What I learned starting an agency in 2020

I’ve always been a conservative planner, so starting a new agency and walking right into a global pandemic was about 1,000 miles outside my comfort zone.

Only a month into our launch, I found myself in disbelief that after so much planning and deliberation of this new business venture, it would quickly come to a halt before even our bank accounts were fully setup.

But that halt never came. In fact my partner/co-founder, Dominick Tecson, and I found ourselves being thrust into rapid response projects with our clients. I try to reflect back on March and April, but it’s still all a blur to me today.

That said, I’ve learned very clear lessons this year as an agency owner. It’s too long to list or prioritize them all, but I want to share a few that I’ve cherished through my reflections.

Pain can be a good indicator of growth.

Only in hindsight can I clearly see how much I’ve grown this year. However, I do become aware that I’m at least in a state of growth when challenges become overwhelming or the mental stress burns me out. Humans respond to pain immediately, and rightfully so as it’s part of our survival instincts, so it’s easy for everyone to relate to this.

The trick is to understand the source of the pain and what that pain means. For example, it’s a fruitless exercise to go out and start poking yourself with needles in the name of ‘growth.’ But the sore legs you feel after an intense workout or the mental stress of preparing for a big speech are signs of great growth experiences. It’s important to understand this distinction so that you’re growing with a healthy mindset. Not all pain is linked to growth, but all growth is linked to pain.

So be sure that the pain you’re going through has a greater purpose applied to it and that it’s not endangering you in any way.

Flexibility is key to navigating uncertainty.

Whenever I hear the world “flexible” my mind always visualizes Jean-Claude van Damme doing the splits on two chairs. Seeing that as a kid always inspired me to be flexible because it showed how much more you are able to do when you are nimble— kick higher, kick wider, kick more powerfully. Then I grew older and realized how hard it is to actually be physically flexible, and even more so to maintain it. Nobody is born with flexibility, it’s earned. The same applies to mental flexibility.

In a world where talents and skills are placed on a pedestal, it’s easy to forget about personal characteristics that lead to the attainment of success. Especially in today’s age of digital marketing, being nimble and having the systems to adapt are critical for startup survival. This year put those qualities to the test for me and our team. Our ability to bend, without breaking, carried us through all the challenges and difficulties. The way I see it, the best way to expect the unexpected is by maintaining the ability to be flexible.

It’s more fun doing it together.

I’ve had experience working as a freelancer and working from home for over a decade. As an introvert, middle child, and self-learner, this fit me well for many years because I love autonomy and creative control.

But I can confidently say this year has been one of my most memorable and, most importantly, enjoyable years of my professional career because I had a business partner to share all the failures, wins, and successes with. And looking back, I realized a lot of my work highlights featured coworkers or team members in collaborative settings. As much as I prefer working as a lone wolf, I know how much closer I am to my potential when working with a team to achieve something together.

It is well.

2020 was a year of many curve balls, to say the least. We encountered many struggles, challenges, stresses, and fortunately, many blessings as well. One of my go-to songs is a cover of “It is Well” by Audrey Assad. It’s a simple, yet profound reminder for me that no matter how hard or how chaotic life gets, God will always be there to provide. So I know whatever I go through is to help me to be stronger, better, and closer to Him.

That faith and trust kept me rooted throughout this tumultuous year, helping me navigate the tides of uncertainty. As I close out this year and enter 2021, I know it is, and always will be, well.

"Not all pain is linked to growth, but all growth is linked to pain."

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