2019 In Review: Lessons Learned by our CEO

2019 was a big year for us at Blue Summit Supplies. We grew our team, opened a second headquarters, and carved out a name for ourselves in the eCommerce office supply industry. Of course, none of this came easy – there were trials and tribulations, a fair amount of failure, and a lotof learning.

So much learning that we didn’t feel it fair to keep it all to ourselves.

Our CEO Owen Franklin wanted to share some of the biggest lessons he learned this year. These lessons are applicable for small businesses with big dreams, but also anyone seeking to become more than they are.

Says Owen, “These are theories and methodologies I’ve learned from mentors, from reading, and from experience, and things I hope to better implement and improve upon in the new year.”

Here are the lessons he learned in 2019.


  • Transparency in communication is key. The differences between what you believe is fair or right and what someone else believes is fair or right can create strife, stress, and friction in a relationship. These things won’t simply fade away. If you feel uneasy, uncomfortable, or dissatisfied, it’s likely the other party feels something similar, and you must talk through it. Getting in sync with one another despite differences via open communication yields positive results. 


Transparency in communication is key.


  • Seek advice from those more experienced than you. Taking advice from others who have experience in specific, relevant areas is a way to get a ton of valuable perspective which will help you make better decisions. In general, when I think something is true, my logic is flawed since I lack experience or knowledge of the ‘whole picture.’ Very rarely am I 100% right, and I think the same could be said for most people in most situations. With incomplete data comes risk, so mitigate that risk by collecting as much data as possible from those who know more than you. The challenge in this is finding the right people, earning their time, and determining how valuable their advice is. 
  • Think to the future. Decisions made today drive change and progress in the future. I’ve learned that oftentimes, I forget about the long-term impacts of my decisions and make decisions with short-term objectives or consequences in mind without anticipating the future. Lately I’ve made a concerted effort to remedy this, but my inexperience makes it hard to foresee the future since I’ve never made similar decisions and seen the results firsthand. This is where having trustworthy advisers is valuable.


Think to the future.


  • Do not underestimate experience. Experience is a double-edged sword: the more experience someone has, the more confidence they likely have, and they can sometimes make errors in judgment due to overconfidence or a desire to stick to the established ‘norm.’ This is why inexperience is in some ways just as valuable as experience, since flexibility and open-mindedness are as important as wisdom. It’s important to value experience, but do not live off of it.
  • Sometimes our behavior is driven by fear or anger. Oftentimes fear-driven behavior is something we’re not proud of and, most importantly, is ineffective at solving the cause of the fear. I’ve had a few experiences the past year where I reacted on instinct, out of anger or fear-related motivations, and mishandled situations. If I had stopped, recognized my anger, understood it, and then channeled this angry energy into addressing the anger’s source, I would have been much more effective at addressing the issue and accomplishing what I was trying to accomplish. It’s basic human nature; the better we get at realizing our emotions are happening before we react and act on them, the more effective we will be in all areas.
  • When goal setting and defining responsibilities for people, it’s important to get their input. I’ve been working this past year on doing a better job of this when setting goals and defining roles for others, since sometimes I think I know best what they enjoy or are best at only to find out later I was wrong. Incorporating others into goal and expectation setting in the early stages is a great way to eradicate this miscommunication.


People are wired differently, period.


  • People are wired differently, period. The quicker I understand this, truly understand it, the better. Some people value money; others value flexibility; and so on. But we must understand that everyone’s motivations and desires are different and important and learn how to best harness these to create the most efficient environment possible.
  • Getting advice is important, but you must remember that everyone has their own opinion that’s biased by their individual wants, needs, and experience. Even those outside advisers you seek who may be professionals providing a service to you – lawyers, consultants, etc. – have their own preconceived ideas they bring into discussions. This is not a bad thing, since perspectives are important, but make sure to remember that advice is just to be considered carefully, not followed to the letter. Ultimately you must make the decisions you know are right once you’ve taken in as much information as possible.


Getting advice is important, but you must remember that everyone has their own opinion that’s biased by their individual wants, needs, and experience.


  • Every action has a cost even if that cost is unseen or unknown in the short run. Things like overworking or underpaying people, hiring cheap labor, or overordering inventory all have long-term costs for different reasons. Paying people too little has the first order benefit of being cheap, but long-term second and third order consequences are dissatisfaction and turnover, which is more expensive in the long run. Think beyond the short-term and ensure you’re making decisions that will have a positive longevity. In this same vein, when making process changes, consider the future effects of these changes. Think long-term, always, if you want to create something sustainable. 
  • Be patient but persistent with everything. Nothing comes overnight. Results, knowledge, experience, money – nothing worthwhile is easy, and to get it takes embracing the ‘and’ of patience and persistence.”

    These lessons are all things that had to be learned through failure, trial and error, and real-world experience, and things that we’ve reflected on in the first few weeks of 2020. Because, as Owen’s main man Ray Dalio famously said, “Pain + Reflection = Progress.”

    Here’s to a great 2020; thank you all for making it possible!


    For more about Blue Summit Supplies and office culture, check out our blog. Or to see what we’re up to, find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And as always, feel free to reach out– Larry loves to hear from you.


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    Grace Treutel is Blue Summit Supplies' Director of Culture. Currently she’s in training to become a Marriage & Family Therapist though her greatest love will always be the written word. Her three novel manuscripts have not yet been published - but just you wait. She lives in Huntsville with her  cute kids and cute pets.

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