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A Time to Reflect on 2019

The start of the year is a great time to evaluate what we accomplished in the past year and what we hope to achieve in the new year—or in the case of 2020, the new decade. As a participant in the Future Leaders of YMC program (FLY for short), I am taking the time to count my blessings for the people I work with. Our FLY project began last year with a goal that was both simple and ambitious: to achieve a healthy work-life balance. That was a pretty tall order.

As our group looked at all the possible ways to accomplish our goal, we narrowed down the options and decided to create a set of best practices that would allow any team member to take a vacation or time off from work without the pressure of checking email and staying in touch while they’re gone. For a boutique firm with highly dedicated team members, completely unplugging from work was a foreign concept.

We began our plan by interviewing each team member to define the best practices for their respective positions and platforms. The first step was successful. Then, as we asked additional questions about communication and how other team members could make their job easier, we found some hidden treasures. The conversations opened an endless stream of ideas, uncovered opportunities to become more efficient, and, most importantly, allowed each staff member to feel heard.

Interestingly, none of my coworkers’ insights focused on what would make their life easier. Instead, their feedback provided ideas that could make the team more efficient or more intentional. Some team members even saw opportunities for how they could bring more creativity to our larger projects. These insights were incredibly helpful and allowed us to make quick changes that had an immediate impact.

Now, almost twelve months after starting the process, we are putting the bow on top of our best practices for every platform and position within our company. We’ve even been able to develop procedures and expectations for roles we hope to add in the future.

We stored these documents electronically in one location, giving everyone on the team equal access to the information. New employees can easily reference what is expected of them, and existing staff members can see the expectations for positions that may interest them in the future. To ensure consistency throughout our company, our team leaders will incorporate the best practices into weekly check-in meetings, as well as our full staff meetings.

Our best practices are not so much rules that restrict how we work, but guidelines that keep us focused. This distinction was important, and as we discussed it, I couldn’t help but think of the pirate code from The Pirates of the Caribbean. That code was more a list of suggestions than a collection of rules. Defined processes may sound boring, but they hold great value for any organization working towards consistency. In 2019, YMC decided to focus on improving three key areas: Quality, Consistency, and Calm. By establishing our best practices, we made great strides toward our goal.

If you’re a leader interested in creating an environment where every staff member feels valued and your team operates at its full potential, I recommend taking a look at your best practices. If they’ve been forgotten and relegated to a massive binder on someone’s shelf, it’s time to dust them off. If you haven’t looked at them in a while, there’s a good chance your guidelines aren’t communicating your procedures and expectations as clearly as they should. Updating your best practices can help you build a strong culture of accountability and collaboration.

One final word of advice: If you decide to refresh your best practices (or maybe even establish some for the first time), I encourage you to ask your team for perspective—and really listen. Many times, the most innovative changes come from unexpected places.

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