Samantha Pyle struck out on her own and formed her own marketing agency eight years ago based on the idea that she could better serve clients by handpicking a team that fit their needs.
Green Apple Strategy has stuck to that premise (and theme) with its concept of what she calls “The Orchard,” a team of contractors who are called upon to handle clients’ different needs, such as web development, graphic design, and photography. The more clients it takes on, the more it builds this team. This approach helped the company land Nashville Business Journal’s Best in Business Award for 2020.
“Green Apple Strategy’s flexible model has carried on throughout lockdown, allowing us to adapt more easily to the changes it brought about,” Pyle said. “Our marketing strategies are focused on being proactive, rather than reactive, and this mentality has served our team well as we’ve navigated the operational changes within our team as well as our clients.”
Still, with a shift to remote work comes challenges. Here’s how Pyle and her team have adjusted.
“We are continually looking for ways to support our team members and keep morale high — especially as we became a fully virtual company in March and plan to remain that way indefinitely,” Pyle said. She lays out the three most impactful changes:
1. “Monday through Thursday, we have a team-wide video chat to check in, whether it's time to discuss client work or to connect on a personal level. Working from home full time was a curveball for our team — one that just so happened to turn out to be an excellent experience. We were suddenly in a situation where we needed to stay connected without daily office conversations. Before, we could stop by each others’ desks, lean against the doorframe, and talk shop while also chatting about what we watched over the weekend or the best dish to get at that new restaurant. Now, we have replaced those interactions with planned Zoom meetings and virtual happy hours.”
2. “We love learning about each others' personalities. By delving into our Culture Index or Enneagram results together, we better understand how to work effectively as a team, and it's a fun conversation. Working as a small, collaborative team requires understanding and empathy. The best way for us to operate smoothly and take care of our clients is to understand how our team members operate — their motivations, how they prefer to learn, how they respond in different situations, etc. As such, we spend a great deal of our time getting to know each other and taking care of each other, because that’s what makes our team the most productive and inspired as we work toward common goals.”
3. “We have made a point to share book and podcast recommendations with team members. As we've been inside our houses more, we find that we can look to each other to find different sources of creativity and inspiration. Marketing, no matter the type of client, is creative work. It’s easy to forget how much of our creative inspiration comes from outside influences: the musicals we watch, the conversations we have with friends over cocktails, the trips we take, and so on. While some of those experiences still exist, they are much less frequent. So we continually exchange ideas, whether they are work-related or not.”
How has it benefited the company
“We work hard to keep each other inspired and challenged,” Pyle said. “As a result, we are just as productive virtually as when we left the office. Thankfully, we are avoiding burnout this way, too. Some of our most creative work has come out of our newly virtual environment. It all comes full circle, really. We stay connected to our team, keep an open-door policy, and inspire and encourage each other every chance we get. We understand the power of a “kudos” or an “amazing work” compliment, and we share those words of affirmation freely. When we’re connected, we’re doing our best work, and in some ways, we’re more connected now than we’ve ever been.”
“When we became a fully remote team, the biggest challenge was reimagining our routine with these morale-focused activities in mind,” Pyle said. “We also had to remind ourselves continually to search for fresh ideas on virtual team engagement. The challenge is staying away from a set-it-and-forget-it mindset when it comes to team engagement. What worked today may not work tomorrow, and it’s up to us to continually monitor team morale. We are evolving as much as our clients throughout this time, and we have to keep our fingers on the pulse.”
5 tips from Pyle to implement this change
5. “Always look for outside insight and influence! If you feel uninspired, it's likely because you've spent much of your time alone, working. When you feel this way, step away for a second, call a co-worker, pick up a book, listen to a podcast episode or a song, take a walk — whatever you need to do to inspire a new perspective. This is how we keep our minds clear and how we produce creative, engaging content while working from home.”
4. “Open the floor for thoughtful discussions. During your team meetings, pose questions to get a better understanding of how your employees feel. Keeping an eye on your team’s overall state of mind will provide insight into how you may adjust your approach to team engagement and satisfaction. Examples of questions include, ‘What has been the biggest challenge when working from home?’ and ‘Can I help you in any way?’ When you’re making a business decision that affects them: ‘How would you like for us to approach this change in our business?’”
3. “Share wins and losses. Transparency is an excellent way to help your team remain in sync with their goals and with each other. When you win a new client’s business or knock a project out of the park, celebrate. Let your team know how great of a job they’re doing and how much you appreciate their work. Likewise, when you hit a bump in the road, share that too. These challenges are learning opportunities that you can work through together.”
2. “Show your gratitude. Your team thrives on appreciation. We all want to feel helpful and valued, so never miss an opportunity to tell a team member how well they’re doing or what a great job they did on that client call yesterday. Try showing gratitude with tokens of appreciation as well. A small gesture can go a long way.”
1. “Remind your team to take time for themselves. We can so easily get caught up in work, especially now as a work-from-home environment can blur the line between someone’s personal and professional life. Employees who work remotely tend to put off taking vacation time and mental health days, but that doesn’t mean they need them any less than someone who commutes to an office. Encourage your team to spend time recharging.”