161. Ten Firsts of a Creative Company
1. The first happy moments
Yes! It’s happening. You and your partner are finally doing this. You’re having a baby. No, not a REAL baby! A business baby. Soon the days of slaving away for the Corporate Machine (tm) will be over. You’re starting a company, quitting your job, and it will be amazing. Angels will dance in your hair and harps will lull you gently to sleep at night. Also, there’ll be no more f*#king last-minute requests from Tracy from Legal that you “just change a little thing so it aligns with policy”. Glory be!
2. The first real sale
The skies open and sunlight streams down. Fanfares sound throughout the multiverse. It’s a customer. A real one. At least, maybe. Yes, you were sure you had several lined up when you both quit your jobs and launched this circus, but those fell through for reasons no one can fathom. But this time… this time it’s real. Yeah, yeah, the money is less than it should be (much less!), it’s actually boring as hell and probably also hard, but it’s a real gig. Blessed be!
3. The first big customer
Holy shit. We’re on a roll. Hitting the high notes. Practically bathing in money. Ok, maybe not bathing in it, but at least soaking our feet from time to time. Sure, the reason there’s money in the accounts is because we’ve gotten a client to pay up front (cool, right?) and we totally won’t hate ourselves two months from now when the work needs to be done and the money is long gone. Ha! Champagne and oysters tonight. There’ll be time enough later to look closer at the deal, but for now we’re celebrating. It’s a big fish we’ve landed, and just like with horses one doesn’t look at the teeths of gift fish. Or something.
4. The first office
What!? Yes, you understand that it’s annoying that you and your (business) partner are working out of a one-bedroom apartment you share with your (non-business) partner. Fair enough, but cut some slack, ok? Yeah, yeah, those late night sessions got a bit much at the end, but now you’re getting an office! Shiny new toy! Bright and huge and spacious and chrome. Or at least with room for at least 1.5 workplaces and the toilet doesn’t run THAT much. Of course the door locks, and no, the neighbourhood isn’t that dodgy – it’s just got character. It’s practically the Taj Mahal, alright?
5. The first full time hire
So she can start on Monday, then? Awesome. Who would have thought that recruiting was so hard. Just because you needed someone who could do accounting, web stuff, logistics, marketing and a bit of that thing Ahmed’s father used to do for us before we managed to piss him off somehow. Hell, for the money she’s getting you’d hope she also shat solid gold. Sure, sure, it’s not that much, but it’s a huge chunk for you and who cares if it’s less than market rates. You’re not exactly Megacorp, are you? There’s freedom and growth opportunities and fun and freedom and flexibility and purpose and freedom and… damn, what if this isn’t the right decision?
6. The first fire
It wasn’t her, it was you. Ok, it was her. In fact, if you’d just acknowledged that it was her a bit sooner you might have kept things from exploding. But now it’s done, and she’s fired, and that’s good. Who cares if you now don’t know how to do the thing with the whatever-it-is certificate and your biggest client left as well, because it was her uncle’s good friend’s sister’s company? You did all you could, right? No, fair enough, you didn’t exactly do it in an elegant way, but what did she expect? It’s not like you’ve had leadership training or shit like that. And it’s your company, right? Damn, right it is. Didn’t the uncle like those expensive Belgian chocolates, by the way? Maybe that relationship can be saved…
7. The first manager
It feels weird, doesn’t it? Someone works for your company, but they don’t answer to you. Sure, it’s smart and rational and proper, but it’s still a bit bizarre. What does the person actually do? Do they know their stuff? Ever since you made someone a manager, you’ve got this nagging feeling that the company is slipping through your fingers. There are now customers who’ve never met you, projects that you barely hear about, and who decided to buy that potted plant and those posters anyway? Soon, you’ll loss all contact with your employees and won’t be able to hold your weight! Ok, maybe it’s not that bad, and it also has its good sides, but that doesn’t make it less WEIRD…
8. The first org chart
What the actual flying monkey poop? When did you become a company that needed this sort of thing. An org chart? That’s so goddamn corporate and boring. What’s next? KPIs, stakeholder meetings and HR policies? What happened to your beautiful, organic organization, where everyone knew what was going on and you were in this together? When did titles start mattering and who had ever thought that C- in your title would someday mean something? Shit.
9. The first board
Oh, no, we don’t need advisors or a board or anything like that! We’re nimble, competent and driven. What use would we have for a board? So we could waste time on vision discussions and “narrative strategy” instead of doing actual work? No way! And not only that – you also want to pay them. Ha! That’s never happening. What? You’ve got a couple of candidates lined up who could help us figure out the big picture and help us grow? Who will meet us without getting paid a lot? And have experience with helping companies like ours? Wow. Sounds great. How do you think they’d feel on a semi-permanent role? … Uh-oh… we just got ourselves a board, right?
10. The first investor
You and me, mate! We’ve built this from the bottom up, and look at us now. Yeah, I know, we’ve invested ten years of our life in it, and we’re still struggling. That’s just how these things are, right? I mean, what’s the alternative? It’s not like someone will just drop by the office someday and offer us a million to get 20% of the company and a seat on the board! Huh? You’ve looked at valuations, and it seems we’re worth seven million? WTF… when did that happen? Oh. I guess we are not that tiny any more, and we do have something of a track record. And if we brought in that kind of capital, we could really go places. Huh… I guess I hadn’t seen that coming…
The next first?
Buyout? Bankcruptcy? Bonus? I’ll keep you posted. ;-)
Thank you for reading.