20 Things We've Learned from 20 Years of Business

This year our company celebrates its 20th year in business. We could never have imagined what was possible when we started this enterprise in our beautiful little hometown in southeastern Washington in 1997.

We've learned many lessons about business in these 20 years and, in the spirit of this milestone, are sharing some insights that we've gathered along the way.

  1. Communication can absolutely grow your business. We've seen a strong campaign reverse declining market shares, claim market leadership for a service line, and grow a new service in a matter of months.

  2. To engage employees, communicate what the future will look like once you achieve your goals. Humans consistently outperform expectations when they believe it’s possible and important to do so.

  3. Communication that connects employees to their purpose and mission is like nourishment for an organization. Leaders who invest in this reap big rewards.

  4. Spend money on exceptional pictures. We live in a visually sophisticated world where the absence of these can actually hurt your brand.

  5. If selling is your goal, make sales your metric. Monitoring views, shares, and social media interaction is good, but in the end, it's most important to watch your sales data.

  6. Mobile and video are exploding. Be there, but don’t abandon other media options that still work.

  7. Insist on a campaign microsite if you're doing a focused campaign. Your abandonment rate (the rate at which people come to your site from your ad's call to action, then leave quickly) will plummet—and results will soar.

  8. The leader’s job is to vision and provision. Make it possible for your people to do great work by creating a clear vision—then removing obstacles, resourcing, and encouraging.

  9. There’s no substitute for people who care about their work.

  10. Hard work and attention to detail are more important than brilliance.

  11. Say "no" to "no." There will be times you think it can't be done. There will be people who think you are crazy to try. Do it anyway.

  12. Don't let the closed door stop you. It's very possible that just beyond is an open door to something better.

  13. Better project management produces better creative results.

  14. Strive for truth-telling. Employees who tell you what you should hear—and not what you want to hear—engage in the highest form of loyalty.

  15. Excellence only happens when you pay attention to the work at every step.

  16. We curate our lives and shape our brand by the people we choose to live and work with. Being particular pays.

  17. People make decisions first based on emotion, and then on facts. Never assume a good argument will take you further than a good story.

  18. To find a good story, you have to be curious and willing to dig deeper than others might.

  19. Creative work happens where the human soul is tended.

  20. The best thing leaders can do is work on themselves. Become the better you, and your employees will become the better them.