Fall is in the air. As I sit at my gate at the Dane County Airport heading off to the first of two conferences we’ll be covering this month with live social media support, I can’t believe how quickly this year has gone by.
I founded Sarah Best Strategy in October 2014, and as we celebrate our 5th birthday, there are a lot of personal and company milestones to celebrate—including being selected for the prestigious Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program at Babson College and graduating with a certificate in entrepreneurship; being selected for the Female Founders Collective; getting a new logo; moving into a new office; and adding some new members to our team, including our Senior Strategist, Kyle Freund, writer Lisa Applegate, social media account manager Elise Schmike, and our 2019 interns David Jiang and Elise Goldstein.
Building Culture on Remote Teams
One of the major takeaways that I had from my time in the Goldman Sachs program was the importance of building a culture right from the start. So we’ve spent some time this year working to define our shared values, beliefs and assumptions; create common practices; and use that information to express our company culture through cultural artifacts, standard operating procedures, measuring our community impact, and even through the new art in our office.
We are creating a culture that centers CARING for each other, for our clients, for our client’s customers, which is built on a foundation of empathy and respect for each other; and a culture of PURPOSE, recognizing that if we do our jobs well, our clients will be able to better touch the lives of their customers and serve their communities.
Culture in a 100% Remote Workplace
You may not know that our team is 100% remote. That means we live in different cities! Even Kyle and I, who are both based in Madison, work out of different co-working spaces (although we get together for a tête-à-tête every Wednesday afternoon). So how do we build camaraderie?
Creating a Cultural Artifact
As part of my time in the Goldman Sachs program, I worked with my amazing team to create a cultural artifact that represents our commitment to building this culture.
Implementing a Cultural Artifact
So how did we end up using this image? This image, along with our vision statement informed the creation of our new logo: the ripples being reflected in the rays of light generated by our lantern and in our sunny color palette.
“We help companies shine in the digital space in the service of creating happier, healthier, and more inclusive communities.
We also used the artifact when selecting artwork for SBS HQ in Madison:
Artwork credits: The print on the left was created by Cathy Charles and is available on Etsy. The paintings on the right are by Chicago painter James Jankowiak. You can view his paintings here.
We’re also working on cozy and fun swag for both our team and for our clients.
Tracking Our Impact on the Community
This is the first year that we also decided to start tracking the contributions that we’re making, both as individuals and as a company, to organizations and people in our community. I want to take a minute to thank and celebrate the hours and money that my team has donated and volunteered.
This year, our volunteer work took us everywhere from our local school districts to Guatemala to our local Girl Scout Camp. We helped farmers abroad who go hungry because of unfair wages, and farmers here at home who were impacted by devastating flooding.
We donated time to nonprofit boards and racial equity committees in our towns and schools, and gave to numerous friends and family who needed an extra leg up because they’re teachers shelling out for their own art supplies; friends in need of heart surgery or whose homes had burned down; people heading off to Puerto Rico and Ethiopia on service and relief trips; and college students on the West Side of Chicago heading off to college for the first time without dorm supplies.
We participated in backpack drives. We designed colorful ‘80s graphics for PTA fundraisers. We organized cocktail parties for chamber musicians, supported Rotary in their quest to end Polio, and served on LGBTQ+ grantmaking committees.
We gave to RAICES, Freedom for Immigrants, Ronald McDonald House, St. Jude’s, American Family Children’s Hospital, our school PTAs, rainforest organizations, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Crossroads Fund, our local public radio and NPR stations, theater companies, MS walks, and families moving into homes for the first time. We randomly found Euros in the street and gave it away to women’s causes!
Finally, some of the recipients of our Nonprofit Office Hours and free Sip & Social tickets this year, included the College for Social Innovation, Aptiv, Chicago Gateway Green, Chicago Legal Aid, Rochelle Zell Jewish High School, Goodman Community Center, Alzheimer’s Association, Madison Public Library Foundation, and Box of Balloons. We offer Nonprofit Office Hours on a first-come, first-served basis every week.
Many States, One Team
I think that as business throughout the world continues to evolve, we’re all going to be moving towards more flexible, dispersed teams. Learning to build culture on remote teams is something that, as business leaders, we need to continue to innovate around and provide leadership on. We need to continue to outline a vision that reflects and serves the needs of our workforce. I am so grateful for the team we are building and can’t wait to see how it continues to evolve in our next five years!