Folks, we made it! 2017 is here and while technically nothing has changed since the calendar rolled into a new year (we’re still very much in the Winter freeze), January always marks a time of reflection. While I think about the accomplishments and challenges in the previous year, I focus more on what excites me about the future.
2016 taught me a lot. The year started with Justine having a baby. I gained a nephew and lost a business partner for a few months. And while Justine never stepped away fully from Poppy Barley, I did feel incredibly alone at times. I wanted to give her the gift of motherhood without the stress of work. There was no feasible way I could absorb all her workload into mine and make every big company decision. So I let things go. Taking a blank piece of paper, I drew a horizontal line. Everything above the line was mission critical for business success, everything below the line was important, but not an essential driver. What existed above the line was still too much for me to handle alone. So, I gave away projects and tasks to other people on the Poppy Barley team. I realized I had held onto so much since founding the company. There was considerable legacy to the tasks I did daily, dating back to when it was just Justine and I at a kitchen table. Moving leadership and decision-making into the hands of very capable, talented people at Poppy Barley remains the best decision of the year (here are our team’s highlights from 2016), Justine and I acknowledge how vital it is to growing the company.
In November 2016, Poppy Barley turned four years old. The first three years, the hustle was very, very real. Everyday, we obsessed about cashflow and survival. We took lots of risks. In 2016, we settled into a more comfortable zone. We focused on execution. We invested in technology to help us scale our operations. We continually asked ourselves, “What would this look like if it was simple?” We did more “easy” and less “I can’t sleep at night”. It was an effective strategy; we had our best year ever.
Looking ahead to 2017, we need a little more “I can’t sleep at night”. Magic happens outside of comfort zones. It’s time to take more risks, push more limits and get back to “re-thinking” our industry and impact.
Strategically, our partners in Mexico are inspiring me. In Mexico, you build your company as a legacy to give your children. It’s the opposite of startup culture’s build fast and furious to get rich. In Mexico, decisions are made with integrity and the long game in mind. Success is still important but what’s compromised to be successful is considered more fully. Many of the factories, tanneries and suppliers we work with in Mexico are in transition. Fathers and mothers are stepping aside as their children take over the businesses. Like every new generation, they are full of ideas and innovation. In Mexico, Justine and I always sense more investment into the community (and less individualism). Laura, our Mexico operations manager, often cites creating a brighter future for Mexico as a primary driver behind her work with Poppy Barley. Motivated by the thinking in Mexico, I’m challenging myself to think well beyond the day-to-day aspects of the business. I’m focused on the long term, thinking about the legacy of Poppy Barley.
I’m stepping into 2017 prepared for a rocket ship of a year. It reminds me of this advice shared in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead – “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on.”