If you had told me 15 years ago, at the age of 17, that Design Extensions would still be around, I might have believed you. I probably wouldn’t have believed that I’d be married with four children, but that’s another story all together.
June of this year marked 15 years in business for Design Extensions, and it’s been quite the journey. I hope this story encourages you in your own journey.
This company started as a hobby for a couple of high school students that needed extra money for the weekend. The entire company revenue from 1999 wouldn’t be enough to pay payroll for one week in 2014, but it’s been a slow grow to get to where we are.
About 11 years ago, I almost gave up and moved in a different direction. I was newly married and wasn’t making enough to raise a family — or hardly pay our rent for that matter. For a brief period, I considered taking a role in my uncle’s insurance business while pushing Design Extensions to the side. I learned a lot during those six months. But most of all, I learned that I wanted to do something I really loved. My wife encouraged me to continue with my dream and I’m so glad I did.
There are a few things that have contributed to our continued growth. Well, probably more than a few, but these are the ones that come to mind (while also watching the latest season of “Sherlock” on Netflix’s BBC edition. It’s excellent, isn’t it?) . . . anyway . . .
1. Don’t be afraid to grow slowly. I wrote an article about this at medium.com a while back. Read it here if you’re interested.
2. Stay out of debt. Debt is a killer of families and businesses. Avoid it if at all possible — both personally and professionally — and it will make all the difference. There may be some things you can’t afford without a big loan and some things you have to hold off on. That’s okay (see rule #1 above). Design Extensions has always been debt free and remains so today. It keeps us flexible and slave to no lenders. If you’re already in debt and looking for a way out, we recommend the resources from Dave Ramsey here.
3. Care about people. Your clients, your team, your family, your friends (not necessarily in that order). People matter more than things and more than money. When you care about the people you’re selling to, you’ll provide better service. When you provide better service, they’ll refer more people. When that happens, your business will grow. Make time for your family and friends because they deserve it and you need them more than you need business. And make time for your team. You can’t grow without them. They’re not just employees. They’re people with families. Treat them like it.
4. Be wrong, then get it right. You don’t stay in business this long without getting it wrong a thousand times. Sometimes, the client thinks you’re wrong when you’re not. But many times, you are. It’s okay to get it wrong, but take the time to make it right. Face conflict in any situation quickly and directly. Do what you can to right the ship and move on. Don’t let failures, large or small, be an anchor that holds you down. Let them be a building block by which you grow.
5. Be okay with getting a “NO” and saying “NO.” You’re not going to win every project you bid on. That’s okay. Move on. And not every project that you bid on is really a project you want, either. Look out for warning signs with obnoxious clients with unrealistic expectations. In the end, that won’t be good for anyone. As you grow, learn to be more selective about the projects you take on. Remember that for every “YES,” you are saying “NO” to a thousand other things. Use your “YES'” carefully.
6. Remember there is more to business than money. I’ve had at least a hundred people say things to me like, “You know, if you did XYZ you could make a ton more money.” That’s awesome, but if it involves me working 80 hours a week, that’s probably not going to fly (see item #3 above). To me, success in business looks more like taking my little girl to swim lessons in the afternoon and having lunch with my wife whenever I want more than it does an unlimited inflow of cash. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of weeks/months/years of working more hours than I’d like — hustle is often required to grow at certain points — but the end goal for me has never been about just money. It’s been about being able to spend the time I have with the people I want and doing the things we want to do together. I desire that for myself, for my family, and for my team and their families. Care about money, because it keeps the business floating, but care about people more.
Over the past 15 years, in no way have we built a perfect business. We’re still screwing it up daily. But we’ve built a good business and we’re going to keep working on it.
We honestly desire to design and build things that help other people grow their businesses. I hope this recap of a few key things of our first 15 years is helpful to you in some way.
The exciting part is, I believe we’re just getting started.
If you’ve got ideas or things that you’d like to add to the list above, please feel free to leave them in the comments below for others to read and enjoy.
Also, if we can help your business craft a new design or update a website, don’t hesitate to contact us today (shameless plug, I know, but this is my blog after all).