Today marks a HUGE milestone in the timeline of VIA Studio. This is our founder’s last official day with the company. He’s off to the land of retirement.
Kelly took a visionary move 16 years ago when he left the advertising agency he was at to found VIA Studio. Few “web development” companies existed in Louisville in 1996, and even fewer have survived to this day. It’s still shocking that the company has stood the test of time and continues to grow stronger every year.
I’ve been Kelly’s business partner for almost 10 years now, and it’s been an amazing journey. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from Kelly. I’ll always be grateful to this man for giving me my shot.
Relationships are everything
Kelly was once described to be as knowing “where all the bodies are buried” in Louisville. It’s true. He knows everyone and has a story to back it up. It was always frustrating when we first started working together because 60% of any meeting with a prospective client was talking about all the people they knew and had in common. I just wanted to get to work. In our industry you’ll be lucky if work you do lasts 5 years. However, the relationships you build along the way last your entire career.
People appreciate tough love
Kelly has always been a straight-shooter when things get difficult, either with clients or staff. For me, it’s the single most difficult part of being a boss. Sometimes a little friction is good, and it’s worth it to go ahead and have the tough conversations. Most people will appreciate it, and once the air is cleared, things always get better.
Our business is somewhat glamorous. For some reason there are certain types of people that because of this think we do the work for our own gratification. The reality is though, we support ourselves and our employees with what we do. The rent needs paid and the kids need shoes. Don’t get started without a deposit. And don’t work with people who don’t respect your value.
Have a life
Kelly has sat on more boards than a termite colony. He stays active with the Ancient Order of Hibernians. He leads the Security team at his son’s Forecastle Festival. Be as connected as you can to your community and don’t get lazy.
This is a small sampling of things I’ve learned working with Kelly. I could probably write a book.
So thank you Kelly McKnight for building an amazing business that I am proud of being a part of. I hope we do your legacy justice. The team is strong, so you’re leaving it in good hands. I’m both excited and terrified to begin the next phase of the company. Wish us luck, but most of all, congratulate Kelly on building an awesome company and best wishes for an amazing retirement!