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OCT 2019

Pen & Mug

Serve. Grow. Share.

Thinking through the Pen & Mug team values.

Many of the businesses I look up to have some sort of terse and pithy “code” or list of values, or even a sweet poster series of purpose statements. So, naturally, I've spent a good amount of time daydreaming about what that should look like for Pen & Mug.

At first I scratched together a list of 20+ things that I believe in and that I’d like to think Pen & Mug “stands for”, then boiled that list down to 6 concise statements that felt the way company values should feel. Then I sat with those statements for a few weeks, tweaking them here and there as I went, until I realized that they could be grouped and simplified even further into just three words.

Serve. Grow. Share.


This is the boots-on-the-ground work, (or “nose-in-the-laptop” work). It's also the positive and collaborative attitude with which said work is done.

Service requires skill, flexibility, and a good sense of humor; working with people rather than positioning ourselves as the inaccessible creative wizards behind the curtain. Ego and pretentiousness are kicked out of the room. It requires listening and compromise and finding clever, practical ways to solve problems and work within limitations. It also means saying "no" to some opportunities so we can better serve the clients we’ve already said "yes" to (the trickiest part for me personally).


Not necessarily “bigger” or “more more more” – but stay in motion. Stay curious, and follow curiosity up with action. Learn, adapt, improve.

One of my favorite ways I’ve heard this said is Andy J. Pizza’s illustration of “slaying the dragon,” where the “dragon” represents some huge lofty goal. In short, we can’t wait to begin our quest until we’re ready to slay the dragon at the end of it because we’ll never “know” that we’re ready until we and the dragon are face to face. We would end up preparing and planning indefinitely, and never actually leave town. Scotty Russell calls this "analysis paralysis".

Instead, we choose to boldly hit the road and let the journey shape us and toughen us and teach us to slay that dragon at the end of it. Perhaps we'll even tackle a few unexpected “dragons” along the way.

The other big idea here is balance. We will outwork other teams, but it's important to make time for rest as well. We make ourselves easily accessible to the clients and partners who depend on us at most times, and there are times when we need to get away from our devices and be present with our friends and families. There's also a balance to strike between stepping back to make plans and goals, and stepping forward and to get to it. In different ways at different times, balance has consistently been something I personally need to be very intentional about. Prioritizing balance is critical to growing well, rather than growing out of control.


It is caring, after all.

One of my favorite one-liners is: “You can use your time and talents to either build a longer table or a higher wall.” One brings communities together, the other divides them. Pen & Mug is committed to being a "table" in the communities we're plugged into.

Another way I'd initially written the "Share" idea (before I worked myself into this single-word format) is this: “Be a connector.” Bring people together, and build others up. Credit your collaborators and your inspirations. Cross-pollinate, share ideas, build community. Compete, then shake hands. Give time and talents and dollars to organizations and causes that matter. It helps everybody in the long run.

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