Entrepreneur, speaker, life-long learner

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 1/2 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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entrepreneurship business friendship