Imagine a year ago all of the plans you had for the summer. If you live in a major city, I'm sure you could backtrack the receipts for events you had booked. Maybe some friends or relatives had travel confirmations and planned to visit you. Sidenote -- we can assume if you don't live in a major city, you happen to be one of the friends.
Now insert a rapidly moving global pandemic that impacted every walk of our life. It's violent and (dun dun dun) unprecedented. Our culture has been – what the kids call - shook.
But just like every cultural event, it is written in our DNA to evolve and adjust. In our complex modern world, it's not only necessary to do so – it's innate. As I delved into this topic last week, we can assume that our business advancements have resulted from our balance in the culture vs. strategy struggle. We have strived to adjust to the climate our world moves in, and to that point, I'd like to break down some critical elements in our cultural journey as a company.
Every superhero has an origin story, and for Verb, our superheroes come from very many walks of life. On the California side, we have seemed to operate in a very Avengers-like notion. I think calling on individuals' talents and having them work together seamlessly happens to be one great skill of our CEO, Rory Cutaia. As his previous ventures have gained him a unique and devout following of supporters, it was effortless to operate as a family. Not only did we work together very close in proximity as a large family under one house would, but we also ate, cooked, cleaned, played, celebrated, and traveled together.
On the Utah side of things, we happened to be lucky enough to join forces with the family that has built their operation from the ground up. The father of JJ (Senior VP of Sales) and McKinley (President of Global Sales), Oswald purchased a duplication company whose main clients were direct sales companies. That was over 30 years ago where their direct sales journey began, and today the pride they have in providing such reliable service to the industry is something to be proud of. It's the pride they extend to every piece of Verb. That pride is genuinely a part of our culture.
Some Recent Lessons
As mentioned before, last year, the pandemic shook things up pretty well. As a company that just merged in April of 2019, we spent the majority of that year combining operations, getting to know each other, and building our brand. 2020 though – that was going to be our breakout year.
I mean full stop.
The giant curtain was being set up to unveil what we had been brewing. I don't mean a delicious beverage (unless you're into that). We had been collaborating endlessly on our initiatives and team bonding, and to be honest -- we were in a fantastic place.
But all while a big grand opening party we were planning in our Newport Beach office, I can remember very vividly overhearing the actual cancelation phone conversations with the nearby hotel. Although party favors had been ordered and other reservations had been booked, our event had to be canceled.
No violin strings here because just like many of us all, we understood that we were in it together. This wasn't going away, and there had to be more in store.
But what was to come of our company culture that we were working so hard to build and now had to preserve? What about the reboot of our next Summer Outing? Is our Sales Team going to thrive if these outgoing individuals are to be confined to a corner desk in a space adjacent to their kid's playroom?
Adjust. We had to.
The balance we had to find in 2020 set us up for what was to come this year in 2021. Quarantine began with weekly activities planned during the month. Virtual team-building activities became our "new norm" and for a good reason too. A 2015 Gallup study shows that "a highly engaged team can boost employee engagement by up to 39%." Whether they're done over a weekend retreat or an hour-long lunch break, team activities can improve company communication, build trust and inspire creativity. So we did just that.
One major feat was our summer party for the first time was entirely virtual. We decided to host a team talent show. Everyone was invited to participate, and that participation was incentivized with gift cards. Before the event, each employee was mailed a Verb swag box full of fun, Verb-branded gear, including a face mask, Verb for Humanity shirt, fanny pack, and stickers. The week before the party, everyone was emailed a link allowing them to select a meal that would be delivered 30 minutes before the beginning of the show. For our performers, they were reminded to submit 2-minute videos of their talents (unless they preferred to perform live). A panel of judges was selected and informed of the judging criteria. Finally, our emcee and creative lead prepared by filming introductory and intermission videos and putting together a setlist.
Morale was not only high -- it was skyrocketing. The many events prior were easily followed up with email and slack messages full of praise. It was a sign that not only were we doing something extremely valuable to our company, but we were also better suited to extend this energy to our clients as well. Another initiative that started at the beginning of the year, The Direct Sales Masterclass Series, was beginning to bear fruit. The word was spreading, and our guests of the series could easily communicate the value of our service and conversation.
The 2021 Mindset
Are you still with me? This roller coaster is just a taste of what the past year had to offer us. 2021 began with a new mindset that now has truly become affectionately special to us. We introduced our Verb Themes initiative, and since then, we could see (and maybe even feel) a new shift in our company culture.
We now have something definable. Our "Why" has now come to the forefront, and leaders like our Creative Director, Mike Dobson, have something that truly blends our passions for all of the subcultures. Pop culture, social media, social awareness, and more have given us purpose to connect with each other in some very creative ways.
Now enter Nostalgia Marketing.
"As we know, brand loyalty can be achieved in many ways, but oftentimes in our industry, it's built on long-established relationships within the industries we serve. These relationships are
typically the result of intimate connections founded through face-to-face interactions—meetings, lunches, contracts, projects, etc. So, how do we accelerate these connections and create that same level of familiarity and trust with our customers on a compounded
timeline? By creating bonds between Verb's current and potential customers through Nostalgia Marketing." – Mike Dobson
With our new venture, our hope is to appeal to clients and customers who grew up in the 80s/90s and provide them with an easy, impactful way to connect with Verb. Our goal is to tap into those fond memories through the modified and evolving brand in order to reach our audience on an emotional level and create authentic brand loyalty. It's not all, but who knew some really cool Zoom backgrounds and engaging Twitter polls would improve our engagement stats?
Verb Themes, Verb for Humanity, Masterclass, Verb Heroes (which you'll find out about soon), and more all have been platforms we have used to improve our culture here at Verb. Those pieces of our culture aren't just t-shirts in an amazing online store that you could visit right now – It is now added to the pride I mentioned earlier.
The Quick Verdict
So, can Verb's culture be sustained by anything other than the successful execution of our strategies? The short answer is "yes". Every instance of building our brand internally and externally has come with great deliberation, and every nook and cranny has been evaluated with care towards what our message is.
Our slogan "Always Together" hasn't become a cultural phenomenon (yet) but is something we truly believe. Whether it is our blood families or our clients, we are truly in this thing together. There is always something cool about that.
If you've made it this far, you've been rewarded with this gem from our season one of Verb Themes. Thank you for being a part of our culture, and I hope this 90's throwback brings some joy to your day.
About the author:
David Butler usually shares some of his monumental moments at Verb, dives into the inspiring process of collaboration that makes up the foundation of the Creative Team, and shares plenty of insight with his frequent blog posts.