Learning from the Past Before Stepping into the Future

I recently spent a month and a half coming up with four words: “Make Things That Matter.” It might seem odd to spend so long on a simple sentence, but for the growth and future of TEN7, and for the sake of our journey to a new ten7.com, it was time very well spent.

Our mission as a company is to “Make Things That Matter.” It is the foundation upon which we are going to continue to grow. It guides us as we dive into the look, feel, navigation, and content of our new website.

To be fair, the mission statement wasn’t the only product of my six-week exercise, which consisted of a lot of internal monologue spurred on by regular check-ins with some trusted advisors. Alongside the mission, I honed our company values and worked to develop a clear, active vision and voice to guide us forward.

I presented our new mission at a recent staff meeting and was pleased to see smiles and applause on the zoom screens staring back at me. I also took the opportunity to remind people (and educate our more recent hires) about our company history, from starting out as a one-person shop in my basement, through our time operating out of our downtown Minneapolis office space, to becoming a fully distributed company with employees spread across the country. I firmly believe that you can’t confidently step forward into the future without understanding both where you’ve been and where you want to go.

As I looked back, it was interesting to see that TEN7 never had an articulated “mission statement” before. We had a “why” statement spelling out what we offer to clients, but nothing that clearly laid out our reason for existence. For much of our history we didn’t have any articulated values either (although I like to think we HAD values, they just weren’t spelled out!).

That’s why our decision to build a new website was a welcome opportunity. It gave us a moment in time to step back, understand who we are, and to set a course for the future. Like many companies, we had in some ways built our ship as it was sailing, adapting to demands and growing without necessarily having a clearly defined foundation or a North Star to guide us. So it was exciting, and perhaps daunting, to pause and make a more deliberate plan going forward.

In my last blog post I spoke about starting “step one” of our journey to a new website. As I reflected later, I think that was premature. This process of self discovery has really been “step zero,” unrelated to the actual website building but intimately connected to the path that is now beginning.

With that backdrop, and the website journey moving forward in earnest now, here are a few more things I’ve learned:

  • Don’t Let Eagerness Short Circuit the Process
    Like many of our clients, one of my first questions when we decided to build a new site was, “When can we get it done?” Now I’ve come to terms with the fact that shortcuts are not going to be in the best interests of the final product. Yes, I’m still eager to see the finished product, but I’m committed to properly addressing each step along the way.
  • Don’t be Afraid to Look in the Mirror
    Introspection can be exhausting. I feel like I know my company and I have a good feel for who we are and what we stand for, but taking some time to reflect and look at what we have become with a fresh eye took some effort. I’m glad I did that work.
  • Defining What You Believe Will Get You Where You want to Go
    I feel like TEN7 is evolving, and having this self awareness about our mission and values is going to help us become even better.

As I continue this website journey as the “client,” I hope the experience will enhance my ability to guide clients in the future. If we’re truly going to “Make Things That Matter,” we need to help people understand that a new website is an opportunity, not just a task to complete and a box to be checked. Taking this time to step back will help my team move forward. It will also help us become the kind of partner we want to be for the clients we serve.

Next month, I’ll provide an update as we formally launch the website process and my journey as the “client” continues. Again, I hope our experience will help you think about your business, your mission, your values and how you are communicating with the world. And if you need some help, I’m just an email away.