10 Years Later

Time is a fun­ny thing. In mul­ti­ple ways, cer­tain events seem simul­ta­ne­ous­ly like for­ev­er ago and like yes­ter­day. Meet­ing you, Bill, is one of those events.

Photo of Bill Kenney

This month marks 10 years since we first met to talk about doing some client work togeth­er. It was Ide­al Design” meets Designs by Erik.”

I wish I could remem­ber how I stum­bled across your web­site that said you were look­ing for Flash help. Google cer­tain­ly wasn’t then what it is today. And we both know what your devel­op­ment chops were like then, too. (Just slight­ly bet­ter than my design chops, if I remem­ber cor­rect­ly.) Yet we man­aged to cross dig­i­tal paths.

That our paths crossed isn’t real­ly the crazy part of the sto­ry though. What’s crazy is that I’m here, 10 years lat­er, reflect­ing on the past decade of know­ing you. Part­ner­ships like ours aren’t easy to come by. And I’d argue that they also don’t just hap­pen with­out effort.

What start­ed out as a free­lancer work­ing on a job with anoth­er free­lancer quick­ly turned into two young guys con­sid­er­ing cre­at­ing a prop­er busi­ness togeth­er as 50/50 own­ers. Nei­ther of whom had run a busi­ness in the past. Nei­ther of whom were even free­lanc­ing full time. Nei­ther of whom even knew what it meant to start a real business.

Our igno­rance not slow­ing us down, we incor­po­rat­ed Ide­al Design Firm six months after meet­ing. I remem­ber you com­ing over to my house to play around with com­pa­ny name ideas and accom­pa­ny­ing logos. With no name real­ly jump­ing out at us, we just slapped Firm” to the end of the name you used while free­lanc­ing, Ide­al Design. With that deci­sion behind us, we cracked open Legal Zoom and reg­is­tered the name.

Remem­ber how legit we felt when we got the Legal Zoom pack­age? That big binder of doc­u­ments, the seal, etc? Good times.

So there we were: part­ners and own­ers of Ide­al Design Firm. It was real. But not too real, con­sid­er­ing we both still had our day jobs. You work­ing at our favorite vaca­tion rental com­pa­ny, and me work­ing in retail jew­el­ry and lead­ing wor­ship at a church. After all, Ide­al Design Firm wasn’t close to pay­ing all of the bills. Yet.

From there we set forth into weeks, months, and years of steadi­ly build­ing up our client base and rev­enue (which we def­i­nite­ly didn’t call rev­enue” then). Late night hours. Week­end hours. The hus­tle to launch a company.

It took us about 3 12 years, but in the spring of 2010 we final­ly got to the point where we were both work­ing just one job. Ide­al Design Firm. Our com­pa­ny. Man, what a feeling.

A lot has hap­pened since then. We changed our name to Focus Lab short­ly after launch­ing in 2010. We start­ed grow­ing our team. We’ve moved offices. We’ve hired, fired, laid off, and waved good­bye to some fan­tas­tic peo­ple. We’ve attend­ed many events. We’ve spo­ken at events. We’ve made mil­lions of dol­lars. Our work has been expe­ri­enced or felt by mil­lions of peo­ple. We’ve grown as boss­es. We’ve grown as lead­ers. We’ve grown as hus­bands. We’ve grown as fathers.

Hav­ing no busi­ness expe­ri­ence, and rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle life expe­ri­ence, when we first met — I didn’t know what to expect in our first 10 years of work­ing togeth­er. But I think it’s safe to say nei­ther of us expect­ed all of this. I like how Bill Gates puts it. Most peo­ple over­es­ti­mate what they can do in one year and under­es­ti­mate what they can do in ten years.” We def­i­nite­ly under­es­ti­mat­ed what we could do.

Some­one recent­ly asked me if I felt our part­ner­ship was a big part of my cur­rent suc­cess. And while I’m con­fi­dent I would still be in busi­ness had we not met, I know that what we have wouldn’t have been pos­si­ble with­out you.

If there’s one thing I didn’t real­ly con­sid­er when we met, it’s the type of friend­ship we would devel­op through business.

Busi­ness is messy. It’s hard. It’s exhaust­ing. And you can’t do it alone. We’ve devel­oped a sol­id friend­ship over the years. One that is dis­tinct from my oth­er friend­ships. Our friend­ship pos­i­tive­ly influ­ences the busi­ness, and in turn the busi­ness pos­i­tive­ly influ­ences our friend­ship. It’s a unique cycle that I’m grate­ful for.

A friend­ship found­ed on busi­ness is a good deal bet­ter than a busi­ness found­ed on friendship.

John D. Rockefeller

I’ve had the hon­or of grow­ing as a per­son along­side you for the past 10 years. But what’s been real­ly spe­cial has been the past ~2 years.

We’ve both expe­ri­enced so much in the past two years. But you — your growth has been inspir­ing. I’ve watched you get mar­ried, become a father, become an even bet­ter men­tor, become an even bet­ter leader, and more. Watch­ing this growth inspires me to make sure I grow in these ways as well.

Proverbs 27:17 says, As iron sharp­ens iron, so one per­son sharp­ens anoth­er.” Thank you for sharp­en­ing me. I’m bet­ter for know­ing you.

So look­ing back at when we met, what do I say 10 years lat­er? I say here’s to the next 10 years. 🍻

Hap­py Birth­day! Erik

Published on December 21, 2016

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