Q4 2018 Quarterly Planning Session Debrief

Fellow CreaCh’ers-

It took a couple weeks to get last quarter’s debrief out to the team, so I’m proud to be issuing this one the day after our leadership discussions.

Another unique thing you may notice this quarter is that it’s not actually the end/start of the quarter. Lots of travel between Carol, Tiff and myself this month, so getting a head start was our best option.

Carol and I were at the Hubspot Inbound conference all of last week. It was our first time, so we didn’t know what to expect, but I think it’s a good program. Some mediocre sessions in there, but the conference itself and the keynotes were top-notch. Personally, I found the CEO’s presentation to be the most inspiring. They introduced a “death to the funnel” concept that was simultaneously revolutionary and congruent with our own strategy. Basically, they’ve realized that marketing isn’t about the sale—it’s about the ongoing customer experience. I’m excited that their mindset is now more closely aligned with our own because we want to be more closely aligned with them moving forward.

Lots of great product updates for Hubspot, too. We’ve started using the platform for more things (like team recruiting and selection workflows, cultural CRM, etc.) and we’re excited to see them adding new features that we can use internally to streamline and enhance our process. It’s now a priority to become our own best client and Hubspot is going to make that easier.

We’ve come a long way since our founding in 2001, but one constant has been change. For example, I don’t think we’ve ever gone more than 2 years without changing our logo. On that note, let’s talk about the latest Creation Chamber identity, compliments of Eric.


Eric was responsible for some of our award-winning work for Noodles, Jamba Juice, Jimmy John’s, Atkins, and more.

The growth of our team over the past 2 years has evolved our culture away from “corporate” and much farther toward “fun.” So we wanted a logo that spoke to that personality. Eric came up with a very dynamic concept that has the potential to last more than 2 years because it’s endlessly evolvable.

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Instead of having standard brand colors, we’ll fill the logo with whatever hue, pattern, or image makes sense for each given application. The mark itself will become the negative space, offering a visual portal into any context.

As soon as we have the final brandbook, we’ll design a new website, business cards, and more.

As for our office, we’re still in our Stapleton space, although I personally think it feels much more like home than it did 2 months ago. If you don’t already follow us on Instagram, check out https://www.instagram.com/distillagency/ for pix of the space and more. We now have great workstations for 11 people (and a conference room for up to 10), so I predict we’ll stay put at least into spring 2019. But we’ll see.

This quarter was our first using 15Five for full-time staff. Carol and I put in some time, but Tiff did the heavy lifting and it’s been a great tool for documenting and tracking our fantastic progress toward our stated objectives from last quarter. I’m happy to say that there are very few goals that aren’t already met—and those that remain are either imminent or will roll over into even higher priorities for Q4. Specifically:

We’ve standardized on Hubspot/inbound for our core offering. We’ll try to find new clients and engagements that match this model so that we maximize the number of accounts using Hubspot as a platform and our core outbound tactics of Google Ads and Facebook/Insta Ads for outbound.

We’ve standardized on Teamwork for project/task management. If you’re not already using it, you likely will soon. We’ve used almost every system out there and this one has provided the best mix of features to optimize our workflow, collaboration, schedules, and allocation across our team and projects.

We’ve (re)standardized on Freshbooks for invoicing time tracking. It’s not perfect, but we’ve tried almost everything worth trying and nothing gives us 100%, so we’re sticking with Freshbooks until a better option appears (but not before 2019).

One challenge we have right now (largely because of clients like BF) is ensuring that we bill the clients for everything we should, when we should. We have such a complex mix of fixed-cost, hourly-cost, and no-cost work with them that we have work slipping through the cracks. That could mean that work performed by a contractor doesn’t get passed through to the client correctly (due to having the equivalent of 14 projects with that client going concurrently), so we pay the contractor and don’t get reimbursed. It’s not ideal for our contractors, but we’ve reached a point where we need everyone to enter all time *for which we will be billed hourly* by a contractor to be entered into our Freshbooks time-tracking system. If you only bill us hourly, you would theoretically report all time through Freshbooks, then. If you bill some fixed-bid and some hourly to us, you’ll only report the hourly time through Freshbooks and you can continue to send us progress invoices for the fixed-price work. If you’re Peter, you’ll keep doing exactly what you’ve been doing.

I know that sounds more complex than it actually is, which is why we’re paying additional platform fees, updating our workflows, and planning on lots of hand-holding for the next month or two. So stand by and we’ll provide instructions that ease us into it to make sure it’s not an unnecessary burden for you.

Most importantly, our key company objectives for the rest of the year are:

  1. Maintain/improve our current account/project/sales efforts. Carol and I simply must dedicate about 90% of our time to that to keep the train on the tracks. That’s not ideal, but it’s reality. So we’ll keep that ball in the air while we resolve the limitation through our second objective...

  2. Grow our team to get Carol and Phil focused on strategic priorities. Carol and I will spend the other ~10% of our time working with Tiffani to recruit and onboard at least one new digital/inbound account manager and a UX designer over the next 3 months.

The goal is simple: for the leadership team to get Carol and me focused on strategic work again by augmenting the team with new pros—and without dropping the ball on current client expectations. It should be very exciting, as we have a great team in place and we’ve made some great progress on our hiring process.

Please add any thoughts or comments to this document so that we can discuss. More complex discussions can be opened up in Social Clubs and other forums, too. In the meantime, accept my thanks for your veryhard work over the past 2 months. We’re building our agency in a very smart way and I’m personally enjoying the hell out of collaborating with such a skilled and dedicated group.