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December 9, 2021

Is It Milk, Cream, Butter, or Buttermilk? It’s All About the Culture.

Teresa Treadway

Building agency culture.

The word “culture” has been tossed around quite a bit over the last 18 or so months. 

Companies across the globe had to pivot in 2020 due to the pandemic, and as it raced into 2021. Here at Creative Energy, I was worried about how we would keep our new Jackalope culture alive. 

So, you ask yourself, “What makes a good culture and how do you sustain it?  If you’re making butter or buttermilk, it’s just a cow and a whole lotta churning.  If you’re trying to create a sense of belonging to something that’s fulfilling and professionally stimulating, that takes a bit of time and commitment.  It also takes patience and time to listen, navigate and understand a variety of personalities.  Especially when you see two-thirds of your staff on a remote call numerous times a day, maybe once a week and sometimes not at all. As I watched those faces on the screen, I continued to feel this sadness that what we had worked so hard to create for nearly 30 years was waning. 

Eventually, I found myself rolling up my sleeves and scrolling through tons of articles on best practices for work culture as it related to remote workers, hybrid work scheduling, and even those workers who didn’t have the option to work from home.  While I found a significant number of ideas, none really resonated with the culture we had built.   What I did discover and something that I always knew was sometimes you must “trust your gut,” and move forward.   Our new brand talks about joining the Flaggerdoot or a herd of Jackalopes, happily collaborating and moving about for the greater good, while spreading magic to the masses. 

In a combined effort with our leadership team, in late October, we brought back our company Halloween Party coupled with a message that the office was open, and it was time to welcome people back.  For some employees, it was the first time they had been in the office in well over a year.  For our remote work staff, who joined us during lunch and were included in team-building exercises like scavenger hunts, assembly of crazy carriers to keep eggs from breaking, and received their Trick or Treat bag via a shipping carrier.  Throughout the afternoon, I couldn’t help but observe the constant talking, the laughter, and the sense of belonging.  After that event, I began thinking that maybe we were still in the “milk” stage.  Maybe not whole milk, but 2%.

In mid-November, we gave our staff the option to work remotely 2–3 days per week and begin the process of integrating themselves back into the office.  For several staff who worked at the office, the “sound of silence” some days was very depressing compared to the past when you would hear outbursts of laughter and spontaneous conversations, the first couple of weeks you still heard little to no sound of that individual chatter and I kept my hopes up.  Now after about a month of this schedule, I am hearing and seeing individuals stopping in to have work conversations in person spawning a renewed spirit of collaboration.

Fast forward a couple more weeks, our Christmas Party Extravaganza made its way to the golden stage, and while it was a crazy busy day for me personally, I watched that smooth, silky transition of milk to cream.  A team-building exercise where people found out something they really didn’t know about another staff member opened a whole new experience of discovery and fun conversations.  Our Christmas Cook-Off, once again “wowed” our guest judges.  Secret/Dirty Santa left some employees with the nice gift, some stealing for the most coveted gifts, and some left with a real zonker—And our “Big Game” of Let’s Make a Deal, a long-standing employee favorite, provided the “whipped cream” on top of the cake.  After each and every element of the party, you could feel the energy in the office.  At the end of the day, I was mentally and physically spent, but this ol’ gal found the energy to go out with the young ones for that last nightcap of the evening.  And guess what?  The conversations continued……

We live in different times, and I’m still learning to adjust to what was, what is and what is yet to come.  I truly believe that great culture comes from the contribution of everyone in the company, and it takes a herd, coupled with an unwavering spirit that will keep it alive, long after I’m gone for sure.

So… Cheers to our Jackalopes and may 2022 be filled with love, laughter, commitment, great work, and a place we call Creative Energy!