Today, as our mentor and landlord Will Burgin added a “for lease” sign to market our office property, it caused quite the commotion in my head and heart.
We are leaving the Village.
I started remembering how excited we were when, just two of us, left the Regional Technology Incubator of Columbus at CSU (big name … sheesh) and moved into this office at the Village on 13th, back in July of 2011. We were a small “growing” company and the city hadn’t seen anything like us before. We were worried, scared, and happy. We got Internet, phone systems, software, licenses and, of course, payroll. Adding bills to the business because that’s what I thought good, growing businesses did.
Five years ago I would have told you we would not be renewing our lease because we were moving to a bigger property. Turns out, five years is enough time to learn a few things; our lease is up and we are setting sail. And even though we’ve been around for about six years, we’ve been busy focusing on pushing the business into the future.
Our new approach and vision may change the market once again. It might encourage our regional competitors to come to terms with challenges rural ad agencies are facing, especially when choosing to serve the local communities and the small businesses they incubate, while still trying to establish an upper tier client list.
So, just like anyone with a heart would, I spent the past hour reveling in the whimsical, easy-going version of myself, re-living the early moments I spent those days and nights making it work: family and business. Not a lot of people knew that when we moved in, I had just married my beautiful wife, Whitney, and had a toddler named Gus. If you were around me the energy was glaring and impossible NOT to soak in. Most of you just may remember that disposition.
Luckily, there aren’t any tragic occurrences or business failures to succumb to. Just myself, wishing I knew then what I know now. We drove the business to a great height, and then slammed it back down. As we have spent this last year leveling out, I began to notice a new version of myself. Maybe not as nice … maybe a little more cynical. Maybe the way a veteran feels after coming back from war. But my heart is still big and my perseverance still exists. I’ve learned more about people, debt, and the difference between success and happiness. I believe it to be more than most people will ever know.
I realize where we need to go now … and I know how we are going to get there.
On July 1, we lift anchor and became an “agency of the cities.”
As our workforce has gone upwards of 16 people, we have attracted some of the best creatives (writers, artists, devs) from cities like Kansas City, KS; Columbia, SC; and Athens, GA to remotely join our local team here in the Valley. We plan to create a network of team members all over the Southeast and connect client’s goals to our team, who are all tested and trained. To drive our process of making quality work and driving clients to feel the results.
I’ve heard whispers like, “Where is Lucas?” And respectfully so, I’ve had to drag myself back to the drawing boards. It’s vital I bring myself back to zero and re-evaluate our success criteria. I mentioned to Whitney in the beginning of the year that we are now building the company I should have started in 2010.
And we have not forgotten the non-profits we built like Hack Columbus and ProjectSocial.org. We will be integrating these amazing beasts into Stand And Stretch as we tie together the pure altruism of these ideas and wrap our digital arms around them and pull them close.
You may be asking by now where will we do all these amazing things. While Columbus is on a multi-year (100 year?) plan to build something useful, I have been busy collecting the spaces we will need to make it work. Here are some of the co-working, multi-location residencies we will cohabitate around the region. You can find us stirring up cities starting July 1, 2016 at the location below:
- Troy University River Campus
- Pilot program that I am very excited about. More details soon.
- Round House Technology Incubator in Opelika
- Corporate membership for co-working, gigabit Internet, and facilities in East Alabama.
- Offices at Cunningham at CSU
- Meeting and training spaces.
- Chambers of Commerce
- Membership benefits, meeting spaces, connections.
- Columbus Public Library
- Free collaborative meeting spaces, free Internet, busy work mode.
- Home Offices
- Work in progress…
- Gym Office (ugh.)
- Making time for health.
Our lease is up, but we will exist in the city in which we decide to work that day. We are cutting the tethers of lease, the weight of phone lines, and other bills like alarm systems and power. Altogether, this amounts to $1,950 of expenses we leave behind, while picking up a few small costs. We’ve also done some innovative changes in our companies’ communication and access points that we can on-board a new team member in less than two weeks.
It is sad to see the lease sign in the window, but it’s a signal to the city that change is occurring. As a company that has seen economic development shift to East Alabama and a diminishing environment for entrepreneurs, we must adapt and create the business model that will work. We are not just going anywhere.
We are going everywhere.