Three Things Syd Learned Launching Studio McGee with Shea

Syd and Shea started Studio McGee in 2014 after Shea gathered a loyal following on Instagram documenting the redesign of their first home together. From there, that little company the duo built from the ground up turned into deals with Target, Threshold x Studio McGee, a product arm, McGee & Co., multiple social channels, like YouTube and Instagram, a show on Netflix, multi-million dollar full-house renovations and builds, and an ever-growing staff. Lessons were surely learned along the way. We asked Syd McGee, Studio McGee’s CEO, what the top three things are that he can pass along to those following a similar trajectory. Here, three things Syd learned while launching Studio McGee with Shea.

No. 01 | Learn to Adapt to Change

No. 02 | At First Say Yes, Then No

No. 03 | Build a Team You Trust

Three Things Syd Learned Launching Studio McGee with Shea
Three Things Syd Learned Launching Studio McGee with Shea

No. 01 | Learn to Adapt to Change

“Change is constant,” Syd starts. “From the beginning, change has been a constant and we’ve learned that we can either fight it or adjust to it, those are your two options. Our company started largely because of social media and that was our first encounter with the need to adapt. Instagram was constantly changing algorithms and since that was our primary source of media, content, and customers, we quickly learned that we had to adjust to whatever their algorithm was to continue to see growth,” Syd explains.

“You can complain about it and say I wish it didn’t happen or you can lean into it and run with whatever needs to happen in that moment.”

– Syd McGee

Three Things Syd Learned Launching Studio McGee with Shea
Three Things Syd Learned Launching Studio McGee with Shea

“The same happened in our business, as at first, we were primarily a design studio. As time went on we changed to a business with a heavy focus on product. We had to change our operational teams, how they functioned, and how we thought about things,” Syd said regarding the launch and growth of our product arm, McGee & Co. “For us there’s always been change, and we’ve learned that you can complain about it and say I wish it didn’t happen or you can lean into it and run with whatever needs to happen in that moment.”

No. 02 | At First Say Yes, Then No

“My next piece of advice is at first say yes to nearly everything, and then say no to most things,” Syd explains. “When we were starting out, I would say yes to all types of different projects. I managed processing new client inquiries, so I would talk to a client to see what their budget was and what they were hoping to do with their home. I was a good and bad person to be doing this job, because I would get excited about every opportunity and walk into the office, which at the time was six or seven people total, announcing we were taking on a new project. I’d say, ‘okay guys, I got us another one,’ and they’d say, ‘gosh, we’re already feeling buried with what we have.’ At this point, Shea was the one going to check on the projects herself. That was a lot of time she’d be out of pocket and away from family. I thought I had to say yes to everything, or we wouldn’t survive as a business. But as we grew, I learned that saying yes to everything meant we wouldn’t survive for other reasons, like burnout. With growth, we learned to dial it back and define parameters.”

“Say yes to almost everything then no to most things.”

– Syd McGee

Three Things Syd Learned Launching Studio McGee with Shea

“Nowadays,” Syd continues, “it’s more important that we’re picky about our yesses, and that we execute those really well without exhausting our bandwidth. It’s about staying really focused so we don’t choke on the opportunity. Again, say yes to almost everything then no to most things.”

No. 03 | Build a Team You Trust

“Adjusting to a modern workplace is something I think is crucial to a company’s growth. Some people will stay with you for 20 years, as what used to be the norm, and their role will change and adapt alongside the company. Other people’s roles may phase out as they or the company grows. Making decisions around this fact is hard, especially when you’re a tightknit company like ours. Letting people go, or seeing people go on their own accord, is part of the process of growth,” Syd explains. “Sometimes what people are trying to do with their careers and what we’re trying to do with our company syncs up for years and then might come to a halt as one of the two parties pivot. Being comfortable with that is key.”

“The fact that you only have so much bandwidth and you’re not an expert at everything has to eventually win.”

– Syd McGee

Three Things Syd Learned Launching Studio McGee with Shea
Three Things Syd Learned Launching Studio McGee with Shea

“The book Powerful: Building A Culture of Freedom and Responsibility by Patty McCord articulates the importance of building and maintaining a team really well. This helped me start to have some hard but honest conversations,” Syd adds. “Another element of it is that when you start out small, you find yourself wearing a lot of different hats. As you grow you realize you need to bring in people who are better at doing a particular job than you are. Sometimes it’s easy to hand that off, sometimes it can be quite difficult as it conflicts with your ego. But the fact that you only have so much bandwidth and you’re not an expert at everything has to eventually win.”