From sapling to tree: the Treebird journey five years later

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Oh, those days of yore. We weren’t quite Steve Jobs (we’re still waiting for our likeness in Spaceship Earth), but we were close enough. A woman and her dream (and her husband and two dogs), working from the kitchen table of an East Atlanta bungalow. A Mac, a cellphone, a printer, a deep well of grit and determination, and a couple handfuls of hope.

The What ifs were too numerous to count. Failure wasn’t an option, but it remained an omnipresent specter nonetheless, like the residual dirt on our 90-year-old hardwood floors. We put our heads down and did what we’ve always done best: treated people well, made them laugh, created nice things, applied what we knew, invented what we didn’t, and never took ourselves too seriously.

Apparently, that’s been a winning formula. And it’s the habits of mind and ways of being that sustain you through the storms of entrepreneurship. We’ve moved offices several times. Endured a flood or two. Clients come and go. The best ones stay. Like childhood friends, your lives become intertwined. You consult one another before buying a new iPhone case. That’s normal, right?

If you’re into data and stuff, they tell you half of small businesses don’t make it to the five-year mark. But if you know anything about us, you know we’re more intuitive than data-driven, guided more by the ephemera of the moon than the unflagging predictability of the sun.

So how’d we do it? We have some vague notions.

Build a great team. Fancy people have said “culture trumps strategy,” and we’re believers. We’re also believers in togetherness. There’s simply no substitute for enjoying the people with whom you work. We have such a fine collection of fascinating and talented ‘birds right now that nothing seems insurmountable. Together, we laugh, we cry, we dance, we TopGolf, we chant. And because of all that, we trust each other, rely on each other, and create amazing work together.

Say yes a lot. Even when it scares you. Mostly when it scares you. You’re not going to grow (as a person, a company, a robot) if you just stick to what you know. Opportunity favors the brave, or something like that. And what’s the worst that can happen?

Know when to say no. Here’s the tricky part. If you say yes to everyone and everything, you’re going to burn out, rage against the pollen count, and cease to find joy in Scott Rogowsky. None of these things are healthy. This is where instincts come in. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right. And not feeling right is different than something feeling scary or daunting. If you can master those nuances, you’re well on your way.

Treat people well. Kindness, politeness, and humanity still go a long way. It doesn’t mean you’re a pushover. It means you’re not a sociopathic monster. You can call it the Golden Rule, you can call it karma—nomenclature doesn’t much matter. What does matter is how you build relationships, treat others, and influence the world as a force of all that’s decent and good.

Don’t take it too seriously. Of course, of course, business requires professionalism, concentration, hard work, commitment, and a certain amount of decorum. But you can toe all those lines without being deadly serious. This desert life already strains and stresses us enough. Your 40+ hours a week shouldn’t be a long slog toward the bottom line. We can’t always just be working for the weekend. Find a way to have fun, relax, and let loose, and inspired, uninhibited work tends to follow.

Five years in, we count ourselves incredibly fortunate. Yes, we’ve created a bit of our own luck, but the universe has also shone favorably on our little start-up. We work hard, but we also have a canister of 200 high-bounce balls in the office along with a shrine to The Rock. We have amazing clients who push us, allow us to push them, and who keep us on our toes and allow us to entertain them as we solve their branding problems. We have an incredible team whose exuberance and absurdity on a daily basis is only outdone by their ridiculous talent.

Five years in, and it’s time to start the clock on the next five years. Thanks for coming along for the ride, and we hope we can keep following our own advice and never lose sight of our humble beginnings. Even as our roots dig deeper, even as our trunk grows more formidable, even as our branches cast a broader shadow, and even as our ideas—the sane and the kooky, the creative and the considered, the inspired and the workmanlike—help our clients take flight into a brighter, fresher, and more fulfilling future.

Jaci Lund