As I looked back on the past year, I couldn't help but think of Dickens. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
Our team at ThirdLove scaled to over 300 people, but we had to revamp many of our processes, given the new size of the team. We had more PR attention than ever, but some of it was adversarial in nature.
I know a lot of people have a glorified view of what a startup is and what it's like to scale a company. To tell you the truth, a startup is a bit like a duck--calm and collected above water, frantically paddling underneath to keep moving forward.
Here are a few other truths about entrepreneurship I've learned in the past year:
It's okay to be excited and anxious at the same time.
When I sat down to reflect, I could barely remember the past week, let alone what I was feeling six months ago.
I am excited about how far we've come in building a brand that impacts women in a positive way and connects with them in an authentic manner. At the same time, I feel more angst than I ever have about all the things we still have to do and how we're going to achieve them.
From the outside looking in, running a company can feel like an Instagram feed. People see the highlights, the vacations, nights out with friends and other major wins. No one is posting pictures of themselves exhausted and crying because their three-year-old is throwing another tantrum. No one shows off the complexity of what's happening internally.
The truth is, entrepreneurship is a grind and is never ever simple. Not once in the past six years have I made it to the end of a work week and thought, "Wow, that was easy."
You're always going to be focused on what's not going well and trying to fix that. But as an entrepreneur, you have to learn to take the good with the bad, the celebrations with the hard times--that's always how it will be.
You have the ability to own your internal and external narrative.
When you're working towards a goal, to you, it's usually very obvious what you're doing and why.
However, that's not always the case with the team around you. If you don't bring everyone else along, they begin to feel like they're not part of the strategy. And if they're out of the loop, it's hard for them to understand why decisions are being made.
For instance, when we posted the open letter in the New York Times responding to the comments Victoria Secret's CMO made in an interview, not everyone on the team knew why we had answered that way. They weren't aware of the narrative our leadership team was aiming for. We hadn't considered that possible dissonance when we were making the decision to respond. So, to get everyone on the same page, we walked our whole team through the decision-making process behind our efforts and answered any questions they had during a company all-hands meeting.
There aren't many companies where people walk around saying, "Wow, I'm being over-communicated to." There are always more opportunities available for you to reiterate goals, bring your team along for the ride, and ensure everyone has the same narrative.
Sometimes, you have to rescale and retool what's worked in the past.
Certain skills, processes, and behaviors get you from three team members to 300. But those aren't necessarily the skills, processes, and behaviors that take you from 300 to 900.
We brought on a new Head of People recently, and one of the things he told me was that reaching 300 people in a company is an inflection point. He had been with a company that experienced a similar growth trajectory, and he saw something similar in our business.
You reach a certain point where you have to change almost everything that's worked for you in the past in order to keep growing.
That change can be hard. It's difficult for the people who've been with you the longest who now have to adapt, whose roles may narrow, and expectations and complexity continue to increase. And it can be difficult for those who are joining while you're figuring everything out. Still, you have to start approaching processes with new eyes. Some of the most ingrained aspects of your business will have to become a blank slate so that you can start fresh with what you need now, not what you needed two years ago.
The journey isn't easy, but I'd encourage you to look back on the past year and reflect on all that you've accomplished--as well as what you may not have. Make space for a new year and new goals.