It’s 2013 and this year marks Aquascapes 23rd year in business. What a ride it’s been! For the first sixteen years, we grew by double digits every year, and four times were even recognized as one of the top 500 fastest growing, privately held, companies in America. We’ve sold well over a half a billion dollars in goods, and services, over these years. But when 2008 hit we experienced four years of declining sales before again reaching double digit growth last year. To say I learned a few lessons over that period is an understatement. But one lesson I learned sticks out above all the rest.
Today, I can honestly say I have a deeper perspective I never would have had, had the business continued to perform.
The one perspective I’ve gained, more than any other, is the true love I have for my TEAM. For that I believe I am far better off having gone through the economic crisis that revealed the extent I’m reliant on my Teammates. At the end of the day, my Teammates are the ones I find myself honored to fight beside. Success is a journey, not a destination. My Teammates make the journey worth experiencing. I didn’t always have that perspective. It came from seeing how utterly reliant I was on them, and us on each other, as we fought together to remake our business from the ground up. Nothing, and that’s a big statement, is more important than the Aquascape Team to the Aquascape Company. Customers are a close second, and honestly I hesitated briefly before writing that as not to offend anyone. But at the end of the day without the Team I’m blessed to serve with, there would be no customers.
Here’s the perspective I’d hope you would take back to your business from my thoughts. Most business owners do not have a Team. Sure they have employees, but a true committed Team not so much. Aquascape was no different than most businesses in that regard during our double digit growth years. We had many more employees than we do today, but not nearly as many Teammates. If you’re on our Team today you’re pulling your own weight and that of someone else’s that used to be here. If you’re a manager you worked harder, but you had less to show for it in your paycheck. Everyone who was employed at Aquascape, sacrificed for Aquascape. And because of those sacrifices we survived years 18, 19, 20 and 21 to even allow year 22 to happen. But it was through that process we became a Team.
Before most businesses experienced what Aquascape experienced, with declining sales, by far and away the number one thing I heard owners complain about was their employees. I wouldn’t call that a Team. Many owners can’t relinquish control. I wouldn’t call that a Team either. They say a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. The economic crises, with a building collapse right in the middle of it, were the two events that cemented in my mind the value of our Team. Today I feel more pride in the Aquascape Team than in anything else we’ve created directly, or individually, as a company. (And that’s saying a lot considering how much I love the ponds we, and our customers, create!) I couldn’t always say that and for that I’m eternally grateful.
In conclusion I’d like to share with you a letter I received from Aquascape’s longest Teammate 13 amazing years and an eternity ago. His words summarize, better than mine, why being part of something bigger than yourself, part of a Team is truly the most important thing a business creates.
Good luck creating your team with two, or the two hundred, lives you should be fortunate enough to fight beside. Carpe Diem!