Here at Identity, we have a decades-long tradition of hosting an off-site, all-company meeting twice per year—an Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) initiative in which leadership shares goals for the agency, allows for conversation and feedback from our team about the direction of the agency and sets the tone for the remainder of the year.
Our biannual meetings have been a cornerstone to our agency culture. We’ve made them something to look forward to—a cool and experiential day in a notable venue, and an anticipated moment to step outside of daily client needs and focus on our agency vision, our performance, our connectivity as a team and our shared goals.
This summer, in the same vein of major events held across Michigan and around the country, we held our first-ever virtual biannual via Zoom. While we missed the energy and experience of being in the same room together, this two-day milestone event made up for the missing in-person aspect with authenticity, enthusiasm, candid discussion and the sharing of unique perspectives and lessons learned during 2020.
Despite the circumstances, our recent summer 2020 biannual was a stellar follow-up to January’s meeting—a multi-day, out-of-state biannual in Chicago complete with fun, team building experiences, honest reflection and a laser focus on our ambitious Identity 2020 vision.
Little did we know that shortly after our bus ride back to Detroit from Chicago in January, a pandemic would soon engulf virtually every aspect of our personal and professional lives. These past six months we have not only survived, but thrived, thanks to our team’s delivery of great work, our reputation for results and our culture focused on showing up, no matter what. Here’s a small sample of what we shared during our recent biannual meeting:
Identity 2020: Vision Accomplished
During a 2016 biannual, Identity President Mark Winter and I communicated our bold vision for Identity 2020—forward-looking goals that detailed where we wanted the agency to be from growth, innovation, service and vision standpoints by the end of 2020.
This biannual was the culmination of Identity 2020, and our leadership team spent some of the first day talking through our successes in meeting each and every lofty goal we set for ourselves. We also gave updates on the status of some newer goals we set back in January for the next two years.
Our goals for the year included a focus on continuing our exciting trajectory of agency growth on the heels of an incredibly successful 2019. Our plans to rev the engine on our Chicago expansion—including our first hire—were executed prior to the pandemic. We also set forth a big vision for a bigger and bolder goal for national media wins as well as our plans to continue to innovate with compelling client moments fueling great social, digital and media content. Despite the uniqueness of this year, we’ve continued to keep our eyes on our vision and goals, accomplishing them in a way that looks a bit different than planned, but sets the tone for continued growth and evolution even in times of crisis.
Living Lessons Learned from the COVID Crisis
The biggest chunk of time was spent discussing the elephant in the room—the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has transformed us as people, and as an agency. Thanks to a strong core DNA, the trials and tribulations Identity could tackle and overcome have ultimately made us a better company, and taught each of us new skills that will prove useful for the rest of our careers.
We were fortunate to have the right technology in place to support a mass shift to remote work with relative ease, but the nature by which the crisis uprooted our daily habits has not always been easy to grapple with. To that end, we closed out day one by hearing from four members of our team regarding the good, the bad and the ugly regarding the effects of the pandemic personally, professionally and mentally. Hearing these individual journeys and perspectives was a truly humbling and eye-opening experience.
Several of our team members shared their stories of personal growth during this time, the challenges they’ve faced and the bright spots of opportunity and lessons learned. The experience-share of our team was by far the best part of our meeting. We had a chance to listen, learn and hear stories about their lives in a time when we’ve been physically distant.
Commitment to DE&I
On day two of our biannual, we devoted most of the morning detailing our agency’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by taking concrete action to become intentional and inclusive in our efforts, policies and practices.
As we listened and began to participate in the conversation happening in our country with each other internally, we felt the time was right to purposefully define how we want to evolve the agency and launch an intentional and robust D&I program to reflect a more purposeful approach to diversity and inclusion.
During this collaborative and introspective review, we laid out the first steps of our plan to further the cause of justice within our organization and in our broader community, including:
- Making Martin Luther King Jr Day and Juneteenth company days of community service, where we will work together to honor the spirit of those days by serving and bettering our community
- Creating internal spaces dedicated to education, resource sharing, and fostering conversation in the DE&I space
- Bringing in outside voices on a semi-annual cadence (at a minimum) to help us learn and amplify the experience, history, and voices of marginalized and disadvantaged persons
- Conducting a thorough review of our internal policies and procedures to make anti-racism and anti-discrimination efforts agency standards
- Attracting and hiring more diverse candidates, in part by more purposefully recruiting at minority schools and associations in our recruiting efforts, and working harder to ensure that they are not only considered, but hired
We also announced the creation of a new annual initiative whereby we will invite small, local, minority owned or operated businesses to submit for the opportunity to receive a pro bono package to help them market their business and tell their story. We’re currently finalizing that program for a full roll out by the end of the year, to begin in 2021.
The Next Chapter
While 2020 looks much different than we could have planned, I remain incredibly proud of the great work our Identity team has accomplished, and the goals we have achieved. Having Identity 2020 as a visionary north star for four years helped influence many ultimately successful decisions by our leadership team, and gave everyone a shared goal to accomplish.
The success of Identity 2020 has prompted us to lay out our next set of lofty goals for 2025. Like before, we know this type of bold planning and visionary leadership serves us well. It is one of the many ways our team brings our values and the Identity Way to life daily. Here’s to what’s next and continuing to embrace this journey.