THE GOOD OLD DAYS
"I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them." - Andy Bernard (The Office).
There's something horribly magical about the early age of a business. Passion and drive burst at the seams in undeniably unhealthy ways. Too-long nights are spent agonizing over every. single. detail. In my case, burning my eyeballs by staring at a computer screen for waaayyy too long, managing the various stages and communication efforts of our business. In Gabe's case, obsessively checking each piece in fabrication, looking for the tiniest of imperfections to correct. In short, it's this beautifully weird period full of compulsive habits that you actually enjoy.
Inevitably, though, our thoughts in this period are laced with visions of what the future holds, because that's what we're always working toward, right? Better machinery. Hired hands. More free time. But Andy's words always resurface. Despite all the chaos, stress, worry, sleep deprivation, I have to wonder...what if these are the good old days?
These are the days I work side-by-side with my husband, interrupted by the unfailing antics of our two little kids or our lovably obnoxious dog. In terms of business life, Alamo Design Co is still in its infancy, full of crazy wonderful potential that is both terrifying and exciting. The more our business grows, the more it moves away from what it is, what we know it to be. Even though it's positive growth that allows us to make a living from a passion*, spend quality time with the people we love, and help our maker friends along the way, it means we're slowly changing. Not knowing what that change will look like as our business evolves is a little bit scary.
So far, we've been fortunate enough to grow organically, which has allowed us to gracefully adopt systems and processes needed to manage that growth. It’s also given us time to formulate specific company goals and values. We know we won't be for everyone for one reason or another, and that's okay. We struggled with that realization at first, comparing ourselves to others as some kind of marker for what we “should” be doing. Running a business automatically enters you into a competitive market and it’s easy to get sidetracked by looking outside of your lane. By defining our core values, we made the mental shift to get back in our lane and make decisions guided by those values rather than an unfounded presumption of what we “should” be doing.
Our most controversial principle is that Alamo Design Co will never cut corners to put out an inferior product at a lower price. We’ve missed out on work because of that. It has nothing to do with pretension and everything to do with the sole reason we got into woodworking and design in the first place. Gabe started this business because he is ridiculously obsessed with what he does. He listens to podcasts about it, reads about it, watches videos about it, talks about it with friends, thinks about it while I'm talking to him... even dreams about it. He literally feels like it’s what he’s here on Earth to do, and even if we grew to 100+ employees (which is not our goal, by the way), he'd still be sweating it out in the shop with everyone else, rolling up his sleeves and getting his hands dirty. His goal from day one was to make things with his own two hands and that will never change no matter how much our business does.
Maybe this blog has been a bit rambly (yeah, rambly. I just made up that word), but if you can't ramble in a blog post, where can you? I guess the good old days are what you make of them. Maybe we’re in them and maybe we’re not, but for now I'm going to enjoy all the wonderful stress of this business that is just us, and wait patiently to see what the future holds.
* Even though I read recently that Nick Offerman said it's extremely hard to make a living as a full time woodworker. He ain't lyin'. It's a next level hustle.