Seven years ago this morning, Don Tanner and I walked into a temporary office and immediately got to work. Remember the scene from the beginning of “Jerry McGuire” where he feverishly tried to work the phones? It was something like that, except we were sitting on furniture borrowed from our landlord using phones salvaged from my grandfather’s house.
Our first order of business was to do what we thought we could do best, create PR for ourselves. Today, seven years later, it’s easy to look back at our first materials and realize how much has changed (social media has since more than moved off college campuses, for example) but also how much has not changed. We decided, from the beginning, that our first and highest priority would be to develop a set of values and live by them every day. They are, essentially, our Constitution. Here is how we articulated them in our announcement press release, by design, attributed to the two of us:
“‘Tanner Friedman values respect, teamwork, integrity, professionalism and work/life balance, along with a commitment to follow-through,’ said Tanner. ‘Those are the qualities we will share with our clients and in our workplace culture,’ added Friedman.'”
We think we have lived up to those promises. The set of values has guided our hiring of colleagues, our choice of collaborators, and whether to begin or continue working with clients.
Respect means mutual respect, with every “street” two-way. Integrity means honesty, to everyone, every time, even in situations where traditional practice in our industry may be to go in a different direction. Professionalism means adhering to the highest standards. Work/life balance means taking the time necessary to enjoy a well-rounded life, without having to worry about office control over a finite about of personal time. And a favorite “AFDI” – Actually F-ing Doing It – is about a commitment to following through, with accountability to doing what you say you’re going to do and not repeating the same meeting over and over again.
Tough decisions are made easier when you have a set of values to measure against. In late 2013, we encountered challenges with a client that put us at a crossroads. While there had been a long-term relationship, a new top executive was not consistently demonstrating cohesiveness with our values. That helped us decide to terminate the relationship. In the difficult conversation with the executive, we were asked, essentially, how come we were telling the truth – that we were ending the relationship because of a lack of cohesiveness around values. The executive wondered when we didn’t just say that the fees weren’t high enough or we just didn’t have time. We explained because that wouldn’t be true, but that question told us all we needed to know about our decision.
After this many years, we are often asked for advice from fellow entrepreneurs. We always start in the same place – determine your values and live by them.
Thank you to our colleagues, collaborators, clients and all who have helped us achieve these first seven years. We look forward to many more years of working together.