Last week, Swift Straw received the huge honor of being ranked as the 404th fastest growing private company in America. I could not be more proud of and thankful for our team, our customers, and our extended family of suppliers, vendors, and service providers. Rest assured that they deserve 100% of the credit for this amazing journey of growth. I would like to use this honor as an opportunity to expose some insight into our journey so that hopefully our experience can show others that anyone can create a successful business.
1) Success is not a destination, it is a journey. Since growth is one of our core values, I would say that our journey has been a successful one up to this point. But, growth and pain go hand-in-hand, and our journey has been a challenging one. I can't express the great sense of gratitude I feel towards our team and customers who have stuck with us through the ups and downs even when we didn't deserve it.
2) Our journey has been filled with mistakes. Since mistakes are learning experiences, we definitely have learned at an extremely rapid pace. Before SingleOps, our cloud based operating system, we experienced a $100,000+ inventory loss in 2013. I can thankfully report that we posted a $0 inventory loss in 2014, but that was quite a learning experience on the need for an operating system that provides automated communication, information integration, interactive inventory, and fishbowl style transparency into our key metrics.
3) Growth eats cash. A growing business can create a lot of value, but typically not a lot of free cash. While everyone on the ownership side is pleased with the value we have created, please don't mistakenly think we are flying jets to the Bahamas (not that we would do that if we had the money). Every dollar of retained earnings created by the business is needed to keep fueling growth.
Looking back on our journey, I am acutely aware of the fact that we are not special by any stretch of the imagination and we are not often the smartest people in any room. What has contributed to our growth is that we discovered our mission and values and relentlessly stuck to them. We put our team and our customers first and will jump over the moon for them. We embrace mistakes and push ourselves to the limit constantly striving to continuously improve. We work our tails off every day and we never let discouragement sink in when the going gets tough. I hope that you can use our experience as proof that any business can create a successful journey. As you are defining what your journey will look like, remember the words of Richard Branson: "If your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough.”