My 2017 Review – Hiring an Employee, Moving Away from Seattle, and More
With it being January, I have been reading quite a few people’s yearly reviews. I really have enjoyed reading them and felt inspired to write one. I feel like it’s a good way to get insights not only for myself on how my last year went, but to give you an update on what I’ve been working on.
I have it broken into a few different topics, which are kind of randomly chosen off the top of my mind while writing. Maybe in the future, I’ll come up with a more sound structure.
Work – Harkla
Let’s start with work. Harkla had a pretty good year. While the gross margins could have been better (and are already better after a few weeks of negotiating and getting more consistent sea shipping in 2018), it was overall a success.
The company grew by 400% from year one into this 2nd year. While Amazon has been a crazy growth channel for us, I think I’m most proud of our organic traffic growth for our website. We have become a decently popular blog in the special needs space and are growing steadily each month.
I hired my first full-time teammate in March. While I felt I spent a long time on the hiring process, it turned out to be a success. I had over 160 applicants, and got down to about 10 to have phone interviews with, then eventually Skype interviews with a handful.
The person I chose happened to live in the Seattle area, which turned out to be great, as we could grab lunch once a month.
So far, the work with my employee has gone great. She’s a quick learner and hungry to take on more responsibilities. She has virtually replaced me as the day-to-day person in the company, specifically with customer service, blog post editing, and social media.
While looking back on the full year is great, it’s important to point out that not every month was a growth month. Some months we actually lost money. Growth is rarely a pretty graph always going up and to the right.
One thing I’ve learned in this last year from work and have seemed to come across from other people as well is that at every level of a company, there will be issues to deal with. I don’t know if there is ever smooth sailing, but rather you simply get better at sailing in difficult waters.
My side project of an affiliate site had a pretty solid year. It’s kind of crazy to have something that brings money pretty passively and is still growing. I was even contacted by a large media company based out of Canada to buy my website for a 5-figure amount. I declined since I see the site as only in phase 1 of at least 3 phases I have in mind.
While I was the main person working on it, the work was very minimal since I outsourced the writing and admin work. The solid 2017 has set me up to be able to hire an apprentice to run it full-time. I’m excited to get this going in April when I get back from traveling and can focus on it.
Once again, I had another year where I was lucky enough to get to do a good amount of traveling and adventuring. This year saw more domestic travel then the last couple of years, which I am happy about. International travel is fun and sexy, but we have such an amazing and interesting country at home, that I feel like it sometimes gets neglected in travel planning.
Starting in February, I took my girlfriend as a Christmas gift to Austin, TX to visit my brother, then we all drove to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Then in late March, we went with her family down to Mexico and hung out in Sayulita for a week. This was actually my 2nd year in a row spending a week in Sayulita in March. It’s an artsy, smaller town and is extremely easy to get to. The amount of Southwest Airline miles it takes to get this is pretty low if you buy early, so I think I may be doing this more often.
I won’t be going back this year since I’m in South America until April and April is rainy season there, but I would consider making it a yearly thing to do in March.
April through June involved a few trips back home to Spokane. Typically a week at a time, to see family and play in Hoopfest.
July was a pretty packed month with adventure. We backpacked the Enchantments early on, then later in the month, we joined my brother and his girlfriend for part of their road trip they were doing from Texas to the PNW.
We met and summited Mt. St. Helens, then went to Crater Lake, which were both stunning. We checked out Bend, OR on the way to Boise, where they left us after a couple of days and Amelia and I hung out.
We had a great week there, and it helped solidify the feelings we had been working through about staying in Seattle versus moving to Boise, which I’ll get to later on.
After Boise, we cruised onto Lake Cour de Lane to see part of my family, then went to my family’s horse ranch by Lake Roosevelt after that to see another part of my family, which was the last stop on the two-week road trip.
Then, in August, we continued the tradition of spending a week on the Oregon Coast with my girlfriend’s family. This is always a great time of relaxing, reading, and eating good food.
In late September, I went to a lake cabin in Northern Alabama for a business mastermind retreat. This is the 2nd year we’ve done this, and it’s definitely a highlight of my year. I feel lucky to get to join up with a group of guys who are all crushing it with business and other areas of life to get feedback and inspiration for myself and my company.
In October, I visited Arizona for the first time with my brother’s and my dad for his birthday. We did some golfing, drank a lot of Coors light, and had a great time.
Besides the holidays, that pretty much wrapped up 2017 for traveling. Overall, about 5 or 6 big trips with one being international to Mexico.
For me, 2017 was a great year in general. I felt like I was able to maintain pretty good fitness since I spent most of the year working from the Seattle Bouldering Project, where I could boulder and workout, along with hiking a lot and playing a decent amount of soccer.
In October, I decided to focus heavily on mobility and stopped bouldering as much to do so. My mobility is the best it has ever been, but to be honest, it’s still pretty bad. I am hoping to be able to comfortably hang out in an “Asian Squat” in the near future.
Another focus for me has been improving my stoic and present mind state. The teachings, practices, and philosophies are a blend of stoicism and Buddhism.
I’ve always reflected that being present in the moment is the key to enjoying life, but besides daily meditation, I felt like I wasn’t giving it enough reminders throughout the day.
I added a few journaling prompts to help with this, as well as different meditation practices added in throughout the day.
I do feel more present and will be focusing on this more and more in the future. I am a very future-oriented person, so I need to create better habits of focusing on the current moment, which helps get me into flow states more.
Along with the personal is some big news that my girlfriend and I are permanently moving to Boise, ID.
This move has been a long time coming, and I could explain more in a different post, but overall, I am excited about it.
I haven’t officially moved yet, as my girlfriend and I are using the gap in leases to travel South America for the next few months, but we did spend all of November and December in Boise.
We spent this time building up friendships and starting to get a feel of what day-to-day life will be in The City of Trees. Overall, it seems like it’ll be an easy going daily life. Little traffic. Affordable. Close to the outdoors. And already a good group of friends is starting to form.
It was tough to leave our friends in Seattle, though. I feel like 2017 was a great year for our Seattle community, which was especially highlighted when all of our friends came out to our going away party.
Overall, I enjoyed 2017 a lot and I feel like it’s set me up to continue growth in many areas of my life going into 2018.
Looking forward to 2018
While I don’t really set yearly goals, as I do quarter to quarter planning sessions, I do have a few things that I’m working towards long term that I think I can make good progress on.
For Harkla, I’d like to 4x the company again. I think I have a decent roadmap laid out for this as it comes to operations, sales, traffic, and product development. It would require hiring another teammate or two, which I may get started on at the end of Q1.
For the side project, like I mentioned before, I’m going to hire an apprentice to work on it. They’ll get paid to learn everything I can teach them, and hopefully, that one site can be their 100% focus for years to come.
I’d also like to launch another one or two affiliate sites as well since it’s within my circle of competence and my ROI on my first one has been about 900% on my initial invested capital.
Personally, with the move to Boise, I want to focus a lot on building a community there and buying a duplex or triplex. I can talk more about the housing plan in another post.
I’ll also keep focusing on improving my Spanish, mobility, and being present.
And hopefully, I’ll get some more writing done on this site! Most likely after I return from South America and have more time open to it.