We didn’t win the award.

And why I’m not sad about it.

Last fall, the Greenville Chamber of Commerce awarded TealHaus as the “Small Business of the Month.” We were honored to be recognized and accept the award on WSPA’s Your Carolina with the legendary Jack Roper (Kate and I still laugh at how awkwardly she held that plaque).

A month or so ago, the Chamber reached back out to invite us to apply for “Small Business of the Year.” To do so, we were to visit their office and make a presentation, and we would be judged on three criteria: business growth, business attributes, and our contribution to community service.

Kate was immediately nervous. Me? My ever-optimistic self said, “Kate, we’ve got this in the bag.” I said this not because I’m arrogant about our business but because I knew that with these categories, it seemed like we could crush it.

Business growth? In three years, we’ve accumulated 85 clients and have grown 200% simply through word-of-mouth. That seemed pretty good, right?

Business attributes? We don’t lead with numbers; instead, we choose our clients based upon their ability to match our values of empathy, humility, and curiosity. The revenue always comes when the values match. What’s more, we’re doing the agency thing differently (many agencies have gotten a bad rap over the years, and for good reason). We stay in constant contact with our clients, working with them not only on their marketing efforts, but also on their operations and strategic planning. In addition, we have no egos in this game. We stay honest and transparent, no matter what.

And community service? “Kate, come on!” I said. In a year, we’ve donated $141,600 (a lot for our small business!) to an accumulated six different nonprofits in our community. In addition, we currently have seven different clients who are nonprofit entities. And our eight team members individually volunteer their time to 16 different charities.

“We’ve got this,” I said with a laugh.

Except … we didn’t. The Chamber gave the award to a different business (who was, of course, incredibly deserving).

Was I disappointed? A bit. But did it really matter to me? No.

Kate and I both subscribe to Seth Godin’s daily emails. Right after our presentation with the Chamber, this one hit my inbox:

“Shifting your Perspective on Rejection”

“I didn’t get it”

There are two ways to process this:

The selection committee saw me, understood me, and then decided to reject me.

Or

The selection committee didn’t get what I had to offer. I wasn’t rejected, my application was.

Later, when speaking with Kate, I shrugged. “We did the best we could. Obviously whoever won was awesome. Congrats to them!”

And onward. It wasn’t a personal blow to us. It was simply that our application was not what they were looking for. And just because our application was rejected doesn’t mean we’re not worthy. 

I began TealHaus out of a need to empower and help others, and that hasn’t changed in three years. Now, eight of us lead with our hearts, meeting clients with compassion and curiosity. We’re not out to grow the biggest agency or make the most money, and if that’s how we’re measured, then we’ll never win. Instead, those of us who now call TealHaus home treat it as such—a home. And our clients are guests in our house. It may not be the biggest house or have the fanciest cars out front, but it sure is comfortable, and all who enter our doors are family. Together, we all grow.

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