Why we’re still in business, 10 years later

If I could point out one of the biggest things that has been responsible for our business still being in business now, is the power of trust. The act of trusting. Building, breaking and rebuiliding trust has to be a big one. It might be the only one actually.

As we approach our 11th year in business; being done with ten does seem to carry with it a badge of honor. But it’s not the only one. In fact, it’s just the beginning. So I want to bring awareness to a big leap for us as a company, at the same time addressing the challenge and the road we traveled to get here.

Last night Kevin and I attended a vendor party. Every now and then; usually during off wedding season; companies like ours get invited to “venue reveals” or “hot new venues” all sponsored parties that support our industry and help churn the culture of the wedding industry. In typical fashion, we dress to impress and get ready for a night of free drinks, music and meeting up with friends.

This time, however, we brought along my sister. My sister Jenna who is our first fully trained Primary Lead for our company; in short she does what Kevin does on wedding days. We came to the party as a team, as a family and had a great time. A really great time! With this being her first time and also being our first time to have someone with us during one of these typical vendor parties; we didn’t really know what to expect. We just knew we’d have fun. To my surprise; nothing was weird (at least for me) everything was easy. She fit right in. I didn’t worry and actually felt even more lifted. Confident and proud that we had found someone to hold up the mantle of what is our company is. It was so natural. It feels really good to know that with each new experience we have as a team; we build upon more trust with each other.

But that trust did not come easy.

Personally; Kevin and I didn’t know that we had so much distrust between us. Especially when we were first starting out because the business always came first. Before our emotions, before our family parties, friends, our own miscommunications that were bound to happen got swept under the rug. Simply because Kevin wanted to be financially stable with this company that was really “his baby”.

I didn’t come into the picture fully as I am now, until last year. Even though I’ve always worked for him. We were friends before we dated; so that was many years of not really seeing eye to eye. We had trained ourselves to put everything else aside to build the foundation of this business that now supports us very well.

That was our sacrifice. We trained in our craft; but didn’t know how to do much else in the realm of team building: trusting someone else, trusting that the support would be there. I’m not sure if it’s like that for other businesses, but that’s how I feel it was with us.

Starting a business is selfish. Not in a bad way; but honestly, in order to start a business; you must block everything out. You must only see the possibility of working for you first. The hustle and struggle is very real in the beginning, and when the money is not flowing; you need your own fumes to see you through that toughness. It’s a very lonely and difficult task. But usually one can be motivated enough to do it; because it’s yours. The pride and the take is 100%. Learning to think of someone else or learning to share your income can seem threatening.

That’s why the growth phase for most businesses is so hard. You can do everything yourself; but not forever. And when you finally ask for help; you have no idea how to ask. And perhaps when you ask; you ask to something that isn’t attainable and isn’t enjoyable. No one stays for that. We know that now.

For our company in particular; it took one person to imagine the possibility and actually believe it to be true. That was Kevin. All by himself. He was the one to take the leap. And through blind support I learned with the camera he gave me and we did the work for about 7 years. And that pioneering and vision was the spark that lit the flame we still have today. That’s pretty amazing.

Yet, after those first 7 years; we had grown apart, or rather I grew apart from him. I did not trust that he was looking out for me and he did not trust me to do the job he asked. My body was broken and so was our trust between us. I think we were both highly disappointed in one another. For two individuals who were highly capable; we simply did not try enough the first couple of times to take care of our first team which was him and I.

With my leaving; he found Jonathan and they began building upon what we could not. Our time with Jonathan gave us a bridge that gave us both the ability to take a step back and see each other clearly again. There was a better way of doing things was out there. We could be better. Better with each other and for the next person in our team; we would be the leaders they all deserved.

This is where we began to rebuild. We weren’t conscious of it, but we were doing it. We both were beginning to slowly see that we weren’t perfect beings. There was always another way. There was a kinder way. There was always another perspective that could give us hope that we weren’t stuck or that we were failing all the time; even when it did feel like that sometimes.

We failed with Jenna the first time. We failed all of them at first. We were too strict; too demeaning, too demanding. It scared everyone who came into our circle. It felt like nothing was ever good enough; especially with Kevin. Personally, I began to turn into a Kevin clone. I so wanted to please and show that trusting someone was possible and in my attempt to first build a team; I had failed. I knew better and didn’t advocate for those that were trying like hell to meet our standards. I lost who I was many times in an effort to make sure Kevin felt I was trying. My approach was wrong; even though we all had good intentions.

But for all our flailing and falling in the first round; we came back. And thank goodness for the forgiveness and patience of our team. For me, rebuilding trust meant addressing the hurt that everyone felt. I validated it with everyone that we failed them. I personally took responsibility for not being stronger. But now that I saw the error of our ways; it was clear on what were the next steps I personally had to do. I had to apologize. Then I had to show that we were earnestly trying to build something together. In everything that I said; typed and acted on; I let my feelings of how much I appreciated my team on the inside, show on the outside. I had to earn their trust again. I had to change. In doing so I not only was able to win back the trust of Jenna and my team, but also I see that I’m earning the trust of Kevin again.

I think often when we feel mistrust from others; it’s most likely a two- way street. There’s a reason there’s mistrust there. And sometimes you’re not even the source of the mistrust. But the ability of a good team is to establish an atmosphere that has built trust between one another and more importantly wants to build trust. From big lessons like that; I see the signal in all the little ways I wasn’t invoking trust in other members of my team and how I can fix it.

So with all that said, trust is something that I’m highly focused on and hopefully more and more conscious of as we move into the next phases of building this company into what we want it to be. As Earnest Hemingway said; “The best way to find out if you can trust someone, is to trust them.”