Creatis - Creatis
OK - I'll admit it. I don't know how to 'not work'. When introducing myself at meetings during the 'go around the room and say who you are' part, it takes all of my will power not to shout out, "Hi, my name is Kathy and I'm a workaholic". I tried it at a networking gathering once, but not ONE person in the room shouted back "Hi, Kathy" - so I never did THAT again. (Those of you familiar with 12-step program meetings may appreciate that little attempt at humor). And my recovery has been going so well. On a vacation to Florida earlier this year my team said "now don't you work - just enjoy yourself". And I tried to not work. I really did. But there was a really fast internet connection. And I guess I could just NOT 'not work'.
And you know what?! That's OK.
So I may be the poster child for 'always doing something' and the queen of multi-tasking, but it works for me. I've spent most of my career feeling guilty about 'working to much', about not spending enough time with my family or making others who work with/for me feel guilty because they didn't work as much as I did. But I'm not feeling badly about it anymore, because I've realized that we all define balance in our own way. We all define success in our own way. We all decide how to integrate and align the many complexities and demands in our lives in ways that work for us.
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want
to test a man's character - give him power."
- Abraham Lincoln
Earlier this year we went through the season of honoring our historic presidents - and as we are living in very interesting political times I think it serves us well to look back so we can move forward. I expect I wasn't the only person who googled Abraham Lincoln on that 'not-quite-a-holiday-so-we-still-had-to-work" recognition of his birthday, and found a treasure trove of quotes that are still relevant today.
Over the course of my 30-year career in marketing, I've had the privilege (and pain) of managing many large marketing, CRM, customer database and web projects working with some very talented IT and Project Management professionals. One thing I often heard was, "Well, Kathy, you can have it cheap, you can have it fast, or you can have it good. Which two do you want?"
Client Spotlight: Portico Benefit Services
The word “portico” quite literally comes from the Latin word meaning “porch.” Over the centuries the definition has shifted slightly to mean “a structure with a roof.”
And what does a roof provide? As Bob Dylan might say, a little “shelter from the storm.”
Portico Benefit Services is that roof and shelter for leaders and employees of the ELCA and other faith-based organizations. It provides health benefits and wellness programs that help members live well through retirement and beyond. Their work is not only unique and inspiring, but also requires many unique resources so that their members can take full advantage of the available benefits. And with more than 50,000 people to serve across the U.S., their marketing team needed some extra arms and legs to help spread the word.
Cue Creatis! If Portico is the roof, then that would make Creatis one of the support beams.
Because we’re a one-stop-shop helping companies get marketing work done quickly and with excellence, we offered exactly the type of services they could use.
So for the past five years, Creatis has provided on-site resources and studio services to support Portico’s many marketing needs. Currently, we’re completing around 30 Portico projects per month in our studio, including: e-newsletters, brochures, website content, flyers, trade show booths, video edits and much more. We’ve also placed healthcare writers, project managers and other marketing resources on-site at Portico to bolster their internal team.
As an example of how well our hybrid model works, here’s a fun fact: One of the fantastic project coordinators we placed as a contractor at Portico was recently hired as a full-time employee - and now our studio project coordinators work with him almost everyday! How’s that for full circle?
The partnership has been so effective that Portico utilizes Creatis exclusively for their additional marketing needs. So what’s the secret?
Portico Vice President Kristin Steffen sums it up nicely, “Our partnership with Creatis is effective because of the mutual respect and understanding between our companies. The Creatis Studio functions as an extension of our internal team to quickly and efficiently create and update a variety of digital and offline content for our members. Likewise, the Creatis Staffing team saves us precious time in recruiting and sourcing contract resources as our business needs shift and change.”
Both companies walk the talk when it comes to service. We both understand that a healthy working partnership takes transparency, accountability, and trust. We’ve developed this special rapport by fostering ongoing relationships with individuals, and not just by blindly making demands and requests.
Here’s to 5 more years (and then some!) of being a Portico support beam.
