As we look back through the perfection of hindsight vision, we can begin to see patterns and lessons that have been our guiding muses these past nine years. Some of the lessons are stated out loud with relative frequency, some are internal dialogue that is called upon as we make decisions large and small.
1. Be a good human and good work will follow.
This seems obvious, but it’s actually sometimes difficult to achieve. We are occasionally asked to craft stories and develop work for would-be clients that could pay us well, but the message is inconsistent with their practice (aka they are lying to their customers). This is fairly rare, but when it does happen, we politely decline the work. We want to work with people with integrity, that want to contribute to the greater good, and who appreciate that in us as well. We aren’t judgy – but we are authentic and need our clients to be this way as well.
2. Sometimes expertise is actually just about listening.
This should be modified to say “Most of the time expertise is actually just about listening.” There is no way for us to dive as deeply as our clients do into their businesses; however, oftentimes our clients are so close to their business that they can’t see their path as clearly as they would like. By giving our clients room to tell their story to us, we are able to capture the essence and translate it to the greater audience.
3. Always leave a positive wake.
Wha…? What the heck is a positive wake? As we cruise through life on our little boat, we want to make sure that each experience we have with another person leaves them feeling good. It doesn’t always work, we are human, after all. But the effort is 100% there. Sometimes this is just in the form of solid, actionable advice given to business owners that might not be able to engage us right now. Sometimes it’s high-level award winning work for pro-bono clients. We have our gifts and we choose to use them for good each day.
4. Everything looks good on a tote.
Pictures, phrases, kid art, brands – come on. Who doesn’t love a tote with something on it?
5. Have one foot in reality, one in the land of “what if?”
“What if” is such a powerful question to ask. It allows your mind to open up into the realm of possibilities and explore without commitment. This freedom can push an idea forward – bringing the business with it.
6. Love your city.
This is all about giving back. We have so many generous people that give of their time and talent to beautify, lift, educate, and engage – it’s no accident that great cities are what they are; the people inside of them make it happen.
7. If it’s not meaningful, it’s not worth it
That doesn’t mean that it has to ring the deepest notes of the heart, but everything crafted and made should have a purpose. We don’t like junk mail any more than you do – connecting with people shouldn’t be about junk anyway. It should be about discovering who they are and what they need – then helping to be a part of their solution.
8. Dodging bullets is just as important as getting in front of opportunities.
This is a big one for us. Even when times are thin, it’s important to engage on work that is worthy, leaves a positive wake, and holds meaning. When we don’t follow this rule, then work becomes miserable. And that’s not okay.
9. Free ideas where they matter most.
We love crafting award-winning work for nonprofits that couldn’t otherwise afford it. They win with great creative, messaging, and increased awareness of a cause, and we win because the work lifted our city, was meaningful and left a positive mark. But every now and then a non-nonprofit opportunity comes along that fits our passion and would fulfill our hearts…and it requires spec work to win. So once in a blue moon, we take the shot and hope for the best.
So there you have it. 9 lessons in 9 years. Here’s looking to 2018, the beginning of our 10th year, and many many more lessons to learn.