After Two Decades in Business, This is What I’ve Learned

what ive learned after 20 years in business Sublime Designs Media-01

While it’s hard to believe that 2023 is just literal weeks away, it’s even harder for me to wrap my head around the fact that Sublime Designs Media has officially been in business for 20 years. Two decades. Nearly half of my life. What?! As cliche as it may sound, I find myself sincerely asking “Where did the time go?”

The truth is, when I get over the initial shock that I have been doing this for as long as I have, I feel an immense sense of gratitude for how far we’ve come, how many clients we’ve helped, how much we’ve grown, and just how much I’ve learned as a business owner. 

While there has been no shortage of valuable lessons along the way, here are some of the most notable of the last 20 years:

Ups and downs are inevitable

If you did some quick math when I mentioned it’s been 20 years, you probably realized the timing in which I started Sublime Designs Media. It was 2002, immediately following 9/11 and the chaos and uncertainty that came with that tragic event. Just as we were finding our stride, the bubble crash of 2008 came knocking on our doors, and yet we persevered. And despite the last few years being some of the most challenging of my life between a global pandemic, becoming a new mom, and moving my family, they’ve also seen some peak growth for Sublime Designs. 

The truth is, as an entrepreneur or business owner, there will always, always be ups and downs, no matter how much you convince yourself you have control over things. It comes with the territory. It’s all cyclical in nature and in order to stay successful you have to learn how to ride the waves, be as prepared as you can for when they come, and not let fear get the best of you.  

Process is really important

There is a certain science behind growing a company. In order to ensure quality and high standards are maintained, as a business owner, you quickly learn that not only can processes help you scale, but they can also mitigate chaos when things go wrong.  Last year, when I was preparing to go out on maternity leave, my team and I established a set of processes that informed them of when to reach out to me to make sure nothing was missed, when certain things needed to be escalated, or what to do in various sets of scenarios that empowered them to make executive decisions. That open communication has been so important for us over the years and it’s allowed for me to delegate and feel rest assured when I need to step away.

Flexibility is a necessity

Even with the best processes in place, there will come times where you need to be flexible and have the ability to pivot. I attribute my openness to trying new things and changing course if needed as the reason I’m still in business today. When Sublime Designs Media first started, we were mostly working on publications and writing, design came later. Now, 20 years in, we are mostly focused on design and are coming back to our storytelling roots. Stewarding a successful business entails adapting and going where the demand is. The quicker you can pivot, the better.

There’s power of community

It can be isolating being a business owner, particularly when you work remotely. That’s why proactively creating community is so important. By surrounding myself with people I trust with different aspects of life, whether that’s how to handle people, how to scale, how to price, and so on, I’ve felt less alone as a solopreneur and in fact, more empowered. Yes, that includes calling my dad for advice. Often.

In that same vein, it’s worth noting when to ignore people. For instance, I started working from home in 2002. At the time, people who didn’t agree with my choice to work remotely would give me unsolicited advice about how I should get an office, but it worked for me then and it works for me now. Today, working remotely is a universally accepted concept.

Lean into your community, but do what’s right for you and your business first and foremost. You can pioneer your own way.

Fake it til you make it

The reality is, most people do. Imposter syndrome is real, especially among women. Especially among women business owners. We’re going against the grain and doing something that until recent years, society had told us wasn’t for us. This doesn’t make us any less confident, but the honest truth is that most of us are making it up and figuring it out as we go. It just takes some bravery and the belief that, while you’re bound to make mistakes, that’s where the real growth comes from. 

If I’ve learned anything after running a business for 20 years, it’s that the learning will never stop. I grow older and wiser, sure. But half the fun and excitement lies in the challenges I face, the adversity I overcome, and the multitude of lessons I learn along the way.

I said it before and I’ll say it again – the amount of gratitude I feel in hitting this milestone is overwhelming. A sincere thank you to our clients who have stuck by our side over the years, to my community of colleagues, and to the friends and family who have never been in short supply of advice and support. I can’t wait for the next 20 years!