A Different View on Success

Written by Parker Gates
Posted August 12, 2015

You know, Anna and I seem to fall prey to the idea that scaling our business is the most logical next step after several years of workshops, design sprints, and teaching principles steeped in design.

Often times this is born out of a desire for efficiency or comfort. Since everything we do is custom based on the needs of the organizations we work with, we tend to think things would get easier if we just had a bigger team and more clients. Pretty counter-intuitive right?

This idea is so engrained in us that we always seem to fall back on it when the future doesn’t seem obvious. This is what conventional thinking tells us to do! And honestly, if I look at it, it’s just lazy thinking.


However, we have built a business and more importantly, amazing lives, on going against the grain of convention for the past 5 years.

Partly due to our own personal experience in starting to scale and partly due to great advice from our wise mentors we have refrained from growing for growths sake and kept things very small and nimble.

The con: this feels like we don’t get to impact as many people and organizations as we would like to. Also, frankly, we just assume we’d make more money this way.

The pro (there are many. This is just one): We can take extended periods of time off whenever we want. For instance, Anna recently came back from 6 months of maternity leave. I’m about to embark on 2 months of global travel. Neither one of us had to think twice about taking time off since we don’t have to “manage” a group of people or feel responsible for “making payroll”.

It feels like the equivalent of being debt free in my personal life. Nothing owns me or can make me come to work. We’re here because we love what we do.

So for us growing the business is not as much of a priority as time off and being with our families. Spending plenty of time recovering from good, hard work is more important than keeping the calendars booked. Time with our kids or getting away in the woods means more to us in the long run than employee count or a larger bank account.


We spend a fair amount of time in Silicon Valley where lots of companies are supposedly thinking far outside the box but they still measure success in what we feel like are antiquated metrics. And those metrics may be valuable to shareholders but I don’t think they’re meaningful to employees or founders or potentially even their customers.

All that to say… our ideas of what success looks like can be reviewed and re-evaluated regularly to sanity check our motives and make sure we’re moving in a direction that feels meaningful to us as well as our clients.

The craftsman does not always build toward a prior vision. Often images come in the process of working. The material, his hands – together they beget -M. C. Richards


  • Parker Gates

    Testing testing…

  • Simon

    Nice post Parker