did you come up with the name “ZAG?”
Larry: We were really struggling to come up with a distinct, ownable name for the agency. I was inspired by the name of a beloved candy bar from my childhood that really stuck with me – “Zagnut.” My wife absolutely hated it! Naturally, we registered the domain and put it on a sign. We started with “Zagnutz” and then dropped the “nutz.”
Q: How did ZAG evolve over the years?
Larry: Interestingly, we took an inverse approach to how most integrated marketing agencies begin. ZAG started with web design, providing front-end, consumer-facing sites for banks and credit unions. From there, we expanded our service offerings to include development, hosting and support. Marketing and strategy were added as core competencies based on client demand. So, while many traditional agencies are now offering digital services, we’ve been in the online space from the onset. Every solution that we offer today is a direct response to a client need or us looking out for their best interests.
Q: What are the most significant technology changes that have impacted ZAG?
Larry: Let’s see. There have been a lot of twists and turns with technology since our start, but some big shifts that come to mind are when we switched from PHP to C#.NET in 2007, introduced responsive design in 2012, and started to focus on website ADA conformance in 2013. Our different disciplines come together to collaborate, innovate and introduce new site functionality. Whether it’s adopting new hosting environments or partnering with the latest CMS platforms, we’re continually on the cutting edge.
Q: What are some cool things you’re offering clients these days?
Larry: You mean besides complimentary coffee with every visit [laughs]? Solution Finders are hot right now, allowing site visitor to self-service their user experience based on their specific needs, using an online tool. Location management tools, marketing automation, site personalization and content strategy are other services that are keeping us busy now. And, website ADA compliance continues to be vital for our clients seeking to offer accessible websites for people with disabilities.
Q: What’s the vibe like working at ZAG?
Larry: We try to keep it loose and accommodating for our staff. We’ve got music playing over the office speakers, an open working environment and lots of areas for breakout sessions. The team named all our meeting rooms after The Beatles, my personal favorite band. People customize their work stations to match their own personalities. Recently, we’ve furnished some standing desks upon request, which allow folks to stretch their legs while working. The attitude is very “DIY” here, where people come up with ideas and we make it happen. We also have a very cool slide connecting our top and bottom floors, which our clients really enjoy riding when they visit.
Q: What are some of the funniest moments from the last fifteen years of ZAG?
Larry: Everyone here seems to have a good sense of humor about things, which makes it a lot more fun to work on mission-critical projects. I fondly recall pretending to be dead on the floor of my office, which would get a rise out of people in the early days of ZAG. During a meeting once, we set up fake cameras to make it seem like “big brother” was watching. We also created a holiday card of iconic Christmas movie scenes. Another year, we designed a custom calendar with photos from a holiday shoot, including a Photoshopped image of me playing the guitar on a unicorn. Our Halloween dress-up day is also hilarious. Recently, the design department turned our Art Director’s work station into a cardboard castle, while she was on vacation. We like to keep it light.
Q: What is the State of the ZAG?
Larry: The State of the ZAG happens every Friday afternoon, when the whole team comes together to share highlights of the week that was, while looking ahead towards what’s to come. People give shout outs to others for a job well done and we discuss how we could do things better. We also use this time to celebrate employee birthdays and work anniversaries. Have you seen our Five-Year Pants on our social media channels?
Q: How do you avoid the sometimes-sedentary nature of agency life at ZAG?
Larry: We encourage physical fitness here at ZAG. Employees receive a discount to go to the local health and fitness facility and we have had an instructor come in once a week to train the staff. During lunch, a lot of the team go outside to play wiffle ball in the parking lot. And, a number of us are into running races and overcoming obstacle courses together on the weekends. We have a pretty active bunch.
Q: What do you do to give back at ZAG?
Larry: Our agency donates time and funds annually through our holiday campaigns, as well as being a sponsor for HARC, Inc. – a foundation that helps people with intellectual disabilities and their families. We also support local and national charities and events throughout the year.
Q: How do you cultivate culture at ZAG?
Larry: Well, our culture comes from our people. With support from management, our employees organize a bunch of team-building exercises like yoga classes, Wiffle ball games, cornhole tournaments, weekly cookouts, fantasy sports, art shows and more. We also do daily trivia and pose questions to staff on our many chalk walls, including “What’s your favorite TV” show. And,the “Reply All” responses to internal emails are the stuff of legend.
Q: What is the Zarnival?
Larry: Oh, the Zarnival is an annual summer picnic that we host for the team and their families. It’s a great time for us all to get together, and it keeps getting bigger and better over the years. We have water slide races, quad rides, food trucks, arts and crafts, live music and a lot of fun.
Q: What do you attribute the success of ZAG to?
Larry: ZAG is all about relationships. We’d be nowhere without our valued clients, many of whom have been with us since the very beginning. We try to be very transparent with our clients, letting them know their options and working with them on services, timing and budget. I personally reach out to every client after a site goes live to see how we did and where we can improve. Our goal is to under promise and overdeliver on every project. We hope this keeps our current clients coming back, while earning new business.
Q: What are you most proud of in the last fifteen years of ZAG?
Larry: Honestly, I’d be a freelancer without everyone here. I am extremely proud of the team we have in place at ZAG. Employees, past and present, really built up our services around me. We’ve shown a remarkable ability to grow and adapt as the digital industry has changed over time. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out all the support I have received from my wife, Nicole, since the beginning. She is truly my partner in business and life. I know it sounds cliché’, but ZAG is really like a family.
Q: Where do you see the company fifteen years from now?
Larry: In fifteen years, I see ZAG as a perpetually growing, sustainable, worldwide brand. At our current rate of growth with our valued clients and employees, I truly believe the sky is the limit for ZAG.
Q: Do you have any additional thoughts about ZAG today?
Larry: I just really appreciate the journey so far with all the ups and downs along the way. I often wonder if I was smart enough to stick with it – or too stupid to quit! Seriously, I am grateful for all the great people – clients, employees, partners, vendors – everyone that’s helped get ZAG where we are today. I’m a lucky guy to love what I do and work for the company I always imagined.
About ZAG Interactive
Established in 2002, ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency with over 50 onsite employees located in Glastonbury, CT. Offering comprehensive services in strategy, marketing, design and technology, ZAG’s expertise is in world-class web design and development. Our award-winning agency offers digital solutions for a diverse base of over 350 clients nationwide, primarily in the financial, healthcare and consumer industries.