So yesterday i found out that my old studio, MudBrick Creative, was shuttering it’s doors after a little over 7 years in business. It’s bittersweet as it made me think about the path that led to yesterday and the past 7 years of my life. I recently had someone joke about the shop, and why MudBrick didn’t succeed and it prompted this post about my feelings on the subject, some things i’m proud of and some i’m not.
For the purposes of this post i’ll start with what i’m proud of over the past several years:
1. The growth and success of MudBrick Creative to being a well known digital shop in Central, PA in a short amount of time. I do not at all take credit for this on my own, it was the result of great partners who took a chance on having me develop the business and brand, (you know who you are) and a great team that just flat out owned projects, delivered highest quality work and did their best to never just take my word as gospel.
2. I take a lot of pride in having fostered some incredibly talented people professionally into our field, watching them really blossom and then move onto even bigger and better things. This is probably my most prideful thing as it’s always been my goal to in some ways, teach. I got to mentor both on the creative side and business side of what we do. I got to hire a great VFX kid named Jordan Cain who hadn’t really ever had a job and lived with his parent. He’s now one of the better 3d game artists I’ve ever met, working as a freelancer and building what amounts to a well rounded life. Those are things you just can’t script.
3. I take a ton of pride in my family. My wife and 4 yr old son are everything. They both, in their own way are truly awesome. My wife stood next to me throughout the past 8 years of business and personal trials, propping me up so i could be successful and eventually make the very hard decision to grow our family. I would have never thought i’d be ready for kids. Watching my son go from a baby to toddler to 4 yr old phenom who is as outgoing, personable, sharing and giving a kid as I’ve ever met is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever experienced. I’m just really glad he didn’t get my introvert gene.
4. I’m incredibly proud of the success MudBrick achieved overall. Employee retention was 100%, we were very much like a family. There was incredible loyalty, even when we battled over direction. Customer retention was equally as high, customers just didn’t leave us. We killed projects, never did half ass creative, and nothing was ever quite good enough. We had customers across many varied industries, did not owe our success to any customer in particular, and so we never got into a situation where we were beholden to anyone. We were 2012′s runner up for tech company of the year in PA, and were published several times.
5. I’m proud of the team that followed me to NC to pursue our dreams of game development, and a change of scenery. We formed a Indie game development shop called LightHammer in little PA which got national press on USA Today, Epic Games UDK showcase and several articles in the Business Journal. We did all of this in our non-existent spare time, developing a reputation for thought leadership, quality design and production value. We made some kick ass relationships with other independent game developers and still have those dreams.
6. It’s not as much pride as it is appreciation for all of the customers I’ve ever worked with, partners I’ve stood with, opportunities provided by employers and family & friends who supported me. My career really took off the past 6 years from being just a designer to becoming something a good bit more. None of it would have been possible without each and every cog in the chain, and again everyone knows who they are so i won’t point them all out. Well maybe one or two:
My Wife: The only reason i ever had the balls to do any of this. She pushed me to do things outside my comfort zone and actually be a bit more social. For her support, love and respect there is no words to describe my appreciation.
Dave Hickethier: the CEO of AndCulture and guy who honestly took the chance and gave me my first shot at building something with MudBrick. No idea why he did it, i had no prior experience, but he did. That decision spring boarded me to where i am now, having just had to turn down a gig with ESPN as a Sr. Designer. I’d say that means a lot. We didn’t always see eye to eye at the end, but that doesn’t diminish my appreciation for what he did.
Carlisle Syntec: A very large successful company that took a very large gamble on a new design/development shop on some initiatives they needed help with on the digital side. Having a customer like them helped legitimize our efforts, put an elite in our portfolio and made sales process easier by far. We grew with their help.
iCepts Technology Group: This is a bit of backwards logic but i appreciate them for maintaining me in a design job that didn’t really go anywhere but made me hunger for a bit more.
Jeff Conrady and Britta Schatz : Two integral people in my professional growth. From Jeff i learned it’s ok to be a CEO and still play Counter Strike with your designers and developers at lunchtime. Be engaged with your team, it builds loyalty and trust. From Britta i learned how to be a PM who knows the details of her project and also the details of her teams lives. If i had a dollar for every late night Britta spent sitting with me in the design bullpen listening to my problems and offering advice i’d be able to pay for the hosting on this blog at least. :)
Ok so now for the things i’m not proud of:
1. Leaving MudBrick Creative and how it all went down. I started thinking about myself more than those around me, and left a group of people in a lurch to pursue some of my dreams. I put them all in a potentially bad place. It was never my intention to leave MudBrick in anything but a good place but it just never worked out after i left. To the team that i left behind they know i’m sorry as I’ve told them many times.
2. I’m not proud of letting the ethics of business, morals, hearsay, gossip, conjecture and just overall less than admirable business side of the industry jade me and cause me to make decisions i would not probably have made. You hear things, see things, you know they are wrong, you do what you can to ignore them as they effect you professionally or personally, and eventually it eats away at you and you do things you shouldn’t. I snapped off the heads of some of those around me (Fran Lukesh, you already know i apologize), former partners, friends, family, i let a lot of things put me in a bad place and cause me to turn inward.
3. I’m not proud of that fact that i let my partner in MudBrick basically bully me into signing over the rights to my game concept to keep my job. Somehow lost my balls and that will never, ever, happen again.
4. What i’m least proud of is my inability to listen to good advice. Like i know every fucking thing and am infallible. I didn’t listen when people told me i was making mistakes, i foolishly started to believe my own press and feel like i had it all right. If there’s one piece of advice i can give anyone who bothered to read this, don’t start believing you’re awesome because you’re probably not, there will always be a bigger dog to kick you off the porch.
5. Finally, I’m not proud of letting money get the best of me. In my defense i have a little boy who i want to have a great life and money helps with that. I was however, never the guy who let money drive any decision i made, and who was happy with what i had. As soon as i started reaching too far , it triggered some unhappiness that is a tough stain to wash out.
In closing, if you can’t tell, the past 7 years have been turbulent, full of change, some great, some not great. I feel like i consistently learn more about how to do it right, how to evolve into something better, and so it is always and forever worth it. I try and bury the regrets and always move forward. Now close the browser and get back to work.