Team Day 2022: Ride the Walrus

Longtime readers of this blog already know that since our inception, UpBuild’s annual(ish) Team Day has been an important part of our company culture. As a fully-distributed company, we do a lot to facilitate team interaction via Zoom and Slack, but sometimes there’s just no substitute for getting together in person.

Team Day also gives us a chance to take a step back and talk about where we’ve been, what we’ve learned, and where we’re all going together. It’s easy to get down in the weeds on day-to-day client work, so it’s important for us to come together as a team periodically and make sure we haven’t veered off course while we weren’t looking.

The last couple of years have made Team Day pretty difficult to do. Team Day 2020 was supposed to be March 11th, 2020, and segue into our attending the Engage conference in Portland. Needless to say… neither of those things happened. We ended up having an abbreviated Team Day via Zoom, but it wasn’t the same as getting to see each other in person. In 2021, we did manage to get together — by having the entire day outside, in Mike’s backyard! 

This year we were finally ready to have the full retreat experience, so the team descended on Atlanta, GA for a few days of team bonding!

State of the Build

In his tenure as CEO, Mike made his annual State of the Build presentation a cornerstone of our Team Day activities. The State of the Build is a time to: 

  • Touch base on the “why” of UpBuild,
  • Retell the UpBuild story,
  • Reflect on our recent triumphs and struggles,
  • Challenge ourselves to consider and discuss larger questions, and
  • Look to the future in a way that we don’t get to do on a weekly basis.

This was my first Team Day as CEO, which means it was also my first time building and delivering the State of the Build. It was moving to take a look back on our history and the decisions we’ve made that got us where we are today, and think about just how far we’ve come as a team and as an agency.

UpBuild 2030: We’re Halfway There

As part of the State of the Build, we always take some time to discuss what UpBuild might look like in 2030, fifteen years from our inception. We were founded in May of 2015, so sing it with me: whoa-a-a-a, we’re halfway there…

The vision of UpBuild 2030 has evolved a lot over the years — fifteen years is a long time, especially on the internet. Heck, seven and a half years is a long time, especially on the internet! An evolving vision of who we are and what we want to be is a good thing in my book, because UpBuild has always been first and foremost about the team. When you’re team-focused, the people you bring on board are going to have a huge impact on the company’s culture and trajectory. We spend a lot of time and energy on hiring carefully and deliberately, and that effort has consistently paid off in a world-class team of marketers who really care about their work and are committed to making UpBuild better all the time.

One of my favorite business books is Jim Collins’ Good to Great. One of the concepts he discusses in that book that really resonated with me is the idea of having “the right people on the bus:”

Those who build great organizations make sure they have the right people on the bus… before they figure out where to drive the bus. They always think first about who and then about what. When facing chaos and uncertainty… your best ‘strategy’ is to have a busload of people who can adapt to and perform brilliantly no matter what comes next. Great vision without great people is irrelevant.

Jim Collins, Good to Great

As we drive the UpBuild bus into 2023, I’m confident that we’ve got the right group of people to take us somewhere great.

Ride the Walrus

The theme of 2022 for me (and therefore the theme of my first-ever State of the Build) was “Ride the Walrus.” While it originated in a Futurama episode, what the phrase “ride the walrus” has come to mean to me is that sometimes we don’t have as much control over a situation as we might think we do. If you’re riding a walrus, the walrus is going to go where they want — you can try to steer, and you might even be successful, but at the end of the day if the walrus wants to go somewhere else, there’s not much you can do to stop them.

There’s always going to be an element of riding the walrus when you’re running an agency (or really any business). You can try to forecast and plan for the coming year (and you should!), but there are forces in play beyond your control — forces like an uncertain economy, changing client needs, or a global pandemic — that will have a profound impact on your business as well. Acknowledging and accepting the unknown as a factor that will come into play is part of how we can stay agile as a business and responsive to our clients’ changing needs and markets.

A Spirit of Betterment

Team Day wouldn’t be Team Day without some brainstorming and thought-provoking discussions around how we do what we do. We talked about the rise of entity-based content marketing models, evolving tactics around image- and video-based SEO, and how we can improve team culture.

We also took some UpBuild-style “business stock photos,” including my personal favorite, “everyone look at a laptop”

One of our most productive discussions from Team Day 2022 was around Betterment — one of our core values at UpBuild. The team had a lot of great ideas for how we can continue to make our services better, make our clients’ lives better, and make the world a better place by giving back to our communities.

Stemming from this discussion, we’ve recently rolled out a new PTO benefit at UpBuild: Volunteer Time Off, or VTO! This is a policy that allows UpBuild team members to take a day off once per quarter  to volunteer for the nonprofit or charity organization of their choosing. As a fully-distributed team, it’s especially important for us to be grounded in our respective communities. VTO will help our team of passionate idealists carve out time for the causes we keep closest to our hearts.

I’m so glad we got to come together and connect as a team! 2023 is going to be a great year for UpBuild, no matter where that walrus takes us.

Written by
Drawing on over a decade of digital marketing experience (both in-house & agency-side), Ruth leads the team to drive client strategy forward.

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