So here we are again: poised at the end of another year, and staring down the barrel of the next.
This is the time of year when we usually take some time off from the daily grind to do a little reflecting. We look back at what was and wasn’t accomplished over the past 12 months, and think about what we want to do better next year. And, we make resolutions for ourselves—and, for us entrepreneurial types, our companies.
I was thinking during this time about something that Natalia del Basso Orsini, founder of Macon’s iconic and award-winning restaurant Natalia’s, once told me. I was doing a job on Daufuskie Island, SC, for a client out of Macon. It was right after she’d sold the place, and Natalia was there spending some time at their beach house. We got into a discussion about business, and specifically about how wonderful and utterly successful her business had been.
I asked, “what’s next?” And that’s when she said, “You know Tim, about every 10 years I have to reinvent myself.”
Reinventing From The Core
Looking back at T. Lake’s 28 years in business, I have to agree. In business, we do have to reinvent ourselves from time to time. A business is a living, dynamic thing, and evolution is a natural response, both to the changing marketplace and also to the internal growth and change within the company. In fact, we are continually reinventing ourselves in small ways, and every decade or so it happens in a bigger way.
But just as important as change and reinvention in business is consistency. People have to know what to expect. Even in that shelling of layers and redefining ourselves, we have core values that shape T. Lake as a business and define everything we do:
- Do Good Work
- Have a Bias toward Action
- No Drama
- Be Reliable
- Deliver Value
- Do the Right Thing
- Commit to Personal Growth
Sometimes, if it’s a big reinvention, even core values get tweaked and refined. But our reason for existence as a company, our passion, always remains the same, and that is to do good work.
Craftsmanship and making things better is absolutely at the core of what we do here. One thing I insist on with everybody here at T. Lake—and it’s probably tiring to my people – is to always be asking, with everything we touch and everything we do: how can we make it better?
Solutions may come in the form of an object, or new and better technology like the landscape drone we just invested in this fall. It may be more efficient processes, or even reverting to something old because it was actually better than what we replaced it with. We constantly keep our eyes and minds open for ways to be faster, better, and more efficient, and to deliver higher value. (And that goes for ourselves as well as our clients; one of our core values is to consistently learn and grow as people in all ways: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.)
Why It All Matters
Ultimately, though, it all comes down to the “why.” Reinvention is a conscious change to the way we operate, done as a response to both a changing world and an evolving company. It is essential to remaining relevant in the world and interesting to ourselves. As we continue to evolve, knowing the core reason why we do what we do helps keep it all in perspective and maintains our sense of being. We're still who we've always been at our core, but we won't be caught rusting away while the world keeps turning! We will keep doing good work with other people who love to do good work, because that's what fulfills us. If your m.o. is to cut corners or to buy cheap, please just keep moving. We're not interested.
In these three decades of T.Lake, I've been honored to have had the opportunity to design college campuses, planned communities, and outdoor spaces from tiny to grandiose. We continue to revitalize downtowns, manage environmental restorations, and coordinate large earthwork projects across the Southeast. Having divisions of the company and work teams that focus on different areas has enabled us to do projects from small residential to regional scale. All thanks to having a wonderful team that partners with other wonderful teams of clients, peers, and vendors who also exist to do good work; lasting work.
For me it’s no longer so much about projects as it is about the entity and the people – employees, clients and stakeholders. How do we put it all together to enrich lives and make the world better right here where we are? That’s the “why” behind all our striving to do things well. It's what we are called to do. And I can’t think of a better motivator to keep on keeping on for this year and beyond.