5 lessons in 5 years

Exactly five years ago this week, I had the opportunity to step into a leadership role at ThinkArgus. Over those past five years, we’ve grown from 10 to 30 people while weathering a pandemic – which was only slightly more painful than weathering the growing pains of a consistently expanding company. But through the mistakes, late nights, failures, and major successes, there are five lessons I continue to learn and return to time and time again. 

1. Two things can be true at the same time.
Once I heard this saying, it became my favorite idea to think about through all aspects of my life. Motherhood? A never ending slog that is also achingly beautiful and fun. 

A harder pill for me to swallow was that most of the time, as a growing agency we are both killing it and struggling at the same time, all of the time. Land a big new client? Awesome! But…how do we staff quickly

Found amazing new hires who you are so psyched to bring on board? But…can we maintain our culture as we double in size?

I often remind myself that we are both thriving and doing spectacular things while also stumbling and encountering new challenges around every turn.

2. Set your goals. Make a detailed plan. Then use it as a compass, not as Google Maps.
Go through the exercise of mapping out how you’ll reach your goals. Explore every avenue, write down every step (even if they are contradictory ideas), and note all the opportunities and challenges. Spend the time putting pen to paper and being meticulous about your plan. Then put it aside and remember the north star and the guardrails. Things will never go as planned, but also the detailing exercise you went through will ensure you’ll be ready for whatever comes at you. 

3. When it comes to people, trust is everything.
Build your team with people who you are willing to be stuck with, who push you to be better, and who aren’t afraid to say no to you. During the good times, a fun team is awesome. But when shit gets real and you have to work late, fix a mistake, or deal with converging client deadlines, you need people who know how to dig deep and who are committed to the cause. To build something great, you need a lot of trust and love and people who are willing to tell you when your worst traits are coming through. 

4. Knowing isn’t impressive. Learning is. 
I didn’t know anything about the business side of running an agency five years ago. And when I first took over our projections and billing, I was overwhelmed. At that point I had a choice – ignore the details or dig in, and go harder. This is a lesson that keeps repeating itself time and time again. When I encounter a situation that is completely new and I find myself avoiding, I know it’s time to put my fears aside and dig in. I’ve grown the most when I’ve realized that I can dig in and learn almost anything, and that’s it’s the persistence and learning that makes me grow. 

5. Last, but certainly not least – take time to celebrate your success, but then move on/look ahead.   
Taking that well deserved moment to bask in the glow of a win is so necessary for your own mental health and for others. Acknowledging the hard work, the smart thinking, and quick pivoting is crucial because it’s never just one person or idea that gets you a win – it’s the whole orchestra playing together. 

But don’t get too comfortable in the glow of a win, because what’s most important is just ahead and that bump in the road, unforeseen issue, or new opportunity is coming up fast. Success is easier to carry when there is momentum. So thank your team, celebrate hard, and get back to business. 
It has been a pleasure to learn these lessons and grow as a leader, as we grow as a company. Here’s to the next five!

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