Out of the start-up pan and into the fire: Treebird at Year Four

America loves small businesses.
A 2010 poll by The Pew Research Center found that the public
had a more positive view of them than any other institution in the country –
they beat out both churches and universities, for instance, as well as tech companies.
As Janet Yellen pointed out in a speech last year,
“the opportunity to build a business has long been an important part of the American Dream.”
--Harvard Business Review, April 30, 2015
 

So for starters, we’re basically living the capital D Dream. According to Harvard, we’re more beloved than the Ivy League, Google, and Scientology. We’re crushing it!

On the other hand, Mark Wahlberg has starred in an astonishing 12 movies since 2013, with four more in various stages of filming and pre- and post-production. So maybe we should slow our roll just a bit. Thank you, perspective.

Treebird entering Year Four isn’t remarkably different than Treebird of yore. As is our wont, we once again changed offices—but this time it’s going to stick, mostly because we have a longish-term lease to keep us tethered. The Goat Farm, while special in its own idiosyncratic ways, proved to be just a stepping stone to our current location at the Lumberyard Lofts. Bonus: We’re literally across the street from the gleaming new location of Treebird client Star Provisions and Bacchanalia, which is both serendipity and that whole thing where you put an idea into the universe and it happens. Maybe our craft extends slightly beyond branding.

The Treebird team is as solid as ever, working, making, with some incredible new additions and the usual cast of old stalwarts. Our client list continues to grow in ways we couldn’t have predicted, and we’re grateful to every person, organization, and business who puts their trust in Treebird to deliver creative branding solutions and listen to our kookily wise counsel.

But it’s not all the same old wax-on, wax-off at Treebird. We’ve grown in ways that have allowed for two important conditions to take root, which, barring the not-out-of-the-question occurrence of all-out nuclear war and the abrupt extinction of humankind, may suggest a whisper of our sustainability for years to come.

 

Keeping the clock set at Day One

Consider this excerpt from Jeff Bezos’ annual letter to Amazon shareholders.

“Jeff, what does Day 2 look like?”

That’s a question I just got at our most recent all-hands meeting. I’ve been reminding people that it’s Day 1 for a couple of decades. I work in an Amazon building named Day 1, and when I moved buildings, I took the name with me. I spend time thinking about this topic.

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”


The conundrum, of course, is the desire to run as smoothly as a Japanese maglev train while not losing the start-up edge that got us there in the first place. In Silicon Valley they like to talk about “disruption” ad nauseam, but the same principle applies here. Standardize processes but don’t go through the motions. Work smarter, not harder, but don’t cut corners. Don’t reinvent the wheel, but more importantly, don’t lapse into complacency and routine. In terms of the growth of an organization, wrestling with these questions is sort of a big deal.

And like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, knowing that you’re grappling with these questions necessarily jostles the very questions around and leaves you feeling unsure if you’ve ever solved anything or simply reorganized the deck chairs as the band keeps playing. The point, we suppose, is being self-aware enough to have the conversations, to pose the questions, to reflect on the psychic distance between start-up (exciting and uncertain!) and stasis (comfortable and dead inside!).

At year four, we’re energized to be thinking about this dialectic, and thankful that the lot of us are just crazy and fly-by-seat enough to thrive within organized chaos without running too great a risk of becoming squares. And if we ever lapse, we think we have plenty of folks near and dear to us who will call us out, Bezos-style.  

Giving back

Given that the world is a vampire (very prescient, that Billy Corgan was), we’re fortunate and relieved to be in the position to help causes that help others. Heading into Year Four, Treebird has been able to extend pro bono design and branding work to Taste of the Nation and Give Me Five, two huge charity events that benefit the No Kid Hungry Foundation to combat childhood hunger; to Ben’s Friends, a food and beverage industry support group for those confronting addiction and substance abuse in an industry where it’s perceived as “normal”; and to the Aimee Copeland Foundation (winner of Treebird’s “Because a Woman Needs a Brand” giveaway on International Women’s Day), which promotes the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being for people of all abilities, especially those transcending physical limitations.

In a world where heartbreak exists around every corner (we’ll never forget we launched just a day after the Boston Bombing), we count ourselves incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to pay our success forward.

 

What dreams may come

Four years ago, we made a poster demarcating April 16, 2013 with the title: Let the Adventure Begin. It’s been an adventure alright—more than we bargained for in all the right ways. Thanks to our amazing clients and our indefatigable team, the adventure is as thrilling unpredictable and endlessly rewarding as ever. So we’re going to keep it going. Thanks for joining us on the ride.

Patrick Kelly