BL&T No. 141: Planting the Bulbs of New Business

Agency Leadership

This post originally appeared in my newsletter, Borrowed, Learned, & Thought. BL&T is sent weekly on Mondays. In every edition, I share lessons learned in agency leadership, life, and e-commerce. This post does not include all the details shared in the newsletter sent via email. Subscribe here.


"Success as a lagging indicator is a phenomenon that holds true across most areas in life. ... Your retirement accounts are a lagging indicator of whether or not you have your financial act together—earning enough, saving enough. Pulling an all-nighter is not a sign of dedication but a lagging indicator of the exact opposite. It means you plan poorly, you procrastinate, you aren’t proactive enough, you don’t know how to effectively manage your work and your time. .... Nothing comes from nowhere. Not success. Not inspiration. Not the muses. Not writer’s block. Everything is a lagging indicator. Of whether or not you did the work."

From "All Success is a Lagging Indicator" by Ryan Holiday [Article]  

Thanks to Peter Kang for sharing this article! It was good inspiration for this week's newsletter.


I was glad to get outside on my bike yesterday for an early morning ride along the Delaware Canal. I've ridden there several times, but we did a new route this time, starting in Frenchtown, NJ. Sean, a friend from college, joined me and my friend Lee. It was my first long ride of the season, covering 23 miles with decent hills along the way, enough to make it a workout — and remind me to incorporate hills into my rides more often! It's always inspiring to witness older riders effortlessly zoom past me, seemingly unfazed by the climbs. I aspire to reach their level with more riding and practice.

One of the bridges along the trail was out so we had to step down into the creek to get across, luckily it was dry. I found this little rock pile as I made my way to the other side.

The warmer weather and longer days have been a nice change. My wife Dana and I finally bought a grill and have been prepping the outside for Summer, including the ever-satisfying deck power washing. We also planted lavender plants, azaleas, and 18 plant bulbs a few weeks ago. I'm anxious for them to emerge from the soil, blossom, and transform the feel of our outdoor space.

Perhaps it's a bit of a stretch, but I can't help but draw a metaphor between the process of growing our new business and planting those bulbs. Both endeavors require time and patience. As you go, you get better at predicting and navigating roadblocks, similar to encountering tree roots or rocks while planting. You make the necessary adjustments and press on. You feel accomplished as you near the end, but there's not much to show for your efforts. You can provide care and nurture, but ultimately, all you can do is wait. The progress is gradual, and there are no guarantees.

New business efforts at Barrel have been action-packed. Week after week, we're talking with prospective and sharing ideas. We learn from the hurdles and keep pushing forward, innovating, and experimenting. Then, we send out a proposal, and the waiting begins. The sales cycle seems to be lengthening with the day. Client stakeholders are slow to reply, and decision-makers are taking more time with their decisions. Luckily, a few "bulbs" have emerged but haven't yet "blossomed," meaning we've received a verbal win but are still in contract negotiation.

Although it feels like looking at nothing but some ruffled-up soil (while I wipe a bead of sweat off my forehead), I'm encouraged by the way we've evolved in recent months. I've enjoyed engaging our Team Leads in client conversations where they can add value and seeing them shine. It's also been fun to brainstorm project approaches and ways to improve. One of my favorite recent updates was sharing a competitive analysis based on our research project, DTC Patterns, in a client proposal last week.

DTC Patterns research from a recent proposal.

We've seen a ton of momentum in the past few weeks and are starting to see our efforts pay off. I look forward to continuing to invent and reinvent our approach and seeing how we progress in the coming months.

Thought Starter

Am I putting in the necessary work today to see success further down the road?


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