I bought the Ping-Pong table, the Fussball table, the Super Nintendo, the Xbox, the bean bags, the cool pictures and posters. The IKEA shelves, full of cool and quirky things.

We had the Google Partners banners, the social media brand pillows, the fancy desks, all the iMacs and MacBooks, the drum set, the “entrepreneur” books and the art-deco waiting room.

By all means – we looked the part as a modern, creative digital agency.

We did the team huddles, the motivational videos, the pep-talks. We grabbed bits and pieces that we liked from other companies mission, vision and values. We spent months perfecting our own logo, our website and our business cards.

I’m telling you – we had it all.

Except for one thing.

We had no idea what we were doing. We went through 6 different project management systems in 4 years, two different business partners, 3 almost mergers, re-invented our services at least twice a year. Changed logos 3 times and I’ve probably had 8 sets of business cards.

I cringe when I look back at it now. We had a great team, a lot of motivation and survived on pure hustle. I didn’t take a break for 4 years – always being busy “building the business”.

It finally took its toll on my life, when my marriage failed and the business failed.

If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself to stop worrying about how we looked. Stop working hard on our own appearance. Stop trying to emulate others. Stop pretending.

Instead, I’d tell myself to build a minimal viable product offering. Work closely with my clients to improve on what we build for them, to solve their problems. To hire the actual people we needed, and not just swap existing team members titles, to go deep, not broad. To make it scalable, to train people, to educate clients. To build a rock-solid team that is ready to help out where ever they can, and to watch out for those who tried to cover their own ass.

And most importantly, I’d tell myself that I was building a business to obtain freedom – instead of a business that held me hostage.

Build a business that doesn’t need you.