For more information on Portico Benefit Services, please visit:
It is a privilege to be in the business of matching great people with great jobs as we support our clients across the Twin Cities. Our success - and that of our clients - is dependent upon having a deep pool of well trained, diverse, experienced and AVAILABLE job seekers ready to join our teams.
And - as an employer in Minnesota - I have to say that I'm worried.
One of the best parts of my job is that I get to do a lot of lunches with people to talk about Creatis. Not only does this energize me (my 'off-the-chart' E of my Myers Briggs profile loves this)but it also gives me a wonderful excuse to reconnect with some of my favorite people from previous jobs.
"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." Winston Churchill
As we celebrate our 20 years of being in business helping marketing and creative leaders across the Twin Cities get more work done, it is the perfect time us to express our gratitude to those who have been on this journey with us, and to 'give back' to the community in a meaningful way.
As an employer of more than 120 people across the Twin Cities, we take seriously our commitment to being a best-in-class business to ensure our employees can make a successful living with us. We also take seriously our obligation as a successful company to share that success with others, which is why we developed our CreatisCares program.
Through CreatisCares, we focus on being a caring and contributing member of the Twin Cities professional community. While we support many non-profit organizations across the Twin Cities, we place special emphasis on those that, like Creatis, are dedicated to helping people improve job skills, get training and prepare for interviews so they can find great jobs and live better lives!
To bring this commitment to being Of Service to life this year, we have launched our 20for20 volunteering campaign where the Creatis leadership team has committed to completing at least 20 hours of community engagement through skills-based volunteering or monetary commitments in honor of our 20th anniversary. Beth Bitney and I were pleased to be participate in the practice interviewing sessions with Step-Up Achieve, which places Minneapolis youth in paid internships each year. It's just feels good to take a moment to give back, and we take the maxim of 'to whom much is given, much is required' to heart!
We hope you will join us in this effort to give back sometime during 2018. Look for more information in an upcoming Creatis eNews and on the CreatisCares section of our website.
I love to work - I really do. But if push comes to shove - I gotta say I think I love golf more. Lately I've become fascinated with the new Rules of Golf that were released this year by the USGA and R&A which are the governing bodies of golf. In the most sweeping revision in more than 60 years, they have reorganized the rules to make them easier to understand and to speed up pace of play.
Now it may be a bit of stretch, but I think business leaders can learn something from these new rules as well. First - don't be afraid to change even if there is a 60-year history of how it's always been done. Second - ALWAYS look for new ways to run your business in ways that make it easier for your employees and allow them to have a faster 'pace of play' in terms of how they get things done. Finally, be sure to know the rules of whatever 'game' you are playing. More than one professional golfer has lost a tournament because of an avoidable rules infraction, and just like in business that can lead to the loss of a LOT of money.
So even for you non-golfers out there (hey - you can at least appear smart to your golfing colleagues) - here is an overview of some of the key rules and changes:
- Flagstick In or Out. You can now have the flagstick in or out of the hole while putting - it is the player's choice.
- Take a Knee. When you drop the ball while taking relief - you now must do so from knee height.
- Ready. Set. Play. You now don't have to worry about whose turn it is to hit during stroke play - it is now fine to hit your ball when you get to it as long as you can do so safely. But - order of play does still matter in the Match Play format because remember that your opponent can make you replay a shot if you hit out of turn.
- Go Ahead and Pick Up Sticks. Or stones. Or other things similar which are all called loose impediments. You can now do this without penalty from Bunkers and Penalty Areas (previously called Water Hazards) - so clean away but don't move your ball when doing so or you'll incur a penalty.
- The Dreaded Double Hit. A double hit (when your club hits the ball twice during one stroke) is still likely not a very good shot - but at least now there is no penalty and it counts as only one shot.
- You Can Search Just Do It Quickly. To improve pace of play, golfers now have just three minutes to search for a missing ball rather than five minutes. Thinking is - if you haven't found it in three minutes, you likely weren't going to find it anyway.
