Yesterday was a tally of the 5 lessons learned from our failures, and I decided to put failures first because I generally prefer to get bad news ahead of good news. Today is good news: 5 lessons we’ve learned from our successes.

There’s a fine line to walk when making these lists. On the failure side, I did not want to come across as morose, and on the success side, I don’t want to come across as prideful to the point of arrogance. So I offer these as works-in-progress, and as I said when I ended the failure blog, I remain open to correction.

Here we go!

Crask Family1. The risk is worth it. Every bit of it. What I value most is working from my home office where I get to interact with my kids throughout the day. I began this journey when Garrett was just 2 months old; he’s now 5 years old. To make it more interesting, God blessed us with Charlie a little over a year ago. I love getting to be a present and available dad in between projects throughout every day. The boys are a great source of creative injection. I know of some big design firms that hire specialists to teach employees how to play. I have a 5 and 1 year old who demand playtime of me, and I do so gladly. To be clear: Any job at any office in the world would be a severe downgraded lifestyle from what I have now. I am grateful to have this perspective now. It is what defines “success” for me.

And that’s just the quality of life side of it. The business side of it is so much more rewarding than the positions I held leading up to running Brand Shepherd. Andrea and I have learned that everything is richer when it’s your business – the successes, the failures, the gains, the losses. When we work with a business on a project we have a keen understanding that the quality of work we produce not only communicates their brand and business, but it also speaks to our reputation as a business and as individuals. The risk of self-employment is worth all the stress, all the uncertainty at times, all of the “you should get a real job” conversations with friends and family…it’s worth it all.

2. Good work will always be the product of collaboration. As I wrote in this week’s first post about our team, the work we do is a collaboration of a small group of trusted people. The sparks to everything are the business owners, brand managers, and suppliers we work with who entrust us to help bring their ideas to life. I have learned that the creative professional who wants total credit for his/her portfolio is not yet fully aware of what makes good work in this profession.

I’d like to add the video snippet below to my point here: Charlie Rose interviewing Quentin Tarantino on the topic of the creative process, and how to utilize collaboration. In this specific segment, Tarantino talks about the process of how he exports a vision in his head out to the people he leads and collaborates with. It’s a great way of talking about the creative process, how it is a collaboration process used to get to the best results.

3. Asking for honest feedback is a must to be successful. In the first post this week I mentioned a survey that we sent out to get feedback on how we are doing as a business. One thing I heard loud and clear was that the message of what we do had become diluted. To paraphrase one response: I am no longer sure what Brand Shepherd actually does…is it graphic design…social media…blogging…WordPress…what do you do these days?! Wow. Instantly I realized that the fruit of genuine efforts to provide the services our clients were/are asking for had yielded a message that we were the stereotypical “jack of all trades, master of none.” So we spent the summer honing in on what we love to do, and narrowed it down to 3 things: Brand Identity, Consumer Packaging, Websites (mobile-friendly is now assumed). These three things not only are what we love to create, but they happen to work together in ways that are very important to how people are discovering and buying right now. Keeping our message simple is something I now give a lot of attention to. We are working on this every week to try and make sure the message of what Brand Shepherd does is complete and clear. The benefit of this work is that it makes us better, successful communicators on for our clients.

4. Our choice to be self-funded remains a solid decision. No bank investment. No angels. No seed money. No spouse supplying the benefits and fallback income. 100% self-funded, truly bootstrapping makes everything a richer experience.

5. It’s good to be old fashioned. Even though technology supposedly connects us in ways like never before, my most successful relationships and experiences are with phone calls, in-person meetings, conversations over coffee, and to not be selling all the time. We have learned that treating the people we work with as we would want to be treated is a solid recipe for success. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a tech geek, but these first five years in business have taught me that when it comes to building solid business relationships, the “old fashioned” way of communicating is still the most successful way to do business.

Wrap Up

That concludes our list of lessons learned from successes and failures from these first five years in business. The next five are sure to teach more lessons – hopefully not the same lessons, though.

Tomorrow’s blog post deals with our future: 5 Goals For The Next 5 Years.