Your Company Is Only As Good As The People Who Work There
Today’s distributed team model (remote team members connected through technology) is quickly becoming the norm. Most companies are finding small and flexible office space and then hiring the best of the best, regardless of where those people physically live.
Technology enables them to collaborate, meet, chat and work together in real time. But maintaining a thriving company culture in that environment becomes increasingly challenging and puts even the best company cultures to a test.
Despite all of the advantages of a distributed team, nothing beats getting everyone together under the same roof to sit across the table or grab five minutes in the hall to simply chat and catch up.
In January, Square 2 hosted our 2019 Kickoff Extravaganza in Philadelphia with all of our team members.
Here are the advantages of having this type of event, and why we think it’s critical to growing your company and driving consistent revenue growth.
Focus And Direction
No matter how big or small your company, it’s easy to feel like it’s drifting. In some cases, it’s just a feeling CEOs get, but in most cases, it’s a reality. In my experience, most companies are drifting; they’re simply executing day in and day out. Perhaps those leaders would like it to be different, but they don’t know how to get it to be different. And in some cases, this drifting does not prevent them from being successful financially.
I’ve found it challenging to keep upward of 50 people focused on the goals of the company. Weekly reminders, regular emails, ad-hoc check-ins with leaders, special rewards and recognition all play a role in continual communication around goals, focus and direction. You have to tell people over and over and over again.
Having everyone together allows us to collapse months of communication into a single session. Getting everyone rowing in the same direction is key for companies that want to grow. This year we focused everyone’s energy down to four simple numbers: revenue, profit, client happiness and team member happiness. For us in 2019, focus is important.
We talked about why we’re focusing on those four numbers and what everyone can do to drive those four numbers. Then we rolled out programs to support our drive to hit those four numbers. It would not have been as successful without people here in mind, body and soul.
Culture And Core Values
A common misconception around culture and core values is that once you have them, you put them up on the walls and you’re done. Nothing could be further from the truth, and you don’t need me to tell you that. People much smarter than me have written books about culture and how to nurture it.
One of the lessons from Square 2 is that you have to live it, and having everyone come into headquarters gives us the chance to live our culture. “Team Equals Family” is a core value, and being able to sit down with team members and ask them about their families, their hobbies, their vacations and their personal interests goes a long way toward fostering our culture and core values.
Being able to talk to team members about 2019 initiatives and tying them back to culture and core values reinforces those values. While it’s possible to do it in a remote way (and we do that weekly), nothing beats having everyone together eating, drinking, meeting, talking and sharing.
You can do training via video conferencing, and it’s fine. People listen and watch while they do other things, like check emails and do client work. It’s easy and relatively effective. But when you have 10 people sitting in a room looking at each other across the table, training gets better.
The personal interactions, the undisturbed attention, the facial expressions and the ability to ask questions without having to wait for a pause in the conversation is unmatched. Training is more effective in person.
During our meeting last month, we trained people on new technology, new service offerings, adjustments in the conversations we want to be having with our clients and how we work with our clients.
The honest and open conversations that come from the people working directly with clients is highly valuable to me and the rest of our leadership team.
Rollout Of New Programs
Teaching people new moves, new plays and new ways to work with clients and prospects is hard enough, let alone having to do it over video. Having the team in-house for couple of days makes rolling out new services and new technology offerings much easier.
We were able to have in-person conversations with both revenue and services teams around our sales enablement offering. We talked about the expansion of services in this area, the rollout of new technology to support the service offering and the details associated with delivering, pricing and transitioning clients from marketing to sales engagements.
Our Guaranteed Results Program, now in full swing with all of our clients, required some tweaking based on feedback from clients. We did some role-play conversations to make sure that expectations were clear and honest from the first time people are introduced to the idea to the time client services has to deliver on it.
This kind of communication and collaboration is better done in person.
We do our best to build up the team week in and week out. Providing regular rewards and a ton of recognition is great, but having the entire team here just makes the whole shop feel like a more tightly aligned set of people moving in the same direction.
At Square 2, we’ve always wanted to practice conscious capitalism, and we always connect our team events with an opportunity to give back. This event was no different. One afternoon, we broke up into six teams with an assignment to build wooden moose rocking chairs for children. The hitch? Only two people on each team could look at the directions. Then they had to instruct the rest of the team on what to do. It was a great lesson in communication, cooperation, collaboration and teamwork.
After we were done, a local charitable partner of ours (Cradles to Crayons, which we’ve supported for years) came by to pick up the rocking moose and provide them to local families in need. It’s always great to help people. Our team benefits, and the people who need help the most also benefit. It’s a true win-win.
You have to plan some time to party, too. We work too hard to not take a break, blow off some steam and have some fun. A bus tour of Philadelphia, an axe-throwing tournament, a late-night ice cream stop and a ton of laughs made our last night together truly memorable and provided us with enough stories to keep us laughing for at least a few months.
We have our automated feedback mechanisms like most companies. Pulse surveys, anonymous feedback forms and regular feedback meetings with team members are all great, but again, nothing beats sitting across the table from someone you care about and asking them, “How are you doing?”
It’s especially important for me, as most of these people no longer report directly to me. I also get to give them feedback, too. I made a point of talking directly to two growth strategists specifically to tell them that I appreciate their effort, that they’re doing a great job and that I understand their role can be a challenging one.
Feedback goes both ways. Having conversations like this with team members can uncover major issues that might need your attention, and sometimes telling people you appreciate them or that they’re doing a good job is all they need to hear.
Yes, I do this regularly via Zoom or in an email, but in-person personal conversations convey more emotion and feeling than any of those other techniques. That’s why it’s so critical for me, for Square 2 and for our leaders to have our team here in Philly with us as much as possible.
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