keenchick

Stories and thoughts about family and life

The Four Year Old (company, that is)

on January 26, 2014

It’s hard to believe she’s going to be four on Saturday. On one hand, it’s been the blink of an eye and on the other, it’s taken an eternity. Very much like raising a child.

Four years ago I had made the decision very much on a whim to walk away from the life I knew and a promised career similar to that and start something I never imagined doing. At the suggestion of a friend, and with a fire in my belly I charged off. First, I logged onto the IRS website and obtained a tax ID number, then went to the Attorney General’s office and the bank. In the matter of 90 minutes I had opened my company. Now what?

Very much like that first year of a child’s life, I spent my first year feeling things through. Knowing what to do, but not knowing at the same time. Experimenting with ideas, feeling out contacts who had done this before, reading and following blogs and newsletters. That first year was slow and fast at the same time. It seemed to be an endless barrage of new things to learn, explore, consider. At the same time it seemed to take forever for anything to get started. Finally, by the end of year one we were seeing some progress with a couple of small clients and the promise of a larger one. We were crawling.

It’s funny. I hadn’t really wanted a business much more than what I could handle alone. I just wanted to work. No, I NEEDED to work. I know that about myself. I’m not the “stay home” type. I require entirely too much mental stimulation. At the encouragement of a dear friend of mine I had started this business, still thinking it would be “something to do” and would “keep me busy” so I could enjoy time with the kids. Now I simply can’t imagine doing much else with my life. Very much like watching your children grow, and encouraging them along the way, I see myself rooting for this little business with all I’ve got, and doing everything I can to make it better and help it along. It has evolved by itself, and has come into its own, and it’s exciting every week that passes. I remember the words of another local entrepreneur who told me “this is God’s business–I just tend it.” Whether you believe in God or not, I have to recognize that it’s not all mine. I wouldn’t be where I am without my team and without the choosy nature we use to add people to our team. We’re like a family, and I think that makes all the difference.

I wasn’t enjoying that kind of manager I had become prior to four years ago. I did my job and I did it well, but I didn’t like myself. I had been forced into some pretty ugly situations by a couple of employees and it had jaded my perspective. Top that with an expectation of management that couldn’t be accomplished with the staff we had and, well, it was a mess. It was hard for me to see it was time to move on, but now I thank God every morning that I made the decisions I did–hard as they were.

Year two was much like having a young toddler–just learning to walk and into everything. We were learning from our clients and were practicing flexibility, which is what gained us several more clients over the coming months. The only problem is, they were very small clients, and as one of our larger projects came to an end, we had to downsize a bit and keep things afloat. That was a very hard time for me. Knowing what you need to do and finding a way to make such painful decisions is not what makes you feel like a leader. That second year was truly our “terrible twos,” and I’m so thankful it’s over.

When one door closes another opens, right? Which is what year three brought us. We honestly didn’t know what was coming next, and after working with several potential clients, we finally found a few that were a good fit for us. Year three and year four have seen us growing and adding clients which strengthen us and will prepare us for the future.

I guess now we’re entering pre-k, and preparing for “big kid” world. Seriously, though, it’s an honor to have gotten this far, and to still have accomplished so many of the objectives I had originally set about in our “perfect” company: family friendly, flexible, put employees first, meet our clients’ needs objectively, and look toward the future. The proof for me is hearing our employees remark how happy they are and how this is the coolest place they’ve ever worked. It reminds me that while we’ve grown beyond what we originally planned, we haven’t lost sight of ourselves. And that makes me proud.

With every year we learn more and more and we get better at it. My children and my company are growing up together and while I can’t see I understand either role 100%, I’m open to the experience and what it has to offer. I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store. . .

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