As we usher in a new year, flourish begins a special year of our own: our 10thAnniversary. I look at where we are today and, in a sense, Day One and Year One seem like they were just Last Week and Last Year. Just as they say with children, “the days have been long but the years have been short” in their passing.
A milestone forces one to reflect. Here are some of the most vivid memories I have, and lessons I’ve learned, and what I really want to say at this point about where we’ve been, where and who we are now, and what the future may hold.
Most people assume that flourish is named after the verb flourish, and I don’t argue with that because it’s a wonderful alignment. But it’s actually not completely true.
When I was searching for a name – which, by the way, I had to come up with nearly on the fly, since I needed to file the business with the Secretary of State’s office on the heels of signing my first client – I happened to read a feature story, written in the pages Martha Stewart Living, describing the first advertising posters and how they were made. The artists who created them did so with flourishes – embellishments and lines drawn in such a way that rendered the poster much more dramatic and impactful to its intended audience. I knew as soon as I read it – flourish– that that was it.
I never wanted to name the firm after myself or that it should be about me and my gifts because, let’s face it, I’ve had help from the very beginning, and to me, one name doesn’t reflect the village it takes to be successful at this business, or any business for that matter.
The birth of the team
Year One, I mainly tried to fly solo, with a client or two, to test the waters of how “consulting” worked. (Side note: I really did think that flourish would be a consultancy. I remember a local reporter at the time asking me where I saw myself and flourish in five years. I remember answering that it’d be great if we had a small team of around three or four people.)
By Year Two, my husband, David, came on part-time to do billings as he powered down a family business that had been going for four generations. And then we hired our first teammate outside ourselves, which was the biggest decision ever to that point. (Mind you, we were still working out of our house at that time.)
Liz came fresh out of college and, looking back now, it strikes me what a risk she took joining up with us at that point in the firm’s infancy. She had the character and smarts to get a job at any agency in town, but she saw something in us, and to this day, that alone brings tears to my eyes. Liz stayed with us for five years, and we even brought her sister, Katie, on board for a stint (awesome ran in their family). I think back to those early days with such fondness and nostalgia, not because they were easy but because they weren’t but we were blazing this trail together, all of us, and that was fun.
Our first BIG pitch
When Chuy’s came to town, we got a shot at our first legitimate pitch. By that time, we had a tiny office in a house on Whitsett Street, and our conference room doubled as an intern workspace and a lobby. The weeks leading into the pitch were fine – the creative was coming along, and we were feeling strong.
Then I dashed down the front stairs, in heels, in the ice, and crushed my ankle. Cue the not-so-attractive scooter that became my helpmate for the next eight weeks.
The day of the pitch, I was determined to convey a posture of influence, so, when the clients walked in the front door, I hobbled up to them as smoothly and coolly as possible, sans scooter, and proceeded as if nothing were out of sorts. This is a prime illustration of faking it ‘til you make it.
The pitch went well. We won the business. And I went home and iced my ankle.
Through sickness and health
In January 2016, I came out of the holiday season feeling a lot more sluggish than usual. At first, I shrugged it off as the typical holiday hangover, and resolved myself to step up my self-care regimen in the new year. It became obvious, though, as the days went by, that something was wrong.
By February, with no answers and the problem growing far worse, I made the most difficult decision to take a medical leave of absence. David stepped in for me and ran the firm for about six months, with the team right there behind and alongside him. It was an uncertain time.
We found answers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and have been so blessed that the condition I have turned out to be manageable. I came back to work in June 2016, and for a bit, I felt like a foreigner in a foreign land. But I will say this: we did not lose a single client during those days, nor did we lose a single teammate. I will always, always be indebted to each of those who made up the flourish team then for doing all that needed to be done during those months, without me, and doing it with the utmost grace and professionalism, although I know, at times, it must have seemed as if they were navigating without instruments.
Peaks + Valleys
People on the outside of our business often paint the picture of how they think a firm like ours works. How things get done. What it feels like each day, or over the course of a year… or in this case, ten years.
Just as in life, there are highs, and there are lows, and there’s a lot of simply putting in what it takes to make things happen for our clients.
The Highest Highs to me are
- seeing the spark in a client’s eyes when we present a new idea, or better yet, when we come up with one together;
- when I see creative come to life, our designers nail it, and our clients approve it;
- receiving a client’s praise from a piece of work, or campaign; and
- everyone talking, laughing and music playing in the office.
The Lowest Lows for me are
- receiving the resignation of a teammate, no matter the reason;
- the feeling of not being fully valued for our time and talent;
- uncovering an error in work that’s already been put to press, or is public; and
- witnessing disrespect.
Mainly, I’ve learned that everything has a season. Success is simply a sum of all the parts sometimes, and is rarely the whiz-bang voila that our consumer culture wants to teach us it is. Success is feeling a sense of self-worth and purpose behind what you roll up your sleeves and dedicate your personal time to each day.
The future is bright because there is a greater One in control of the plans, budgets, yesses and no’s, pitches and progress than me or our team. That brings relief and freedom to be ourselves and to explore the gifts we’ve been seeded with, and how we can best use those right now for the people who need them.
What’s our next big announcement? Who’s our next client? Where do we see ourselves in five years? I couldn’t tell you. But what I can tell you is that life will surprise us if we stay open, tend our creative flames, and anchor our hearts to service. Pure and simple.
Jamie Prince, founder + principal