If you ask people what’s significant about September 2008, most will cringe as they recall the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the global financial crisis that followed. But for Brilliant Ink, that date holds a lot more significance, as it marks the birth of our company.
It seems a little crazy looking back now, to launch a business in the face of so much tumult, but despite our unlikely start, I’m so proud to be leading a team that has survived and thrived during our first decade.
As we approached our milestone birthday, I spent some time reflecting on what it’s taken for us to reach this proud moment, and I believe it can be boiled down to a few key factors:
- First and foremost is committing to a strong culture, from the beginning. Brilliant Ink has always had that something special, thanks to our founder, Liz Kelly. Right from the very start, Liz felt strongly that we would never simply be a collection of freelancers. Rather, we’d be a cohesive, connected team that was stronger than the sum of its individual people – a true agency with heart. And that’s a principle we’ve stayed true to over the years – from office yoga and team retreats to virtual holiday parties and formal performance management programs. It’s made ALL the difference.
- Closely related to that is maintaining a deep trust across the organization. With a remote team that’s geographically dispersed, it’s not always easy, but we make it a top priority – when a new team member joins us, we gather as many employees as possible to be with them in person for the first several days. We also bring our entire team together in person at least two times per year – because while video calls and Slack can minimize the distance, nothing replaces good old face-time together to get to know each other and build trust.
- As the agency’s principal, I’ve also learned the tremendous importance of letting go. It’s tempting to want to oversee and manage every element of the business, but for us to grow and thrive, I’ve had to take a step back from much of the day-to-day work and put faith in the amazing women on my team (which of course goes back to that strong foundation of trust!).
- Let’s be honest – staying in business for 10 years takes a whole lot of tenacity and grit. It has not always been sunshine and roses – there have been tense times, overwhelming times, and even downright scary times. Being part of a small business takes guts, and a willingness to work hard and take risks as a team. I’ve been equal parts amazed and grateful for our team’s loyalty and commitment to fight for our company even through the tough periods.
- And finally, we’ve learned to play to our strengths. In Brilliant Ink’s earliest days, the company was focused on delivering outstanding content to clients — regardless of the channel, topic or audience — internal or external. But, by focusing exclusively on content creation, we weren’t maximizing one of our greatest strengths: deep expertise in internal communications and employee engagement. Once we honed in on employee engagement, we almost immediately saw the business grow. What’s more, we tapped into our deep passion for giving everyone a better 9-to-5. It’s an approach we’ll remain committed to for the next 10 years!
We’ve decided to mark our 10-year anniversary in an extra special way. Happy birthday to us!