Starting a business at all is a bold endeavor. Risk and opportunity are your constant companions. This is something I learned firsthand when I made the decision to start OBI Creative.
After initial success growing it on the west coast, I moved back to the Midwest and brought my business with me. And then the Great Recession of 2007 – 2008 hit.
It was like starting all over again.
I learned a lot of painful lessons during the downturn that I applied when the pandemic hit. But in between the Great Recession and the Pandemic, I made another bold decision that was nearly as dangerous as my decision to start my business.
I decided to scale
Friends told me to go for it. Mentors told me to stay put. I had found great success as a small, strategic research agency, but I knew we could do more for our clients.
More than anything, I wanted to put the strategy into practice for them with campaigns that would deliver results. I couldn’t stand to see our research gather dust on a shelf. I wanted to help clients connect with their customers and grow their business.
Capacity and capability
Any guide to scaling will tell you capacity and capability are the keys to successful scaling. Beyond desire, you must have the capacity to grow, and the systems, infrastructure and team to accommodate that growth.
It’s not that different from a wildly successful marketing campaign.
When your messaging and tactics are grounded in research, your campaign is likely to generate growth. But you have to be ready to handle that growth, otherwise you risk alienating old and new customers alike.
I’ve seen firsthand the chaos that occurs when fulfillment breaks down or customer service is understaffed.
I didn’t want any of that to happen to OBI Creative. So I grounded my effort to scale my business in identifying, organizing and building to the strengths of my team.
Success starts inside
When people are happy in their roles, satisfied with their contributions and enjoy positive, meaningful relationships with their coworkers they are going to create great work for clients.
OBI Creative is full of the most talented, strategic, creative, hardest-working people you’ll ever meet. It’s a very exciting place to be right now. We’re growing and creating award-winning work.
I’ve always wanted OBI to be the place for brilliant minds to build their careers, so I invested intentionally in building a culture that nurtures creativity and fosters personal and professional growth.
Prioritize your team strengths
While I was evaluating the business plan, securing funding, ramping up our sales pipeline and examining technology investments, I invested in our team by taking everyone through exhaustive Clifton StrengthsFinder training.
The training included personal evaluation and team coaching sessions where everyone gained insight about each other and how to communicate and drive results for clients together more effectively.
But we took it a step farther. We went beyond understanding to organize teams and identify gaps around strengths.
Job titles were retooled; teams were reformed; office space was remade; and the agency’s culture was reinvigorated.
With engagement at an all-time high, this investment led to an expansion of our agency’s capabilities to include organizational consulting and the ability to offer branding advice from a position of personal strength.
Hire people who live and love your culture
When you think and operate uniquely, you can produce the unique identity and culture you want your customers to experience. But your employees are your culture and your culture is your brand, so hiring people who understand and embrace the particular difference you make in customers’ lives is critical.
Gallup is fanatical about this. It says its interview process is atypical because it is atypical.
It only hires people who are a perfect fit for their open roles. Its talent assessment is how it ensures it puts the right people in the right positions for its unique culture. Finalists for any position are invited to meet with key employees about joining the Gallup organization. It wants its employees to feel confident that Gallup is the right fit for them as much as they are for it.
It’s talent assessment is so effective that it has exported its strengths assessment to other businesses so they can align their hiring decisions with the brand to ensure the right mix of talent and personality traits fills out every position and rounds out every team.
Where we are today
We used this process at OBI Creative years ago to align our team for success and it is a huge part of why we are experiencing the growth we do today.
Speaking of today, every employee takes StrengthsFinder tests when they join OBI Creative and we continue to build our teams around the results. It’s a tangible way we build the kind of positive, meaningful culture we need to drive results for our clients and help our community thrive.
It’s also how we make sure we have every strength we need to help our clients grow represented across the agency and within cross-functional teams.
We’ve experienced incredible growth, both in revenue and size. And my sights are set higher yet. I know we have the framework in place to continue to scale without leaving anyone behind, because we’ve prioritized people from the start. And we created a culture tailored to their strengths and the celebration of what makes them unique.