- I Swear It Was the Wind. If a natural force like wind or water moves your ball - that's OK. There is no penalty and you play the ball from its new spot. However, if you are on the putting green and have already marked/replaced your ball and then the wind moves it - in that case there still is no penalty but you move your ball back to its previous spot.
- Taking Relief is as Easy as A-B-C. Take a drop from a Penalty Area or when you have Declared Your Ball Unplayable is still as easy as A - B - C (although all incur a one-stroke penalty):
- - All the Way Back (also known as stroke & distance) - go back and drop the ball from within one-club length of your previous spot.
- - Back-on-the-Line Relief - go back as far as you want on a straight line formed by the flag and the reference point; drop the ball.
- - Two Club Lengths Relief (red stake penalty areas only + for unplayable balls) - drop the ball within two club lengths from your reference point, no closer to the hoel.
I have created a fictional business executive named Grace. She's seasoned. She's smart. She's worked for great companies. She's steadily risen through the ranks. She goes 'all in' and is 110% committed to the company. And she's been given the chance to "pursue other opportunities" several times.
As you probably have already figured out, Grace is not a totally made up person as she is based on personal experiences from transitions I did over the course of my 30+ year career. I know first-hand that exiting a company will be the most terrifying and the most liberating experience you have (get) to face in your professional career. But there is life after (insert company name here).
I've read a lot of leadership books. Well - OK - I actually have BOUGHT quite a few books on leadership and have even read some of them. Which is why I found the new book by Paul Batz with Paul Hillen entitled "How Goodness Pays" so compelling. It's a small but powerful book jam packed with ideas on how leading with goodness helps a business engage more customers, retain more employees and make more money. Amazing - and how can one argue with Goodness?!?
Starting with their definition of Goodness in business which is: when people thrive together in a culture of encouragement, accountabilty and positive teamwork. Their research quantified the impact of leading with Goodness, and they identify the Five Goodness Pays Factors that, when present in a business, consistently lead to positive financial results. These Five Factors are:
- Compelling business plan - having a business plan that creates genuine employee engagement and followership.
- Belief that profits are healthy for all - building commitment to the idea that profits are beneficial for everyone including employees, executives and owners.
- Team-based culture- creating a culture that rewards a 'we is greater than me' approach (which dovetails perfectly with how Creatis define our value of Teamwork).
- Timely and transparent decision-making - gain employee respect by making decisions in a timely fashion and being accountable for the behaviors and results that come from these decisions.
- Magnetic ethics - attracting good people by role modelling what is and what is not acceptable (which parellels the Creatis Doing What's Right value).
I know a business executive named Grace. She's seasoned. She's smart. She does yoga. She calls herself an 'intrapreneur'. She only knows how to be 'all in' and is always 110% committed to anything she takes on. And she's been given the chance to "pursue other opportunities" more than once.
As you may have guessed, Grace looks a lot like me and how to "Go With Grace" is based on my transition experiences over the course of my 30+ year professional career. I know first-hand that exiting a company will be the most terrifying and liberating experience you have (get) to face. But have hope... because I guarantee that there is life after (insert company name here).
I love Halloween - always have. My 'go-to' costumes growing up were a gypsy or princess - largely because my sister and I could just raid our mother's scarf and jewelry drawers and whip something up. We'd head out the door with our pillow cases in hand ready to fill them with candy. Growing up in St. Cloud meant we had blocks and blocks of middle-class houses just like ours to stop at - everyone had their light on - and we'd wander home hours later with sack full of goodies and big smiles on our faces.
And Halloween still makes me smile, but these days my 'go-to' costume is Snow White - primarily because I got a really nice one when at Caribou Coffee - and I DO have the hair for it, So during my long commute home on Halloween in my full Snow White gear (which yielded a few friendly honks and waves) - I took time to ponder what all of us as employees and leaders might learn from this beloved princess from long ago which includes:
- You may not ever be the fairest of them all - but you can still be darn fair. No matter how hard you work, there may be someone on the team who appears to be more talented or well-connected or experienced than you are. Nothing you can do about that. The key is to keep yourself as 'fair' as possible - keep your skills sharp, volunteer for that extra project to get exposure to other teams, ask for feedback on how you can get better or take some additional training classes in the evenings or on weekends. Because often 'fairness' has nothing to do with promotions - but hard work, being highly skilled and excellent at what you do sure does.
