A company that lasts?

The following is something of an end-of-year letter I wrote to our team this week as we wrap up our year.

In the eight years our company has been around, thousands of other businesses have come and gone. Wars have been fought. Heck, the iPhone didn’t even exist when We Are Mammoth opened its doors for business in 2006.

We’ve gone from being a small team focused on Flash and Flex apps, to a team of consultants building financial and workplace communications apps, to a company that’s launched two products, built a multi-million dollar consultancy, and become a workplace and culture distributed across 12 states.

I can’t sit here and write that every day working at my own company has been a marvel. I can’t say that every year has been profitable. I honestly can’t even say that eight years ago I had the confidence to imagine that our humble clan of coders would be a living, breathing company in 2015, ready to open a fresh chapter.

Yet, here we are. The company is vastly different than I would’ve envisioned had I had the good sense to. It’s survived through a huge recession, exploding toilets, numerous identity crises, and every other twist and turn you might expect to hear from an old friend you’re catching up with after a long time apart.

That’s a lot to celebrate, and I’m thankful for it. I have a fantastic team of people to work with every day, challenging problems to explore and, of course, the inspiration to write these words.

You got smarts, kid.

A lot of arguably smarter business people open shop with concrete goals and business plans. They look at risk as something that can be tolerated, both emotionally and financially, for a discrete period of time before making The Call. I think people like that are much more insistent on always being in control and are uncomfortable with the sometimes awkward feeling of Not Knowing Whats Next.

For better or worse, I can’t fathom running a company like that. I can’t separate my character, private life, or emotions from the companies I’m building. I’ve fantasized about making The Call then pulling the rip cord and parachuting into some greener pasture. Alas, that is not me and that is not We Are Mammoth.

Let it go.

Instead, while we’ve always had strong opinions about how the company should feel as coworkers, we’ve left much of the other company’s design to figure itself out along the way. In place of broad sweeping directives, we’ve employed small, incremental tweaks. This has created a flexibility that, in turn, has helped our business bend to the needs of the world it must exist in. To put it another way, we never set out to change the world with our company. We did set out to change our world with our company.

Is that the key to our survival thus far? I’m not sure. What I do know is that the company we’ve created has its own pulse, fingerprint, and allure. This company has its own survival mechanisms, and its own rituals. After eight years, it’s become clear what kind of person will succeed here, and which kinds will find the place inhospitable.

So it’s at this precipice of our eighth year that I again look to this Thing and ask “where are we headed next?”

The next eight years?

This much is true. There are elements of our company which helped us succeed in years past which we must now shed, adapt, or augment to accommodate where technology and the market are headed. That is always the case, and I have no doubt that we will accomplish this. Yet there are other elements of this place that are so fundamental, so righteous, and perhaps so taken for granted, that when speaking to folks from other companies who are airing their Professional Dirty Laundry, I think to myself “man, we have really built something incredible at We Are Mammoth.” Those are the Good Things to be cherished, and kept in rotation.

In the end, building a company that lasts, for me, is incredibly similar to entering into a life-long relationship. Over time, rigidity becomes the enemy, patience and curiosity the virtues. If you love something, let it go — it has a whole new meaning to me and our firstborn company, We Are Mammoth, in 2015.