What a wild six months it has been.
This is my 9th year in business, and I've learned more in the past 6 months than the other 8.5 years combined.
I'm sitting on the floor of my log cabin in Montana with my laptop and a cup of coffee on my day off, and I'm kind of reeling. It's good to stop and think sometimes, I guess, but it's a powder day, and I can't even muster up the energy to go snowboarding. This isn't like me. It's 2pm, and I'm still in my pajamas.
Now, all these years later, not only am I a much-improved cook, but also, I created a full-time job for myself, and I've created jobs for others. In two states nonetheless.
Truly great employees are hard to find. I've gotten my ass kicked this year trying to find employees who are a good longterm fit, and it has been expensive. I'm an optimistic person, and I like almost everyone, so I have had to learn to be much slower to hire, to put applicants through the ringer a bit more. And I've learned how to fire. I've worked way too hard on this business for a decade of my life to let it rest in the wrong hands. I have to protect what I've built. I owe it to my truly great employees to protect them too, and I'm getting good at firing people who disrespect our livelihood. Firing people is the worst, but like any business owner, I have to do this sometimes, and dragging it out is counterproductive. There isn't enough room in a small business for negativity.
So that's the bad. I suppose it's a reality of growth, of getting a new office dialed, of believing things I should have questioned. But that's part of life, too. Mistakes breed growth, even if it stings. I'm resilient. I can handle it so my team doesn't have to. Fuck, I'm tired.
People are noticing. Clients, prospects, fans, partners are noticing. I'm getting asked to speak a lot lately, about women in business, the power of play, and how to handle conflict. Brands like Camber Outdoors, Roam Events, and SheVentures have provided incredible platforms for partnership and collaboration. Industry friends are coming out of the woodwork, and our little, creative tribe is growing. Our work is backed by passion and meaning, and our voices are getting louder. This is the good. This would not have been possible without taking a risk on integrating into Denver and just going for it. This is bigger than my petty employer problems.
This is work we do for women everywhere, in the now and the future, and I'm incredibly proud to take a stance and crew up with other people who believe in our mission to elevate women in business, adventure, and society in general.
This does not mean deflating men, by the way. Amplifying women is not a mutually exclusive relationship with men. I love men. Men are awesome. That's an important message in our conversations, too.
That leaves the reality.
Acknowledging your reality and your truth takes perspective, and perspective is difficult to find when you're going hard all the time.
There's no guide for business. There's no giant handbook that is going to tell me what to do in every insane situation I end up in almost every day. But there are mentors and friends and partners who are more than happy to sit down and hash shit out. And there is snowboarding. Thank god for snowboarding. And dogs. And coffee.
I believe in physical exertion every single day, whether it's lifting weights to failure, running until your lungs hurt, or scaring yourself with velocity and a mountain.
And I believe in laughter. We take ourselves too seriously. It's just life. Find fun every single day because otherwise, what's the point?
I've obliterated every new business goal I've set for myself in the past two months, and the work is fun. We're hiring (slowly). And my truly great employees get greater every day. They're amazing humans and creatives. I'm lucky to have them.
And I'm sitting here missing a powder day. So that's the reality.
Out of here- see you on the mountain.
I slammed my truck door closed and caught a whiff of myself in the parking lot on my way to work. "I smell bad," I thought, inhaling the remnants of yesterday's campfire and the three days worth of mountain bike dirt stuck to my skin.
I caught my reflection in the window of the Battery621 building on my way up on the ramp to the front door. My trucker hat hid the dried sweat in my hair. Kind of. I had new bruises and dried mud on my not-so-recently shaven, tan legs, and my shirt was wrinkly from being stashed in the back of my truck after a rainstorm. It smelled musky. Gross. Was I wearing mold? As my steps reached the front door, I noticed my muscles were sore from putting down miles and miles of trail around Monrach Pass and Crested Butte, but that one made me happy. It was a great weekend in my favorite part of the world. I smiled.
I don't belong in a city, but here I was on a Monday morning at 6:45am in Denver.
I made it. I showed up. That counts, right?
It's 7pm, and I can hardly keep my eyes open. My dog is sleeping beneath the coffee table, and I'm tempted to crawl under there and join him. I've been putting in WORK lately, and it's about to pay off for the whole crew. I work a lot of jobs at my own company these days. I'm growing Wheelie, because growth is fun, and my business intuition tells me that my pattern of wandering is organically weaving itself into something strong.
Entrepreneurs are wild. They thrive in risk. Business is no different than picking the way down exposed terrain.
I look back at the last ten years of my life-- the powder days, the late nights, the laughter, and the bonds between friends with matching goggle tans and knee surgery scars. I drove an old Subaru containing everything I owned from mountain town to mountain town, meeting daring, loving people along the way. Chefs with wild eyes and unbeatable sushi. Nocturnal snowcat operators who spent their nights combing the snow like a zen garden. Veterinary technicians who fearlessly pulled porcupine quills out of the roof of Rottweilers' mouths. Bank tellers covered in carnage from mountain bike crashes. Some of us just aren't meant for proper civilization.
I feel like we should do something big this year, something with lots of fire and a few minor explosives, but just continuing to grow and create awesome projects for our clients seems like a good plan, too.
Stay posted to see what we come up with for this monumental event...
I’m really into goal setting.
I always thought of myself as Type B, but I think I’m further on the Type A spectrum than I realized, or running a business has made me that way.