- Be Happy - no one wants to work with Grumpy, Sleepy or Dopey. Everyone can have a bad day, except maybe Snow White. But stay as positive, energetic and, well, happy as you can. Be a problem-solver not a problem-stater. Make good things better. Be that person that others want to be around.
- Routinely look in your own magic mirror which doesn't lie. You know the story - the evil queen looks in the magic mirror and hear's some hard truth that Snow White is now the fairest in the land. Know your strengths but, more importantly, know your weaknesses and where you get stuck. Find that 'magic mirror' in a boss or co-worker that you trust and ask him/her to help you know your blindspots. Not easy - but so necessary.
- Watch out for those poison apples. Some people build you up and some drag you down. Stay away from the gossipers and the complainers. Align yourself with those that share your drive for excellence and that want you to succeed. Be smart enough to be able to tell the difference.
- Always do the right thing - even when it's hard. Even the huntsman figured it out and did the right thing in the end. Be clear on your personal values. Set and always honor what lines you will never cross. Strive to always do what's right not just for yourself but also for your company. Do this even when it isn't the easy thing to do.
- One quality can set you apart from others - take advantage of it.Each of the dwarfs had a trait that made him special and set him apart from everyone else. Maximize those top one or two things that make you special - surround yourself with people that are different than you and who complement your strengths. Remember to respect and accept your other dwarfs and honor their special skills. After all - it did take all seven to save Snow White.
I've been called many things during the course of my career - but generally not a princess (which is probably good I guess??). So it is such great fun for me to pretend I am a princess each year on Halloween because it reminds me of these key lessons and helps me not take myself too seriously. And - by the way - it is REALLY hard to be taken seriously while conducting a meeting in a princess costume. But I do recommend you try it sometime - you may not get any work done but I guarantee you'll get some laughs.
So today is National Boy Scout Day. How cool. Unfortunately, I was never a Boy Scout because in my day they didn't let girls join the troop. Which always bugged me because even back then girls could certainly hunt, camp and survive in the woods. Oh well, at least we had our cookies.
It's hard to live in Minnesota lately. Really hard! Closed schools, 3+-hour commutes, 20 degrees below zero and freezing cold offices have challenged even the heartiest of us Minnesotans. But we do choose to live here. Free will and all that. But with more snow storms heading our way, it kinda makes you wonder why we made this choice, doesn't it?
I live in Becker and have a 60-mile drive to Minneapolis - so a 2 to 3 hour commute is not that uncommon for me. I just tell myself "Suck it up, Buttercup" because it is MY choice to live in the cornfields so far away from our office. We all make choices in our personal and professional lives - some intentional and some accidental - but either way we have to live with these choices. Or do we?
I got a chance to speak at the Executive Forum for Career Partners Twin Cities (www.cpitwincities.com), which is an executive coaching and transition services firm that has been instrumental in my career. During our forum discussion, we used my career as a backdrop and talked through some of the key pivots - choices - that I have made during my career and the good/bads that went along with each.
Here are some of those key pivots:
- Grad School or Bust. -After getting an undergrad in business I started working in St. Cloud as an HR assistant for $13,800 a year (seemed like a lot back then). I made the intentional choice to go back for an MBA after two years of working as I wanted to move into the 'big city' and get into marketing. Today I get asked often if an MBA or some type of advanced certification is a good idea. My very helpful answer to this is, "It depends." If you want to shift functional disciplines or gain new skills that add to what you already have - I do recommend it. But evaluate if the time and money you need to invest is worth it - as just getting more of the same training with some additional fancy letters may not make sense.
