2014 has been an incredible year! I want to pause to rejoice, reflect upon and remember all that has happened this past year.
Brian Lowe, the lead pastor at Exodus Church where I attend, preached an excellent sermon on Psalm 48 about the Israelites rejoicing, reflecting upon and remembering all that God had done for them. As I look back at 2014, I want to do the same.
It’s so very easy to look at the year to come and dream about all the exciting things that will happen and forget about the exciting things happened in the year before. We don’t value reflection in American culture, and I think that is a huge misstep because we all too easily forget where we came from. Jesus has been incredibly gracious to me, my family and my business in 2014, so I want to take the time to write down and reflect upon all the good and gracious things he alone has done.
I’ve broken this down into two segments: business and personal. I’ll address the business review first, and then I will go on to reflect upon personal milestones and achievements.
2014 Business Reflection and Review
2014 was an incredible year for my business. I saw a ton of new things happen that I want to reflect upon and document.
I hired my very first employee. This was a huge step for me. I hired my very first full-time employee back in February of this year. Up until this point, it had been just me and a couple of interns at one point during the summer of 2013. I remember the moment being scary but very necessary as I was drowning in support for my products. It was all I could to do stay afloat, much less actually make any good updates to the products, so hiring some extra help was a big leap forward. Getting me outside of the business so I could work on the business was one of my big goals for 2014, and that first employee was a huge step in that direction.
I launched Envira Gallery. It seems like forever ago, but I actually launched Envira Gallery back in January of 2014. I can’t believe it has been almost a year since that occurred. It has seen steady growth since the initial launch, and our team has added a ton of new awesome features to the plugin. It has grown more slowly than I would have liked, but that’s because of my next reflection.
I watched OptinMonster explode. It only took a matter of months before OptinMonster began to explode in popularity. Even today, I see OptinMonster everywhere. I’ve even had family say they’ve seen OptinMonster on sites that they visit! I watched as our daily goal for OptinMonster sales began to be shattered on a consistent basis. I remember driving down to Savannah in January 2013 to meet with Syed for the first time to discuss our plans with OptinMonster, and I specifically remember talking on the phone with one of my friends about how big this thing could potentially be. Little did I know that my expectations would be far surpassed within the first few months. Seriously – I was thinking that this *might* make 6 figures in the first year. Thousands and thousands of customers later, I smile looking back to that day because I literally had no idea what would happen in the first year of OptinMonster being on the market. Even in my wildest dreams I never imagined the success I would see today, and for that I am immensely grateful and humbled.
I saw my business revenue quadruple. It wasn’t just OptinMonster that grew – everything else grew along with it. In fact, at one point I remember looking at my books and literally starting to tear up because I couldn’t fathom the numbers I was seeing. I’ve been blessed far beyond what I deserve, and I can attribute that immense blessing to no one other than Jesus.
I merged my business with Syed. It just made sense. We work well together – our strengths compliment one another, and our weaknesses are evened out with the other’s strengths. Part of this merger meant hiring more people and putting together a team, and I am amazed at what our team has done so far. They are hard workers, and I am so thankful to have them under my leadership. Their work makes me strive to be better leader and peer, and I’m indebted to their contributions to our company’s many successes in 2014.
I started to move out of the forest. For the longest time, I worked both in and on my business. This is fine (and necessary) when it is just you running the show, but when you have a team of people working with you and depending on you for the next move, you’ve got to give up control so that you can be the leader you need to be. I am constantly learning ways where I can empower my team to do what they love all while letting go of areas that I used to control. This has been very tough for me because I love building things, but it is a necessary step if I want to watch our company grow and compete at the next level. I haven’t stopped building things completely, but I just don’t do it as much because my roles are shifting as our company grows.
I hired a bookkeeper. This was so freeing because I didn’t have to worry about my books or payroll anymore. To me, a bookkeeper is a well-deserved asset that you need on your team. I saved so much time by allowing him to do what he was good at so that I could focus on building my business. In the end, I now have an infinitely better picture of my company’s financial health and will have way less work to do when tax season comes around.
I attend more WordCamps and even spoke at one again! I took a lot of time off from traveling in 2013 because I wanted to focus on building out OptinMonster. This year I traveled more and attended a few more WordCamps, including Atlanta, Miami and Orlando. I spoke at WordCamp Orlando this year and had a great time speaking to an entirely different audience than what I am used to (majority beginners).
