Nine years of being my boss

We’ve been in business for nine years now. Back in 2006, we didn’t yet have The Great Recession. We didn’t have Kin or DoneDone. We didn’t have 25 employees working in 13 different states. It was just three of us and some animated Abraham Lincoln avatar stuff we were totally jazzed about having as one of our first projects.

So, I’m nine years deep. What are some lessons I’ve learned that I’m not too embarrassed to share? Next year maybe I’ll have The Biggest Lessons Learned As A Decadepreneur Who Never Sold His Business. For now, I’ll share a few ideas on my mind of late as we edge toward ten years.

#1. There are ups and downs. Always.

Mike, one of my partners, has been managing our finances for the past year and a half. I used to do this in the most general sense of the role. Here’s what I learned: Business is pretty simple. Money comes in, and money goes out. The prior should be more than the latter or else you’re not a business (not yet, at least).

Some months are up. Others are down. The same goes for fiscal quarters and years. One thing that Mike hasn’t quite gotten accustomed to is that, during some periods, things appear to be going south rather quickly. Then, we recover and hit some new financial record shortly thereafter.

After nine years, I’ve learned to limit my angst and savor those smaller ups and downs and the unique opportunities each brings to make adjustments. This isn’t just in finances, either. The same applies to company culture, technology, and my own sense of fulfillment.

It’s all part of the ride, and so long as the ride doesn’t feature a flaming cave of spikes and broken dreams, it’s all good.

#2. No one tells you what to do. That can really suck.

I was on vacation with my wife recently and, during a wonderful dinner with a stunning view of the Adriatic coast, I sighed like a loser. She asked “What’s wrong?” and I responded “I gotta figure out what to do at work once I’m back.”

Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to ‘discover’ what to work on and go where our people and businesses need me. But sometimes The Voice stops talking and I get the perverse feeling that maybe it’d be better to go back and work for The Man.

It’s really daunting to constantly figure out what’s next for our businesses and teams, lest the companies fall into talent-leaking stagnation. Most of the time though, it’s a privilege and the way is clear.

#3. Turn off the noise. Be good people.

Did you hear McDonald’s is gonna start using butter instead of margarine? Saturated fats are back on the menu!

Just like in the nutrition world, the business world says one thing one day, then realizes the opposite the next day, and lands somewhere completely off base on the third day. On day four, it never even happened cuz something else temporal-in-nature but entirely critical to Your Business Succeeding is happening. It’s the media world’s job to make noise and they do that with attention grabbing headlines and trends.

We make adjustments to our businesses when we feel and know it’s right. Not because some famous blogger says so.

We’ve let our consciences be our compasses – as vendors, employers, and partners. To be honest though the compass is kinda like Jack Sparrow’s – there is no true north. Yet what’s in our gut, our hearts, and our vision has served as the best guide for our companies. So far it hasn’t delivered us to a swirling eddy of doom-fish.

The big celebration?

Lindsay, Kin’s support maestro, asked if next year I’ll be getting a plaque or a watch or a gift certificate to Hardee’s if it’s in the budget. Maybe. But I’ll be damned if I have to buy it for myself. I want a Swatch, by the way. A vintage one. But maybe our tenth year will be just like our ninth – more of a latest release than a huge relaunch. That’s the way we do things around here, and that’s the way we like it.