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CODO Goes to Eleven

What We’ve Learned After 11 Years of Business

Today is CODO’s 11th anniversary. I wasn’t planning on writing anything to mark the day (who celebrates 11 years?), but after reflecting on 2020 and what we’ve experienced this year, I wanted to capture a few thoughts. 

Cody and I founded CODO the Monday after graduating from college back in 2009, right in the middle of a recession. We were sheltered from that particular economic strain because we had nothing to lose. Not in a dramatic sense—it was the two of us building a business out of a 10′ x 10′ room. There was literally nothing to lose. (This was all long before wives and children and mortgages and employees entered the picture—we were animals when we founded CODO. Enthusiastic, but largely feral.) 

After navigating the last four months of the COVID pandemic and the economic disaster it’s brought to bear, I realize that our first 10 years of our business were a gimme. 

I’m immensely proud of what our team has built (and intend to keep building CODO for at least another decade), but founding and growing a business in the economy we enjoyed from 2009 to 2019 is no major feat. So long as we brought in more money than we spent on overhead, we could stay in business. This is a gross oversimplification of what it takes to properly run a business, to be sure, but there’re some important truths in there. Some other guiding principles we’ve learned along the way include:

– Take care of your team first.

– Treat people with respect (and assume they know something you don’t).

– Avoid debt (and plan for hard times). 

– Everything is your responsibility (no one is coming to save you).

– Constantly improve your service and existing relationships. 

– Never let dust settle on any process.  

– Constantly (constantly!) be reading. And writing.

– Nothing is ever really finished.

– Don’t start drinking before lunch. Even on Fridays. 

– Everyone is making it up as they go.

So what does the next year look like for CODO?

Cody and I have discussed privately that we’re going to learn more about running a design firm in the next 2 years than we have in the first 11. 

Like the rest of the world, we were railroaded when COVID-19 hit the U.S. in March. And I personally experienced anxiety and stress at levels I’d never thought possible—who cares about our business? Will my family survive this? 

But my family is fine. And things on the work front are fine as well. Our team stood strong (no layoffs and no salary reductions, no nothing) and after a scary four months, we’re in a rock solid position for the rest of the year (and well beyond). 

Am I sharing too much here? Probably. But hey, it’s our anniversary and these things only come around every once in a while. Let’s keep it rolling.

The pressure of running a business through all of this is still present, albeit in the background. Employing people (whose company you enjoy and whose work ethic and thinking and skill you respect) that rely on you for salary and insurance and retirement is daunting. It’s multiplied ten fold when you have team members buying houses and starting families.

Now, rather than losing sleep over things I can’t control, I’m channelling all of the stress (and anxiety and anger and frustration) into building. 

– How can we better serve our clients and community? 

– How can we refine our SOP’s and set ourselves up to be more resilient? 

– What are our blind spots? 

– How can we build the best food and beverage branding firm in the world? 

Wrestling with and answering these questions is what year 12 looks like for CODO.

Now. It’s time to build.





If you’re out there reading this, I hope you and your family are staying healthy and strong. Let me know if there’s anything I, or CODO can do to help you.


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