2014 Personal Reflection and Review
2014 was also an excellent year for me personally, and I want to reflect on a few highlights from there as well.
We became debt-free (minus our house). This was a big milestone for me and one of the biggest goals that I achieved this year. I am a huge Dave Ramsey fan and am a firm believer in his gazelle intense philosophy. I decided that I wanted to become debt-free this year, and boy did I work hard at it. I paid off both of our cars and paid off the entirely new heating and air system we had to have replaced back in May. I also paid off a bunch of landscaping that we had done to our house, and I also paid off our new water heater that we had to have replaced in April. The freedom of not having any debts is, well, freeing. I’ve always said that personal finances will affect business decisions, so I wanted to align my values with what I actually did. We currently have no debt except for our house, and I’m pretty dead-set on getting that thing paid off as soon as humanly possible.
We put back 8 months savings in the bank. On top of paying off all of our debt, I was also able to put back almost 8 months of savings in the bank. Because of the nature of technology, I am fully aware that success can dry up in the blink of an eye. Although I am working hard to prevent that from happening, I know that life happens. This “emergency fund”, “safety net”, “buffer between you and life” or whatever you want to call it is an investment in my marriage and my mental and physical health. Now I have the peace of mind that when an unexpected event occurs, it’s no longer a crushing disaster but a minor inconvenience.
I taught a class on the gospel and productivity. This was something new that I really, really enjoyed doing. Most people have the misconception that the gospel simply saves you from your sin, but this is only half of the equation. The gospel not only saves you from sin but calls you to be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). In this class, I unpacked how to gospel changes the way we view productivity and getting things done, and gave both a theological and practical perspective for that view. I was able to refine my personal mission statement for life, which I have documented below.
My Mission Statement
“To serve, honor and enjoy Jesus while furthering His kingdom and mission in this world by doing everything I do with excellence.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
1. To be quick to seek Jesus’ grace, mercy and help in any endeavor that I undertake: work, personal and spiritual alike.
2. To be careful to serve Jesus to the fullest in whatever position He has called me.
3. To be humble always so that I may repent of sin, learn with dignity, teach with grace and submit with willingness where necessary.
4. To encapsulate all these things with a fervor, energy and excellence that only God can grant and sustain.
I am a broken and sinful man in desperate need of God’s loving kindness, grace and mercy. I am adopted as His child through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and kept by the power of His ever-present Spirit. I am called to be bountiful in loving, serving and enjoying God as long as I live on this earth.
I coached a high school golf team, and we won the conference tournament! This was exciting as it was the first conference championship for the school in golf. I am a big fan of golf (and a scratch golfer), and I had so much fun coaching and watching these kids blossom into a talented team that won the conference tournament by 7 strokes outright. Our top 4 golfers won all-conference medals, with our #1 golfer qualifying as the #1 individual in the state tournament.
We went on a trip to visit friends in Alaska. Alaska was beautiful and cold. We went in February to visit some of our dear friends who are stationed at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks. We got to see some of the incredible ice sculptures from people all around the world competing in the world ice sculpting challenge. We were able to relax in a natural hot spring with it being like -10 degrees outside (beard-freezing cold). We saw the Northern Lights and even got to go skijoring. We saw the start of the Iditarod sled dog race in Anchorage on our last days of the trip. I’ve included a few of the pictures from the trip below.
…and the list could go on and on and on.
Onward to 2015
2014 – it has been a great ride.
I’ve been blessed beyond measure, and I’m excited to see what 2015 holds. I don’t know what tomorrow may bring, and even if everything falls away, I can still rejoice because my hope is in Jesus and not the fleeting things of this world.
I’ve got a short list of things I want to do in 2015, but none are particularly easy!
- I want to pay off my house completely. I want to be completely debt free, including my house, at some point in 2015. This will mean being diligent about sticking to our budget and living well below our means until that happens. Laura and I have both been called to be generous with what we are given to steward, and it’s hard to be generous when you are a slave to a lender. Needless to say, I want to out from under that burden as soon as humanly possible.
- I want to launch a new product. This is already in the works, but it is a goal nonetheless. It’s easy to get stuck in maintenance mode for other endeavors, so I find it necessary to remind yourself of things you want to accomplish so that you actually do them.
That’s all. I told you it was a short list, but neither of those things are easy to do. I’ll have my work cut out for me, and when I achieve them, I’ll work on my next list of goals to achieve!
What has happened for you in 2014? What do you hope for in 2015? I’d love to know!