August 30th, 2022, represents a landmark milestone for The Innovation Garage. Ten years in business. Ten years since stepping out into the unknown and starting something.
In contemplating what to write about for the tenth anniversary, this article is written with a specific intent—sharing what we are learning and answering some FAQs about the journey. Many attendees have been asking these questions in client sessions, large groups, and individual discussions. One of the best ways to provide the answers is to write about them.
As a long-form reflection, this article also represents a celebration of effort. We share outcomes of the elements in our ideal design and what we continue to learn each day.
Shared later in this article series, you will find a top-ten list that is pressure tested in the real world, even after ten years in business. The Innovation Garage assembled this “top 10” learning list based on thousands of conversations—and hundreds of cups of coffee. Advice from close, trusted colleagues you might not know. As well as wise sages and influencers that you may have heard of at some point. In capturing this insight here, it might be that you have heard it all before. We are hopeful you will pick up some new context and insights that will be helpful.
We share these learnings, backstories, and what we consider as True North Principles. When designing your ideal adventure, use the lessons learned as pin drops to your roadmap of very own Hero’s Journey. Consider this a helpful traveler’s guide for your own experience. If you are looking for encouragement in finally taking that “big leap of Faith” for yourself, use these learnings as fuel.
As we now pass this ten-year “valley of death,” it is valuable to look back for a bit. With a business model understood yet continuously evolving, it’s an excellent time to reflect and capture the immense learnings and experiences from the last ten years.
What are ten lessons after ten years in business?
- Make sure your family supports your efforts. It’s tough to build something if your significant other, children, or those closest to you don’t understand why you do what you do. A support system is critical. If not your family, make it a point to find friends or colleagues who will support your efforts and encourage you. After ten years of business, having your family members participate in the work and offer guidance is an excellent outcome of this adventure.
- Focus on your customer experience – Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Look to drive the most meaningful experience that you possibly can.
- Relationships Matter – Build your business on relationships. Relationships will carry the day over likes and followers on the web or social media. An amazing thing happens if you build relationships this way. Your customers and clients become loyal brand advocates and will bring opportunities in the form of referrals to you.
- Trust Matters – Work with and seek out people you like to be around. People that are smarter than you. People that don’t think as you do. People you know will have your back when situations become difficult. People will stand up for you, even if you are not in the room. If they don’t get you, and you learn that the trust in the relationship is not there, move on quickly.
- Be a missionary, not a mercenary. Do your best to avoid doing things for money as your primary motivator. This approach is definitely against the grain of what today’s society encourages. The money will follow what you do. To quote Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, “I’ll take a missionary over a mercenary any day…and most of the time, in the end, it’s the missionaries that end up making more money.” Money will be there for you if you follow this principle.
- Be in it for the long hall. Unicorns as “overnight” successes are often sporadic events based on luck, timing, and proper publicity. Unicorns get all the media attention and make the news. Most burn bright and most burn out fast. This colors and distorts the model in our brains of what success and “making it” is supposed to be. Patience, persistence, and perseverance will win the day. We have twenty years in our plan and are only halfway there.
- Not everyone will have your best interests at heart. This concept may be difficult to understand at first. But unfortunately, very accurate. Just remember, it’s not you. You will give a lot and may come across many takers looking to take as much as possible. You will learn when you might need to stop giving. It is a tricky thing to do, but once you find your boundaries, stick to them.
- Wait for the wave. Don’t try catching it. Just like in surfing, it’s the same in business. It is best to position yourself to see good things as they catch up to you. The patience to position yourself for trends and opportunities is a terrific strategy.
- Be in the moment. Find the headspace for being in the moment. You’ll be up, and you’ll be down. Sometimes on the same day, and sometimes changing hour by hour. Learn to embrace those visitors of fear and discouragement in your brain as they come in. They won’t be around for long.
- “This, too, shall pass” – You think you are on top of everything? No stress at all. It will change. Have an epic failure? These will be the moments in which your anxiety will peak. It will pass. There will also be super quiet and reflective times where all will be calm and right with the world. So be kind to your future self and just remember this, too, shall pass.
Most creatives like musicians, entertainers, designers, educators, and yes, consultants, are, in their way, striving to design and provide a great user experience. And by participating in the experience, the designer is hopeful that the user truly learns and gains a meaningful outcome. We strive to do the same each day.
Our mission is to Make Things, Make Things Better, and Teach Others.® We will keep on this path of Faith, Learning, and Gratitude and see where it will take us.
And, as Tom Petty encourages, keep running down a dream.
At The Innovation Garage®
We help organizations grow. Providing education, tools, technology, and expert consulting in change management for strategy, innovation, and supply chain. Guiding leaders from startups to the Global Fortune 500 to intentionally self-disrupt their offerings and organizations. Delivering world-class education, tools, and technology on how to craft business operating systems focused on long-term profitable growth.
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