As I look back on the past eight years, Sequence has been a wild ride and an action-packed adventure. It’s been filled with triumphs, like the night we produced our first event (thanks, LinkedIn), the day we were recognized as a Great Place to Work, or the day I guest lectured at Cornell on Event Management (1999 Adam definitely did not see that one coming). Sequence has also been filled with its share of struggles, including losing colleagues to other opportunities, losing out on potential business, and general agency vexations that occasionally contributed to a lost mind. Above and beyond everything else though, Sequence has been an education. There have been daily — sometimes hourly — learning experiences. Some big, some small, and some realized way more painfully than others. In reflection and celebration of birthday #8, here are eight business lessons I’ve learned along the way.
1. Employees > All.
Some people debate the importance of employees vs. customers, but not me. If eight years have taught me anything, it’s that you get nowhere without great people. Clients are critical of course, but while they may come for the company, they stay for the team.
2. Keeping it Even.
Admittedly my biggest personal challenge. The wins bring you sky high, but the losses can get you down quick. It’s difficult not to take every failure personally, but business ownership (and agency life) is a marathon, not a sprint.
3. Yes, and.
We made the decision early on to try and infuse some hospitality principles into Sequence, and it’s made us a better company. In particular the approach of ‘Yes, and’, because as an agency we’re in the business of making things happen for our clients. If we say no, what we’re being asked better be impossible because otherwise a client will go find someone else who will say yes.
4. Listening First (and Often).
Listening before speaking is not only a commonly appreciated gesture, but it can provide distinct advantages too. Collecting and processing information, sizing up personalities or priorities, and understanding other peoples’ perspectives before giving your own. My general rule for any given meeting is to try and listen at least two times the amount I’m speaking.
5. The Power of Why.
I stumbled across Simon Sinek's TED Talk shortly after starting Sequence and it really resonated with me on a few levels. From a company perspective, the importance of understanding ‘The Why' as we were building a blueprint for Sequence. For our clients, a reminder that we should consistently lead with ‘The Why’ as it relates to our work with them. Why do they do what they do, what’s important to them, and what role do we play in their potential success. Starting with those questions helps us prioritize strategy and ultimately be better partners.
6. The Ultimate Authority.
We’ve gone through various iterations of org charts as we’ve grown, but the one constant has always been who’s at the very top. When making decisions — especially the difficult ones — we ask ourselves a simple question: Does this make Sequence better? There is company-wide buy-in that personal agendas get put aside, and ultimately we’re all in the business of reporting to Sequence. This approach has made for a better culture and been a recipe for success.
7. An Idea Meritocracy.
Hand in hand with Sequence at the top of the org chart is our emphasis on an Idea Meritocracy, an environment in which the best idea wins. Great ideas can come from anyone, irrespective of title and tenure, and when our team has great ideas, Sequence is the beneficiary. It’s leadership’s responsibility to empower the team to create, adapt and advocate.
8. Being Bold.
There would be no Sequence if eight years ago I played it safe, or stayed within my comfort zone. To this day, the biggest advantage we have as a company (with the exception of our people, of course) is that we are small, agile and able to take chances. We want to explore and experiment, even if that means we occasionally stumble. Because as long as we’re learning there’s a good chance there will also be future Sequence birthdays to celebrate.