In the first in a series of podcasts with Splice Agency co-founders Paul Hagopian and Joshua McCasland, Steve Madden, GM and editor in chief of MM+M referenced a visit to the company’s Emeryville offices in November 2019, noting that only a few short months later the world was forced to “go virtual,” causing companies like Splice to have to “pivot on a dime and reinvent themselves.” He asked the two leaders to share a bit about what that has looked like and how their company culture has evolved in the face of the pandemic.
Both Hagopian and McCasland referenced the company’s four pillars (“Brand Comes First,” “Creativity without Walls,” “Making the Moment,” and “Work from Heart,”) as the driving forces behind how the company has not just survived these last 12 months, but thrived, noting that each helped to provide a solid foundation when it came time to “batten down the hatches” and seamlessly move forward instead of struggling to adapt to the new normal brought on by COVID-19.
“One thing we realized early on,” McCasland said, “is that you can’t retroactively build a culture. So from the outset, we have strived to build an infrastructure that would hold up under even the most extreme circumstances.”
Though the two noted the stability provided from each of the four pillars has been of equal importance in driving Splice’s success, they shared that the mantra of “creativity without walls” originally implemented to encourage staffers to strive for more of a “work – life integration,” rather than a “work – life balance,” has become particularly important, with Madden pointing out that while metaphorical at first, the transition to fully remote working has forced it to become quite literal.
“We’ve always had a very active staff,” noted Hagopian. “From mountain bikers, to hikers, runners, race car drivers, you name it, and we have always encouraged our staff to be active and get outside. But as the pandemic hit, and we no longer had that in-person time in the office, we had to rely on much more screen time in order to get that face to face, which we soon realized was a total creativity killer, and could not continue.”
The leadership team quickly decided to implement “walking meetings,” as a way to get staffers up and out, and away from screens, and soon both employee satisfaction and productivity had skyrocketed.
“We realized pretty quickly that we don’t need to see each other on a screen all day long to have productive and meaningful conversations,” said Hagopian. “We now encourage the team to look for meetings they can do while taking a walk or getting outside, and even put a Strava group together to track our collective progress.”
Hagopian went on to share that he himself has been “walking the walk,” when it comes to these “active meetings,” and has embraced them as a way to work on his own personal health journey.
“From about October to March, I’ve walked over 2.4 million steps, dropping those extra COVID pounds I gained and then some more,” he noted. “And that’s just from walking while I work.”
McCasland, an avid snowboarder, added that he’s had many productive calls this past year while on the mountain.
“One of the most important things Paul and I, and our other partners, have tried to be this past year, is transparent,” he said. “We’re not trying to hide that I’m out on the mountain or he’s out for a walk, we’re trying to celebrate that, and show our staff that while obviously there are certain things you need to be in front of a computer for, there are many things you don’t, and we want to encourage them to take advantage of those times where they don’t have to be tied to their desk.”
Hagopian echoed those sentiments noting that leading by example is something they take very seriously.
“You can’t just say to people, ‘take time for yourself,’ he said. “You have to show them how it can be done, and demonstrate how you yourself are doing it in a way that’s personally and professionally productive.”