Far Reach celebrated its 4th anniversary on April 16th. The fact that I'm writing this blog post almost a week late might give you a little clue as to how things are going for us four years in.
In short, we've never been busier! Not only that, but we're busy doing things we're really excited about.
As I write this, I'm listening to the Far Reach Soundtrack #1, compiled by Jason the year before we took the big leap while we were diligently working our jobs by day and secretly working on our business plan by night.
It's an inspirational mix of rock and indie hits like Incubus' "Are You In?"
, The Foo Fighters' rendition of "I Feel Free
", and Dave Matthews Band "Ants Marching
" intermingled with classic "Office Space" clips
. Ahhhh, good times...[nostalgic sigh]
We had absolutely no idea back then where we would be four years later. I think what we did know, however, was that no matter what we ended up doing, we'd be successful.
Probably the most important early lesson for us was that the term "embrace change" is not a cliché. It's real and it’s a necessity. We are not doing now what we set out to do when we started. It took all of three months for our company direction to change.
Writing software for schools seemed like such a great idea in the beginning and we were totally committed to it. Problem was, the world wasn't ready for us. ;-) Actually, some well-spent money on market research clearly showed us the reality of the education industry with its long sales cycles and resistance to change. Not to mention its non-existent budgets.
So, we abandoned that idea and moved from developing a large-scale software product to a service model providing consulting and web development services.
It was scary at the time, but we knew we could do it because it's essentially what we'd been doing for the previous 10 years in our corporate jobs.
Four years later, we've hired four awesome developers and we're having more fun than ever working with an ever more diverse clientele building all kinds of cool stuff. Well, cool to us anyway, but we're geeks.
We learn new things everyday, but the things that stand out for us from the first four years are:
- Risk is scary, but by far the best way to grow and totally worth it. Scared or not, we've always worked under the assumption that turning back is not an option. Forward is the only direction for us to go. It may not always be the easy way, but for us, it's the only way.
- Communication is key. Undoubtedly the most critical factor in making teams work well.
- Surround yourself with smart people you like. In building our team, we've strived to bring in people who have tremendous capabilities, a great attitude, and a sense of humor, and this has allowed us to weather a lot of adversity and still come out ahead of the game.
- Continuously do good work, be honest, and treat people with respect and the work will come. We have always felt, even before starting Far Reach, that the only way to do things is to be responsive to our clients' needs and to add value by collaborating with them to make whatever we're building the best it can be for them.
- Making decisions is hard! The beauty of being small and having some control, though, is that if you make a wrong decision, it's way easier to make it right.
- Common sense rules! (slang: rule: a generalized term of praise or approval, e.g., "Led Zeppelin rules!"). One of the first tenets of our business was, "If it doesn't make sense, don't do it." Sort of the "anti-corporate" philosophy. And guess what? It works!
- Always be open to new opportunities. Being mostly introverted geeks, getting out there and meeting new people has sometimes been difficult for us. However, we've been introduced to some really great people and opportunities through our various networking efforts and we get better at it and more comfortable with it each time.
- Go with your gut. We've learned it's really important to get help and advice from people we trust. In the end, though, we need to weigh everything and do what feels right for us. Not trusting our instincts has sent us down the wrong path more than once, but we're learning!
I could go on and on, but you get the picture.
Finally, some thank yous are in order. After all, we certainly didn’t make it this far all on our own.
We'd like to thank our fellow Cedar Valley and Iowa entrepreneurs for blazing the trail before us and with us; our generous advisors and supporters for always having our backs; our clients for placing their trust in us and giving us a chance to prove to them not all IT people are the same; our kick-ass team for keeping us humble and focused on what's important; and, finally, our spouses for taking the leap with us and supporting us every step of the way.
We are truly thankful for all of you!
And now...back to work!