Setting goals works best if you get really specific.
I do this in three phases:
2016 was a big year for Wheelie. It was our 7th year in business, and it was a big one.
Owning a business can be overwhelming. As I planned for 2017, I realized that sometimes it helps to glance backward instead of forward. Like a stereotypical business owner, I'm almost always looking forward, battling complacency, thinking big, and seeing what opportunities for creativity I can tease out of the mundane. I analyze everything and constantly focus on how to be better, more efficient, and more effective. But sometimes, to move forward, you have to look backward.
And that's when I realized how big 2016 has been.
Last January, we moved into a new office on Wisconsin Avenue toward the ski resort. Actually, it's a really old office, but it's new to us. Built in 1910, it was the first building in Whitefish north of the train tracks. Its rustic charm has also delivered a slew of less-than-charming events like a leaky roof, a flooding basement, and heaters that need new parts. But you know what? Roofs can be patched, it's too cold for flooding now, and the HVAC guy lent us space heaters, so nothing can get us down. Plus I can't high five everyone in the company by spinning in my chair anymore, so this bigger space was needed. I even scored my own office, an improvement from having to hold employee reviews on the roof of our old office for privacy.
I spent a lot of this year locked in my office working on The Plan, leaving my employees to wonder if all the papers and coffee cups on my desk meant something or if I was trying to start a recycling center stack by stack. I researched a lot. I asked questions. I listened to the answers and thought about how to turn them into something that resonated with my core. I attended a freakish amount of webinars. I sought professional business advice on the same topics from a few different perspectives. I worked with lawyers. I learned more this year than Wheelie's past six years combined.
And The Plan is ready. Or at least ready enough. I couldn't be more psyched about 2017.
I love winter. I enjoy wearing puffy jackets and heavy, insulated boots. I find satisfaction in shoveling snow. But most of all, it's snowboarding that gets my heart. And by that measure, this was an excellent weekend.
Our new Thanksgiving tradition is to take Eddy on the sleds and out for a big day of backcountry skiing. Eddy is great at sitting on my lap and balancing. I also have his harness hooked to the chest strap on my backpack to make sure he stays safe when we hit bumps and chunder. Sweet little dude.
Taking dogs in the backcountry is kind of a controversial topic. Some people are really against it because it's just adding an element to your trip without the addition of another body that can save you, just one more thing to take care of. I am a huge fan of letting dogs be dogs, and I cherish days where I get to romp through snow with my pup. (My O.G. dog, Scout, summited more peaks in his nine years than most humans do in a lifetime.) I don't take dogs in the backcountry when the avy danger is anything more than low, and we never do anything strenuous or sketchy when the dogs are around. No chutes. No cliffs. We stick to mellow tree runs with lots of breaks for treats and pats. Eddy seems to love chasing my snowmobile on the road just as much as anything else, and this was a happy Thanksgiving.
A few tricks I know for dogs in the backcountry:
At Wheelie, we definitely create a LOT of commercial work. It's what we do for a living, how I pay my employees, and what gets our clients the results they are looking for. BUT... I still love painting. I will always love painting. I especially enjoy painting on unusual surfaces like random boards and skateboard decks. Gesso is the best. So, after what is now 10 months of decoration procrastination, I finally painted something for the office.
Here are a few snapshots of the creative process:
A few weeks ago, I enlisted a new policy at work:
We work four 10-hour shifts Monday through Thursday, so
WE ARE CLOSED ON FRIDAYS.
This is an official agency policy, and I would shout it from the rooftops if I could so that everyone who ever works with us knows about it.
This schedule is beneficial on so many levels.
+3 day weekends every weekend.
+Getting to go on mini trips, like MTB trips to Canada or backpacking in the Bob Marshall Wilderness!
+Boosts employee morale.
+ Gives creativity a chance to rest and reset. (this is a huge one.)
+If I secretly work on Fridays, I don't get interrupted by anything, and I get a ton done.
+Dentists, Doctors, Haircuts, Banking, personal appointments etc. -- these things can now happen on Fridays, and employees don't have to try to cram these things into their lunch breaks. (And Friday is free cookie day at the bank.)
+No employees in the office= one day less of utilities costs!
+Skiing during the week instead of the weekend? Yes please.
+Some of our crew has kids. They get to spend a whole day with their kids without paying for daycare.
+We get to work earlier during the week, so we get a lot done before the phones even start ringing.
I could go on, but I won't because it's the weekend now.
Happy Friday on a Thursday, and we'll see you on Monday!
It has been a long time since I've written a business/lifestyle blog post. It has been a long few months. My manfriend broke both his wrists while downhill mountain biking, so that has been quite the challenge, and business has been more difficult than usual. After the wrists were mostly healed and the man could put a shirt on by himself, I decided to go on a bit of an entrepreneurial soul-searching, dirtbag journey.
You see, I have a belief that any type of marketing that feels like a sales pitch is gross. Ew.
So every now and then, I need to go make sure that at Wheelie what we say, do, and (most importantly) what we stand for align. That we are still relevant, or better yet, progressive, and that we are still "in touch" with the industry.
The thing is, if you're going to be in touch with the outdoor industry, you have to go touch it.
Does that sound weird?
I'm okay with that.
So I rolled up my sleeves, packed a suitcase, and loaded the truck because I had a lot of metaphorical touching to do. I also believe that as an agency owner, curiosity is my best friend, and this is a big world with a lot to explore.