M1 Concourse for Business

Putting the Pedal to the Floor – Recapping the Identity 2018 Summer Biannual Meeting

By: Brandon Chesnutt

We’ve often heard from team members that the Identity Biannual Meeting is something unique and special to our agency.

It’s our philosophy that a well-informed and engaged team will produce better work. While we communicate quite frequently on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to keep the entire agency in the loop, it can be tough to focus on the bigger picture and vision for the company. Our Identity Biannual Meetings help us step away from the daily grind and discuss how we are continually evolving to become a better company.

Our typical Identity Biannual Meeting agenda covers the following:

  • Review of agency goals and our progress;
  • Business health and financials;
  • Important milestones reached over the previous six months; and
  • Themes, ideas and business changes that will catapult us forward for the next six months and into the foreseeable future.

Another important element of an Identity Biannual Meeting: Location.

If you called the content shared “the main course” of the meeting, the location could be likened to the presentation of the dish. As we shared in our post about the importance of off-site meetings, we always aim to find a place with a story or mission that aligns with our agency message.

Over the past several years, we’ve hosted Identity Biannual Meetings at some amazing places throughout metro Detroit. A few of my favorite meeting locations and memories include:

  • Jam Handy Building, a historic production studio closely linked with World War II and the automotive industry that is experiencing a rebirth.
  • Griffin Claw Brewing Company and their unique canning operation that has helped the brewery reach incredible production volumes in record time.
  • Holiday Market, where we cooked dishes as a team in their experiential kitchen Mirepoix.

This summer’s meeting location: M1 Concourse

Taking Risks

Prior to starting our meeting, we had the opportunity to hear Brad Oleshansky, Founder and CEO of M1 Concourse, share his incredible entrepreneurial journey. From working in entertainment law and representing Suge Knight to building one of Detroit’s pioneering digital agencies, his story was all about taking risks.

The road to developing M1 Concourse was rife with orange cones. After identifying a possible location in Pontiac for the garages and track, Brad had to work his way through local, state and federal authorities as the city was in the midst of navigating its bankruptcy. He then needed to find funding sources to help make the dream a reality.

Brad shared stories of what it was like to chase some of the biggest names in the automotive industry, only to be met with no after no regarding investment. Now, most of the power players he chased in the early days of M1 Concourse own garages at the facility.

Just two years after opening its doors, M1 Concourse has become the destination for car enthusiasts in metro Detroit. As Brad closed his story, we could hear the roar of engines as visitors participated in hot laps on the track in the early afternoon. The dream had become a reality.

Brad’s story is going to make a great book one day. We can’t wait to read every chapter.

The Changing Nature of Work 

As we dug into the day’s content, we spent considerable time discussing the work coming into the agency.

The past 12 months at Identity have seen unprecedented change in terms of the type of client engagements walking through our door. While we had the great fortune of expanding and growing many of our longstanding and new client retainer relationships, we also saw more and more requests for project work based on defined scopes of work and timelines. Companies like Luxury Garage Sale, Drybar and Poag tapped our team for a wide variety of specific engagements, including influencer events, aggressive media pushes around a grand opening and crisis communication training sessions. Some of our best work that has allowed us to grow in 2018 has been produced thanks to these engagements.

These projects, while fun, fresh and energizing, impact our agency in a very different way. The majority of them can be executed with ease. Others have to be digested into the system and assigned based on the capacity of the team. It’s different, and sometimes, a little uncomfortable. But being uncomfortable can be a good thing.

We’re recognizing projects as a key component of our growth as we head into 2020. And the message to our team has been to remain committed and stay the course.

Work + Life Integration

Earlier this year, we asked our team members to complete an anonymous survey about their feelings and attitudes toward the current state of the agency. Based on the results, it was clear there were a lot of places where we killed it: culture, work quality, technology, professional development opportunities and more.

However, it wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows. We needed to work on a few other key areas inside the company. One major area of focus: work/life balance.

Talk to any seasoned PR professional and they’ll tell you that this career does not adhere to a 9-to-5 schedule. Early morning media segments at FOX 2. Late-night social media customer service needs. Rush client requests for digital ads or content. Jumping on conferences calls with brand teams in Denmark. This is all part of agency life.

So, instead of running from this reality, we’ve embraced it. During this section of our presentation, we unveiled a major change to our work-from-home policy.

Our new philosophy: If you need it, take it.

We originally limited our agency work-from-home days to a set number based on seniority within the agency. At the same time, we understand that life happens before, during and after work. While our office has always provided a level of flexibility to every employee, we wanted to go a step beyond and provide team members with the option to work from home whenever they need it.

This move does not impact our core belief that being in the office is still our standard operating procedure. Attending client meetings, internal check-ins, company events and the like helps us deliver great work while building stronger teams. We need people to be present, connected and obsessively focused on delivering great work every single day.

We’ve always joked that “no two days at Identity are alike.” Now, we provided our team members with the power, and increased level of personal accountability, to design how they tackle each day as needed.

The Future is Bright.

We covered a lot of ground in five hours. We spent the day sharing big ideas, reflecting on areas where we can improve and discussing how we can work together to be the best Identity we can be. The team left fired up and ready to run through walls.

We had a vision of things to come. We knew what we needed to do in order to continue living in our seat as the most badass agency out there. All that was left: a commitment to execute.

Now, The Fun Part.

To bookend our session, we headed over to Identity Founding Partner Mark Winter’s garage for food and spirits, followed by thrill rides around the track. Every few minutes, you could hear the tires squeal as another Identity team member drifted through a corner at a ridiculous rate of speed. Don’t worry. A professional driver was behind the wheel. We were just along for the ride.

*Cover photo courtesy of M1 Concourse.