This week Oxide Design Co. celebrates 17 years in business. It’s not one of those big, round numbers, but I think it’s worth recognizing all the same. As our anniversary falls near the end of the year, I like to use the occasion to reflect on the big picture of how things have progressed over the last 12 months.

Just after last year’s anniversary, we held an employee retreat, during which we refined the Oxide brand. Based off discussions from the retreat, we’ve also been evaluating the overall vision and strategy for the firm. Since a lot of different people have asked me about it, I decided this would be a good time to explain my overall direction for the firm.

Happy 17th anniversary, Oxide! We celebrated with the traditional gift of furniture by replacing the couches in our client meeting space.Happy 17th anniversary, Oxide! We celebrated with the traditional gift of furniture by replacing the couches in our client meeting space.

The traditional business climate tends to measure business growth only by revenue or number of employees. Many business advisors will tell you that the only way you can be successful is by continuing to add more people, which adds to your bottom line. But I’ve chosen to measure success by a different set of metrics. My evaluation questions are centered more around three main ideas:

  1. Do I enjoy my job? Have I built a firm at which I enjoy coming into work every day?
  2. Are we contributing to the economy and employing people in jobs they enjoy?
  3. Are we contributing back to our community in a meaningful way?

Answering that first question is what guides the current state of Oxide. We’re a team of five people. We could certainly have grown much larger than that by now. But I figured out about five years ago that the real reason I started Oxide was to do design. I enjoy many aspects of running a business, but my real passion is getting to contribute to the creative process. If we grow larger than about five employees, a majority of my time is spent on management and operations. And that’s not the job I really want to have. So I’ve designed the job I really want — at least for now.

Regarding the second question, we tend to get overlooked by the current startup culture looking for skyrocketing growth and business metrics looking to add hundreds of jobs. But the reality is that we’ve employed at least five Omahans in consistent, stable, enjoyable jobs for nearly ten years. By my measure, that’s a success.

Lastly, our contributions back to our community are the things that make me the proudest. I wouldn’t consider Oxide a success if we weren’t able to use our skills to continue to better the world around us. I’m pleased to report that about half of Oxide’s business is pro bono — design work we do for free or at reduced rates for charitable organizations we think are doing great things. It’s something we’ve been doing since we opened our doors and we’ll keep doing into the future.

So we celebrate our 17th anniversary, knowing we’ve had great success across the board. (Not to mention producing a collection of great design work.) Thanks again to all of our clients, champions, friends, and family — we couldn’t do this without your continued support!