- But Won't I Miss the Winters? - I had a great opportunity to move to Atlanta for a job early on in my career - although it meant moving away from my family here in Minnesota. Was I willing to take the leap for a job that could set up my career - or would I play it safe and comfortable? I did take the job which led to 5 years of leading global marketing programs and travel to more than 20 countries. Fortunately, I got lucky in that my husband and I found a way to make the commute work (although we never got a chance to have children which is one of my biggest regrets.) Career choices aren't always easy, but when a great opportunity presents itself that seems like the perfect fit - I say grab it. It may be awhile before it comes along again and definitely is worth a try.
- Getting Fired Can Mean Opportunity - I was blessed to lead marketing and product development at Caribou Coffee for a few years - one of my absolute favorite jobs to this day. When a new CEO was brought in during my tenure I was given the chance to work out a transition to onboard my replacement and then stay on as a consultant for another 6 months. This lead me to the accidental choice of starting my own consulting business, Blackline Marketing, with my first client being Caribou. But I will say, I had to check my ego at the door each morning as it wasn't easy to onboard the guy who was replacing me or go sit in a cube - but it was worth it. It is devasting to lose a job you love, but try to stay positive and look for the opportunity that may come along with it. It may just set up your next great career step.
- Helps to be Lucky AND Good. I was lucky enough to be invited to join the Creatis board over ten years ago, which put me in a great place to join Creatis as President in 2014. Are you putting yourself in enough of the right places that can lead to opportunities? If not - make the choice now to focus on building out your network, get engaged with a non-profit or actively seek to join the board of a small to medium-sized company. Good things can follow, but you have to get yourself out there as being in the 'right place at the right time' doesn't just happen by itself.
According to Wikipedia, “my two cents” is a United States idiomatic expression taken from the original English expression ‘to put in my two pennies worth’ or ‘my two-penn’orth’. It is used to preface the tentative stating of one’s opinion, because by deprecating the opinion to follow (suggesting its value is only two cents), the user of the phrase hopes to lessen the impact of a possibly contentious statement, showing politeness and humility.
How interesting! (But, of course, that’s just my two cents.)
As I begin sharing personal and professional comments via this Creatis blog, I certainly hope you find my opinions and content useful. Those that know me well might suggest that I am not one typically afraid of sharing my point of view. But what I have shared in the past was often more carefully ‘managed’ then they might have realized.
One, if not the first, piece of advice when starting an investment portfolio is to diversify. It's a way to help reduce the volatility of your portfolio over time, and essentially balance the risk and reward for your investments. A simple concept that puts the investor in a good position. However, many marketers aren't taking the same approach with their staffing and resourcing models causing them to deplete their budgets too fast, put their current employees at risk and simply not get as much done in their organization. Let me explain.
I love Spring Cleaning. For some reason as the snow melts and the temps rise, I just get a wave of new energy to clear away the clutter. Could be because at home it makes it easier to find the golf clubs that I stashed away last fall. But whatever the reason, it's healthy to clear away the clutter to find the most important things to keep and the less important stuff you can throw away.
One the of things I like most about EOS (the Entrepreneurial Operating System - www.eosworldwide.com) that we use to run our business is that EOS helps to clear away the clutter so you can focus on what's important. It let's great ideas rise to the top and provides an efficient and effective way to identify and resolve issues that are getting in the way of achieving your goals
I find the Five Leadership Abilities they define to be particularly compelling. When you and/or your team have hit a ceiling and are feeling stuck, overwhelmed or frustrated, it is a good time as the leader to STOP and clear away the clutter. This lies with your ability to deploy the five disciplines of good leadership which are:
- Your ability to simplify.The bigger you are, typically the more complex and chaotic your operation becomes. But I found that even in smaller organizations like Creatis it is easy to make things harder than needed. To clear away the clutter you should simplify messages, processes, structure and communications. Ask yourself, "Is it as simple as possible?"
- Your ability to delegate and elevate. I find myself way too often working "IN" our business versus working "ON" our business where I can have the most impact. EOS has a very helpful tool around delegating the clutter that is eating up your capacity so you can elevate your focus on moving the company forward. It's simply putting where you are spending your time into four quadrants: "Love/Great", "Like/Good", "Don't Like/Good" and "Don't Like/Not Good". If you are spending most of your time in the last two, you probably need to clear away some clutter.
