It’s hard to believe it was three months ago that we celebrated Mekky Media’s fifth anniversary with a rooftop party. As we watched the sunset over Chicago on that warm, windy evening, I took time to appreciate this journey I’ve been blessed to be on, along with family, friends, staff and clients who have been by my side through it all. It was a night I’ll never forget, and it set the stage for a busy, exciting summer.

Life has been nonstop ever since — we’ve welcomed many new clients, we’ve had big media wins and events, we’ve settled in our new office, and I’ve been on several adventures, near and far. It’s all good – very good – but it makes me realize how thankful I am that I took time to reflect on the company’s anniversary before summer took off and things got too crazy. I’m a believer in commemorating life’s milestones and events – big and small. It’s important to delve into how they have shaped us, how far we’ve come, mistakes made and lessons learned.

That’s why I’ve been so reflective all summer about the five-year anniversary. The occasion has helped me understand what my experience as a business owner has given me. This has been a time of unmatched learning and growing, and I’ve connected with many people who have become important in my life. And yes, there’s been quite a bit of stress as well! It was one of the most difficult periods, but also incredibly rewarding and worth every sleepless night.

Now that we’re getting into fall mode, I’m becoming more future focused and ready to take Mekky Media to a whole new level, along with my rock star team. We have exciting things on the horizon! But first, before summer 2021 is fully in the rearview mirror, I want to share some of what I’ve been reflecting on these past few months — key learnings from my first five years in business. These are lessons I plan to carry with me as I enter this next phase. I hope they help you as well, whether you’re a business owner or looking for inspiration in your career.

    1. Invest in your people and care for them: I’ve made team building a priority since the early months of Mekky Media, and the efforts have paid off. I believe my staff feels valued and invested in the success of the company, which has contributed greatly to our fast growth. And they have each other’s backs, which is one of the reasons I can offer unlimited personal time off as a benefit. This works because everyone is in close communication and prepared and willing to jump in and back each other up. Throughout the pandemic, we have worked even harder to connect and foster teamwork. I planned regular virtual wellness sessions and events that brought us closer, even though we were physically apart. Why is this a priority? Because you can’t have a successful business without a thriving team, unless you plan to go it alone. And where’s the fun in that?!
    2. Choose clients carefully: As Mekky Media has grown, we’ve been able to get more selective about which clients we take on as partners. Some business owners might feel they don’t have this luxury. However, consider the consequences if you sign a client that is not a good fit for your mission or has unrealistic expectations. The client will be unhappy, which could affect the reputation you’re trying to build. Additionally, the team might be stressed and spinning its wheels. This leaves people feeling unmotivated and unfulfilled, and takes away from the contributions they can make for other clients that have the potential to become long-term partners. To avoid the stress that comes from ending an unfruitful partnership, do your due diligence when choosing clients and make sure it’s a good fit for everyone.
    3. Build your personal brand to promote your business: Over the past year, I’ve taken the leap of investing in building my personal brand. I’ve partnered with the digital brand strategy experts Leo & Laine who are helping me amplify my online presence, as well as Mekky Media’s. This is not an easy step to take. I’ll admit I was reluctant to put myself out there in such a public way. But I’m working with true pros who ensure everything we do is authentic and consistent with my company values. The results have been phenomenal. I believe a lot of Mekky Media’s extraordinary growth in 2021 is due to our stronger online presence and the way I’ve been able to tell my story and connect with new audiences.
    4. Reimagine the traditional office and work culture: Our pre-COVID way of working is still not back in full force, and possibly never will be. Turns out, I’m fine with that. While I had anxiety about working virtually when the pandemic started, I soon learned that my team could be just as creative and hard working as they had been when we were in the office together, maybe even more so! Today, while things are kind of back to normal but not really, Mekky Media is pursuing a blended approach. We spend some time in the office and have occasional in-person meetings, but we still work from home a lot and our weekly staff meetings are via Zoom. We’ve hired several new people, and we’ve managed to connect with them and build a positive, close-knit culture even though many of us have only been together a handful of times. This requires having trust, establishing new lines of communication (Slack is our friend!) and allowing yourself to reimagine everything you thought you knew about the way work gets done.
    5. Don’t lose sight of yourself: I’ve written a lot about the importance of prioritizing self care. That’s probably because this has been a challenge for me as I’ve been consumed with building my business the past five years. Now that I’ve gotten better at taking care of myself and the company simultaneously, I’m aware of how much happier I am when I get both of these things right. Not only am I physically and mentally healthier, but the company benefits as well. As they say, “genius is formed in the quiet.” Some of my best inspiration has come when I’m decompressing. So my advice to any business owner or busy professional is to take time for rest, healthy eating, exercise, meditation, outings with family and friends, travel…whatever it takes to bring some peace to your busy world. I am looking in the future to add more creative wellness and health initiatives to the company to really make this a core of what we stand for in the agency.

I’m still learning and growing, and I expect to have many more lessons as I move toward the next big milestone of a decade in business. Thanks for sharing the journey with me!