After 10 Years of Growth, Why I’m Still Terrified
Nebo celebrated its 10th birthday earlier this year. To say we’ve been very fortunate along the way would be an understatement.
We’ve grown for 10 consecutive years. We’ve been named to the Inc. 5000 list for the past four years. We’ve never laid off a single employee. We’ve never had a down year. We’ve won over 100 digital awards in the past two years alone. We have 50 of the most talented and passionate people in the industry.
Yet, I’m still completely terrified. I still feel like we haven’t made it. I still feel as scared and humble as I did the day we decided to launch Nebo.
As Marcus Aurelius said about Rome in the movie Gladiator:
“There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish... it was so fragile”
I’m afraid if we even whisper anything about Nebo “making it” then it could all vanish with the speed and simplicity of a tap of the spacebar.
It’s not that we don’t have a solid business strategy --- we do. We have great clients, amazing employees, no debt, recurring revenue, intellectual property, and a roadmap for the future.
However, the real value of Nebo is its purpose and its culture. As I mentioned in a previous post, Nebo’s goal has never been to be the biggest agency in the world. Our goal was to do great work while attempting to bring humanity back into digital agency life.
I know I’m a bit biased, but I think the stands we take against industry norms, how we LOVE our clients, and how we treat our employees and give them opportunities to thrive are truly unique. It’s not that other firms don’t do this --- they do. But it’s deeply engrained in our DNA. Our culture isn’t just about ping-pong or dogs at the office. It’s about doing great work while living our purpose and caring about each and every person in our orbit.
But that’s where the danger lies. Culture and purpose can easily fade if they’re not protected like a momma bear protects her cubs.
As we grow, each employee has to embody the same values. We’ve seen many firms with awesome cultures fall mightily because they weren’t disciplined enough to grow at a deliberate, culture-sustaining pace. Because revenue became more important than culture or quality. Because customers became more important than employees.
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln
The moment you think you made it, your pride and sense of accomplishment set you up for failure. Past processes are deified. Politics set in. Hunger fades. And history teaches us that not even size can protect us against the corporate graveyard -- 87% of firms in the Fortune 500 from 1955 are no longer with us.
I feel like we’ve had an amazing 10 years. I feel like the next 10 can and will be even better.
However, I don’t have any illusions about the challenges in front of us. The next 10 won’t be easier. They will be much harder. The challenges will be bigger. The expectations will be higher. The consequences will be greater. But, if we’re successful and continue to stay true to our purpose and culture, it will be even more rewarding.
At the end of the day, it’s a privilege to have the opportunities we have. And fear should be embraced.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela
We have a group of employees who trust Nebo with their futures. We have a roster of clients that trust us with their brands and marketing campaigns. More importantly, our employees, clients, vendors, and other stakeholders have families and loved ones that are directly affected by Nebo’s success or failure.
Maybe being terrified is a good thing. I guess I just thought one day it would fade. I think as time goes on, I’m realizing and accepting that the fear and uncertainty will always remain. We just need to embrace it. Harness it. Cherish it.