2016 Recap

By Erik Reagan

A new year has come, and with it comes a look back on 2016. A tradition we’ve held since 2011, this being our 6th installment.

This past year has easily been my favorite year of Focus Lab. But it’s not for the reasons you might think.

In most of the surface-level conversations I have with other entrepreneurs in casual meet-ups I hear questions like “How is the company doing?” and “What’s your next growth target?” The general theme is about revenue and staff size. Two metrics that are easily measured and common indicators of growth and success. But those aren’t the metrics that made 2016 my favorite year of Focus Lab.

What made 2016 really special to me was the type of growth that Focus Lab experienced. Earlier in the year, Bill and I decided to make the year more about strengthening our foundation as individuals and as a team. We pushed ourselves and our team to uphold our Core Standards more than ever before. We challenged everyone to face conflict more often and in better ways. We read books together, experimented with new ideas together, failed together, learned together, and as a result of these and other things, grew together.

Our team has never been stronger or more in sync. And we’ve got plans to make 2017 another year of similar growth based on things we learned in 2016. So many great lessons and experiences!

A New Core Standard

One thing that blossomed out of these lessons was the addition of a new Core Standard. We don’t have Core Values in the traditional sense of the term. But we do have standards we hold one another to. Until this year we had eight of them. This year we decided to add one more to the mix.

Craft Isn’t Enough

In a field such as ours, it’s easy to be laser-focused on honing one’s craft. After all, that’s often what gets a person into the field: their craft. But working at Focus Lab takes more than just expertise in a craft. You need communication skills, empathy, the ability to actively listen, and much more. After realizing how important these things are to a high-functioning team, we realized we needed a new standard to reflect this. Ergo, Craft Isn’t Enough. This is how we define this new Core Standard:

We are a team of people who excel in our craft, but Focus Lab is built on more than just skill-sets. Our strength is forged by a commitment to over-deliver, to exceptional client experiences, and to solid personal relationships. As such, we approach each day and each opportunity with genuine empathy, patience, openness, and passion.

I love this new standard. It rounds out our other standards quite nicely.

Conferences & Events

We love to learn together. And we love to play together. 2016 had plenty of both.

Each quarter we bring our remote staff and our Savannah staff together for what we call our Quarterly. This is something we started in 2015 and it’s been a fantastic addition to our way of doing things. We had some great Quarterly experiences in 2016 with plenty of work and play.

We also went to a few conferences throughout the year. Namely Collision, Peers, Circles, Brand New, Creative South, and Revolve. A few of our team members did some speaking and teaching to our industry peers, which is always an exciting thing. Alicja Colon taught a workshop at Creative South about photography and lighting. She also wrote a corresponding book on the topic. And I had an opportunity to talk openly about dealing with failure at Peers in the spring and Revolve in the fall. 

Creative South is quite special to Focus Lab. It’s hosted in our home state of Georgia and by some pretty fantastic people. This past year the dates fell during one of our Quarterly weeks when our whole staff was together. So we spent a few days in Savannah doing our normal Quarterly things, then packed up and drove west to attend the conference as a team. It was a great event and a great mix of team time and community time.

2016 Recap Focus Lab Creative South
Oct Quarterly 33 3@2X


In the 2015 Recap I talked about how we launched our sister site, Sidecar. I’m excited to say that 2016 was another great year of serving and teaching our industry peers within the growing Sidecar community. Thousands more people are subscribed and following Sidecar for the latest articles and products that might help them in their craft and their business. We had our first annual non-profit donation from revenue. And we heard from many, many people about how Sidecar is helping them. It’s such a rewarding thing to be a part of!

Mate the style guide was amazing! I used it to present a brand update for a client and they can’t stop talking about it!

Brent Dickens

I’ll let you read the full Sidecar recap over on madebysidecar.com.

2016 Recap Focus Lab 1Sidecar
Sidecar's first charitable donation went to Loop It Up, a Savannah art enrichment program for youth

Improving Proposals

In late 2015, I sat down with our Director of Sales and talked through a concept of creating proposals more efficiently and effectively. We then brought in one of our UI designers and a developer to really hash out the idea further. After a couple of short chats, we decided to build our own internal proposal-building application.

February of 2016 marked our first month of using our newly built tool. We were really excited about what it would do for our team, and for the experience our prospective and current clients would have while reviewing proposals from us. The feedback was pretty great.

This is the best damned proposal process I've been through. Ever.

An amazing client

Holy crap, this proposal system is awesome.

Another amazing client

Needless to say, this type of feedback energizes us as we build a version of our app that anyone can use. You’ll be reading about that in the 2017 Recap post for sure.

A New Tradition

In 2015 we ended our year together with a fun all-staff meeting, which we call our Roundtables. We gave away a couple thousand dollars’ worth of gift cards. And we had a secret santa gift exchange. But the new thing in 2015 was going around and simply sharing our “favorite thing at work” from the year. It was an amazing experience for me personally, and others really loved it as well. So we ended 2016 in the same way.

Taking some time to reflect on the great things from a year is a powerful thing. And I can honestly say that it’s times like these that make me most proud of what Focus Lab is. It’s an honor to work and serve alongside each of these fantastic people. I’m grateful for the opportunity. 

What 2016 Looked Like

No Recap post would be complete without sharing some of the visuals from the year. So without further ado, here’s the eye candy. And it’s some tasty candy, if I may say so.

Well—that wraps up another year at Focus Lab. If you’re curious how previous years have gone down, you can check out the Recaps from 2015201420132012, and 2011. I can’t wait to see what comes of 2017!