- Your ability to predict.Running a small, dynamic company like Creatis has pushed my focus to be much closer into a one year and even a 90 day horizon. As leaders, our ability to see what's coming for the long-term matters but being able to do so in the short-term could matter even more. Invest time so you can see what's coming - as your ability to provide clear direction, focus and prioritization for your team is what matters most.
- Your ability to systemize. I was lucky enough to be trained in Six Sigma while at Carlson, but today I find all that great process mapping can actually create more clutter for my team. Systemize simply means to document, simplify and get everyone following the top core processes that make up your differentiating way of doing business. Per EOS, you have to systemize the predictable so that you can humanize the exceptional.
- Your ability to structure. Both inside and outside of EOS, I have found that really nothing else matters until you have the Right People in the Right Seats. EOS has a great toolkit around developing a clear Accountabilty Chart to determine the right structure for your organization. Start with the seats - then add great people. Because really talented and exceptional people in a seat that allows them to do what they do best means they are constantly clearing away their own clutter which enables them to be excellent.
As you may have guessed – I am an avid golfer. So much so that many of my colleagues have encouraged me over the years to go find a marketing job in the golf industry. “You’d be perfect!” was a common thing I’d hear. “You love marketing. You love golf. You fancy yourself above average in both. It’s a real no-brainer.”
But for some reason I didn’t want my personal passion to be my work passion – if that makes any sense. Probably because if my golf game went to hell and I began to hate the game I now love, I’d also start to hate my job and then I’d be left with nothing!
I love change, always have. Which is why I think Fall is my favorite time of year. Changing colors. Changing temperatures. Changing wardrobes. But too much change in a career is a bad thing, right? We all know that staying in a job for a least two years is GOOD and that being branded a 'job jumper' is BAD. But for me, career changes have been a blessing (even though I expect I looked more like this picture during that time than I care to admit). But in life and in business, the real truth is that the more things change the more things DON'T stay the same. And thank God for that - or life would be very, very dull.
I have the privilege of connecting with many highly talented business professionals who are in the midst of changing jobs. Some by choice - some not - but all in the same state of uncertainty about what will come next that can truly be debilitating. In my previous blog about How To "Go With Grace" During Life's Transitions, I shared what I have learned during my four job transitions:
- What you DO is not who you ARE as a person.
- Build your network before you need it.
- Finding a job IS a job.
- Take full advantage of experts and resources available to you.
- Take time for YOU.
So with all of this change happening around me I have been pondering - what makes some people more successful in managing change than others? Why do some people thrive when facing a job transition and land on their feet so successfully while others become stymied with no plan for moving forward? One of our team members did a little digging for me about how people who successfully handle change are wired, and he found an interesting post on forbes.com that identified the top things that make someone adaptable which include:
- Adaptable people see opportunity where others see failure.
- Adaptable people experiment.
- Adaptable people stay current.
- Adaptable people don't whine.
- Adaptable people don't blame.
- Adaptable people are curious.
- Adaptable people know what they stand for.
The good news for me is that I see myself in all of these traits (well - except maybe the 'don't whine' part on occassion), which I know has helped me successfully navigate the job changes I've faced. How much do they describe you?
"If you are not listening, you are not learning."
- Lyndon B. Johnson
"Leadership means duty, honor, country. It means character and even listening from time to time."
- George W. Bush
"Being President is like running a cemetery; you've got a lot of people under you but nobody's listening."
- Bill Clinton
I consider it a privilege to be President at Creatis. I wasn't elected into the role. My team didn't necessarily get to "vote me in" or choose that I was going to be their boss. But I had worked hard over the years and then got a bit lucky by being in the right place at the right time. And I take my 'presidency' role very seriously because with privilege comes obligation. The obligation to work hard to be a great boss. To know when to speak and, more importantly, to know when to keep my mouth shut. And yes, I am still working on that last part.