Four Kitchens

(More than) Ten things I’ve learned in ten years

3 Min. ReadWork life

The Web Chefs’ winter break has begun and the (virtual) halls of Four Kitchens are quiet. It’s a time to reflect and think about what we’ve learned. Four Kitchens has been building big websites and making content go for ten years now, and I’ve learned a lot in that time…

  • Don’t send email on the weekends. Even if you think you’re just jotting down ideas or cleaning up your inbox on a Saturday afternoon, it won’t be perceived that way. Your team will think you expect a response. If you can’t help yourself, try using a service like Boomerang to schedule emails to be sent on Monday morning.


  • Be generous with kudos and be the first to accept blame. You’ll establish a culture of acknowledging each other’s work and owning outcomes, good and bad.

  • Your company culture is your company. Culture is everything.

  • Company culture cannot be built or bought. Culture emerges from attention, interaction, and countless tiny moments every day. Culture is the adhesive that attaches your work, ideas, and team together. But culture is subtle and finicky. A bad culture can cause your organization to crumble at the slightest touch.

  • Avoid making decisions from a place of fear. Fear is the mind killer. When you’re scared — about money, people, clients — your decisions will focus on reducing anxiety, not on finding a long-term solution. Instead, try to make decisions from a place of confidence. When I’m faced with a large gap in our work, I start considering work we’d normally avoid. Taking whatever work comes along solves the short-term gap, but it creates long-term problems: low rates, toxic clients, and uninteresting projects. I’ve adopted the mantra: “I’d rather lay people off than take a bad deal.” It reminds me to make decisions from a place of confidence rather than fear.

  • It’s better to make a bad decision than no decision at all. Everyone’s afraid of making mistakes, so it’s easier to delay decisions and actions. If you wait too long, you’ll make decisions from a place of urgency and fear—you’ll be reacting rather than acting.

  • Everything is fixable.

  • You will disappoint yourself on a regular basis. This is a good thing. It means you have high standards are and self-aware of your shortcomings.

  • Focus on what you’re best at and most enjoy doing. Remove everything else from your plate as quickly as possible.

  • Always hire people who are better and smarter than you.

  • Owning a business does not mean you should run it. Sometimes you need to hire your own boss to tell you want to do.

  • Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength that comes from the empowerment to solve problems.

  • It’s impossible to effectively balance client work with internal projects. You need separate, dedicated teams for both.

  • It’s better to spend money to save time than to spend time to save money. Time is our only truly non-renewable resource.

  • You should spend at least 25% of your time asking for help. Get help from coworkers, peers, and clients. No one is better suited to give you advice and profound insights than the people you work with.

  • As a leader, everything you do will be watched and modeled.

  • Set limits. Use your calendar to establish boundaries. Block off large chunks of time to think, plan, and tackle big projects that will ensure your business is successful years from now.

  • Be vulnerable.

  • As a leader, your most important job is to be in a good mood. You need to be approachable, receptive to criticism, and able to handle bad news with grace. This is impossible to do all the time, which is why I’ve struggled with this more than any other less. The trick is to acknowledge when you’re upset or irritable, reschedule meetings if necessary, and know what kind of work helps you reset your mood.

  • A happy leader is a happy team. You owe it to yourself (and your team) to take care of you first. This sets the right example that you want your team to follow and will spread good vibes.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Four Kitchens—see you in 2017!