I have twin girls who will be four in July. I often think: how did we get here so fast? I know it’s a parental cliche, but man is it true. Time flies by at a breakneck pace. It seems like just last week my girls were communicating in their indecipherable language, and somehow they understood one another. Now they are actually speaking in full, descriptive sentences. Their vocabulary is well over a thousand words. In so many ways, stable|kernel feels like my girls. We didn’t communicate as well in the early days, but our growing startup is evolving.
There are things in life you’re just naturally inclined to be proud of — no matter how simple they might seem. Toddlers are a perfect example. As a parent, you’re pretty much proud of everything they do. Well, maybe not screaming at restaurants, but nearly everything. And, that’s something you really can’t explain to your kidless friends; they don’t get it and usually compare this feeling to their dog’s accomplishments (note: it is NOT the same). As a parent, we are proud of the smallest of things. For example, yesterday I said to my almost 4-year-old twins: “Great job putting on ALL of your clothes today… and NOT punching your sister.” Small victories make parents happy.
stable|kernel’s Lil’ Kernels at our 3rd anniversary party
There are a lot of similarities between being a startup business owner and a parent to toddlers. In some sense, you are also a parent to your business. In its first year, you really have to do everything for the company. You feed and nurture it constantly. At times it feels like it can’t do anything on its own. You even worry that if you don’t check on the business every single minute, it won’t make it. Sleepless nights are not uncommon.
Year two is a bit more of the same. Still a lot of clinginess and neediness. But something fascinating is also happening: the business is becoming more independent. In some ways, this is totally refreshing, but, at the same time, totally terrifying. More employees. More clients. Even a little more sleep, but not a whole lot.
Third-year companies can be real assholes at times. Lots of accidents. Even some tantrums. And you even outgrow your space. But something pretty great also starts to occur around the third year: routines are embraced. The company is far more polished and put together, and our evolution is far more obvious to outsiders too. We more consistently practice our values in all we do. There are frameworks for how things are done, and others seem to embrace and follow them. Richard Branson said recently, “Toddlers see opportunities where adults often see obstacles. You learn a lot by doing.” I believe a young company operates in a very similar fashion.
We just completed our fourth year at stable|kernel. Quite an accomplishment in the startup world. Our company is far more stable than it was a few years ago. We have a deeper client roster and our marketing efforts grow by the day. Our reputation has also swelled in Atlanta and well outside of the Southeast. People actually know who we are when our name is mentioned. And that’s pretty cool.
An old African proverb says, “it takes a village to raise a child.” Just as we rely on others to help us to be great parents, we rely on an ever-growing village of clients who inspire us and employees who have helped us grow our skills and services. Over the last four years, we have brought on clients such as Whole Foods, Target, Rheem, Honeywell, Sallie Mae, MLB Advanced Media, Food Finder, BMW, Rize Artisan Pizza, The Fox Theatre and many more. We are so thankful to each and every one of our clients over the past four years. Certainly without them, we wouldn’t exist.
Like a parent of a rapidly developing toddler, I am incredibly proud of our company’s growth over the last four years. And as we scale, I am less involved in a lot of the things we do — because I don’t need to be. That is an absolutely fantastic feeling, and it makes me super proud — like a proud Papa. It shows that we are empowering our people and creating the right environment for our folks to grow and be continually challenged. I know I am biased, but I think that’s something we do extremely well.
It’s crazy to think we are four years old. And there’s an endless list of folks we could thank. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge our respective families and all the support they’ve given us over the last four years. No matter how well things are going (or not), your family is always there for you. I am so excited about our next four years and what the future holds for our stable|kernel family.