Today is Legion’s seventh anniversary. Or is it birthday? I’m never sure. I feel like I gave birth to this thing seven years ago in the basement of what was then my house. But I guess anniversary is more appropriate when you are discussing a company.
The last seven years have gone by in a flash. I’ve grown immensely as a business owner and a human. I’ve been celebrated and I’ve been humbled, sometimes in the same day. Owning any business is incredibly hard. Owning a business that grows from nothing to $26 million in sales and 50 employees in seven years seems harder, because everything you think you know goes out the window about once every six months. But, as I’ve always said, I wouldn’t trade this crazy ride for anything. The last seven years have been the best and the worst and then the best again of my entire life. I can only hope that the next seven years are as difficult, and rewarding, as the last.
The seven most important things I’ve learned in the past seven years of owning Legion:
- Cash is king. To a certain extent, I knew this when I started Legion, because no one would give me any money. (Nothing to collateralize means no small business loans.) But the past year and a half have proven it even truer, as we sought a new banking relationship after a not-so-strong year. Cash in the bank is security. It is stability. And it is reassurance for the bank – and you – that you can weather a storm.
- As the owner, your mood is the mood of the company. I have a big personality. And my personality has always driven the culture of Legion. When I come in and I’m in a vicious or sad mood, it affects everyone. I have learned to be much more aware of my own moods and how they affect those around me. And I’m really working on crying less, for happy and sad reasons.
- Honesty is not unkind. I care deeply about people. I’m a giant softie when it comes to everyone in my life, including my employees. But when you run a sales organization, at the end of the day, it truly is about results. And sometimes, caring for a person means telling them when they aren’t cutting it. Or when the job they signed up for is not the job they should be doing. The greatest kindness you can pay someone is to be honest with them about what they are doing and if they need to improve. My quest for the last year is to find a balance between being kind while driving performance. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m much, much closer.
- Don’t take your eye off the ball. It is tempting, after a few years, to think you’ve got this business thing handled, and you can put it in cruise control and focus elsewhere. But unless you have a team in place that knows exactly what needs to be done and is invested, that’s probably not true. I took my eye off the ball in 2015 and all the struggles we’ve had this year are directly related to that lack of attention on my part.
- You have to feed the machine. Taking breaks is necessary. This past year, I’ve begun taking “unplugging” weekends, where I go someplace quiet and lovely and secluded and I turn off my cell phone. It is terrifying and weird and very, very necessary.
- Someone is always going to be unhappy. No matter how hard I try to make Legion the absolute best place in the universe to work, it’s not going to be right for everyone. So I have to take a deep breath, and a step back, and know that I’m doing my best and as long as the majority of my employees are happy, I’m doing a good job.
- No one is perfect. And everyone struggles. Expecting yourself to be perfect is just putting way too much pressure on yourself. Just like in someone else’s marriage, you never know what’s going on in someone else’s business. And even if things look smooth and calm on the surface, it could be a complete disaster when you peel back the curtain.
Bonus lesson –
7.5 Red Bull is not a food group. Neither is booze. Or chocolate cake. And, as sad as this is, combining all three of them does not create a balanced diet. Every once in a while, you have to eat real food someplace other than your desk. Using utensils and napkins and stuff. And I wrote this eating pizza and drinking Red Bull while standing at my desk. Do as I say, not as I do.
by Lacy Starling, President and Fearless Leader