432 | Operationalizing Your Values with Brandon Hull

Operationalizing Your Values is a process that takes understanding and application of values to the deepest levels in the company. When you operationalize your values, you create a way for the people to live and work according to the values of the company. Operationalizing your value is often skipped. Most of the time it is overlooked. Entrepreneurial leaders are often optimistic. They are so optimistic that they believe once the values are created, that everyone will change the way they behave at work. Our guest today is Brandon Hull. He is VP of Strategy and Sales, Pacific Digital Group. We talk about why operationalizing your values is so important and to do it in today’s workplace.

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Target Audience: He is the Vice President of Strategy & Sales at PACIFIC. He helps companies launch or refresh their brand, and go to extreme lengths to help clients realize revenue growth through the right marketing efforts. A wide assortment of industries, from retail, to travel and tourism, to skincare and beauty brands, to CPG technology products, to B2B SaaS, to independent and enterprise brick-and-mortar retailers and restaurants.


David Marine: The Transcript

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

This is leaders in the trenches and your host today is Gene Hammett.

Gene Hammett: [00:04]
Hi, I’m Gene Hammett. I’m the host of leaders in the trenches and my question for you today is what are the behaviors that really aligned to the values of your company? The behaviors are what you would see the behaviors are how people operate, the things that you’re doing day in and day out. For example, one of your values may be excellent, providing excellence in your work or excellence in customer service, whatever it may be. Well, your version of excellence may be different than my version of excellence, but if we were working together, we could come up with a common bond around what are the behaviors that would be representative when we have excellence in that way, and that whole process is really something that will change the way you guys work together, your team, and you as a leader are able to really engage each other in making sure that you’re aligning with the values of the company.

Gene Hammett: [01:00]
Now, we’ve talked a lot about values on the show. We’ve talked a lot about this, but we have a very special guest today. Is it Brandon Hull? Brandon is with Pacific digital group and he talks about how this company is organized around the behaviors that really do align to those values. So I share this with you because I really want you to understand how deep you can take this work of culture so that you can get the most out of it across the entire organization. Now here’s the interview with Brandon.

Gene Hammett: [01:32]
Hi Brandon. How are you?

Brandon Hull: [01:33]
Hi, Gene. How are you doing? I’m doing super.

Gene Hammett: [01:35]
Well. It’s exciting to have you here at leaders in the trenches.

Brandon Hull: [01:39]
I’m excited to be on. It’s a great podcast. You’ve had some tremendous hopes. I feel like I’m joining an outstanding community here.

Gene Hammett: [01:46]
I’ll brag for a second. You are really are. I’m really proud of the people that we’ve had on the show recently and I’m not sure who you listen to, but maybe we’ll dive into that a little bit. I’ve already introduced you to our audience, but love for them to hear in your own words. So tell us about who you are and who you serve in your current role.

Brandon Hull: [02:05]
Yup. Well, I’m the vice president of strategy and sales within the agency and consultancy in San Diego called the civic digital group. I’ve been there just under a year. I joined the original founder who was a practitioner himself before becoming the CEO as he founded this agency about a five or six years ago. And, uh, we do work for large enterprise brands when it comes to discoverability, online brand campaigns, content campaigns, immersive content campaigns, and I spearhead all of our client work with that agency.

Gene Hammett: [02:36]
Well, I, one of the things that really sparked me about having you on the show is you’ve got about 65 people, right?

Brandon Hull: [02:45]
That’s right. 65. And that small business. Yep.

Gene Hammett: [02:47]
And you had shared with me that, you know, one of the topics of conversation every week happens to be culture. So I don’t want to like kind of let the cat out of the bag a little bit, but is culture something that you talk about every week?

Brandon Hull: [03:03]
Well, we. There’s a number of reasons. Um, our founder himself, it’s important to them. Every detail is important to him. He’s that he’s kind of a design guy, Norman bronze and uh, everything from the details of how are our interior design is laid out and how it fosters innovation, how it fosters or, or sort of spurs that sort of collaboration is important to him. The way we work with our clients is highly collaborative and we have found, I think he has found, and this is something that’s been in my DNA DNA as well, that that if you don’t have a culture that’s sort of like, I, like I said, spurs that sort of interaction and that kind of creativity and innovation in your people you’re not likely to deliver much for your employees as well.

Brandon Hull: [03:50]
So that’s one reason. The other reason is, um, retention of employees is an important one as well to us. I know that that, you know, in the agency world it’s a high turnover world and sometimes you know, you’ll gain somebody and train them a lot and they’ll do a great job for you, maybe three or four years and they’ll find a new opportunity. That’s just sort of the nature of the beast. And yet, uh, we do everything we can to retain our people by providing a work environment that’s inclusive, collaborative and, and really encourages people to push the envelope a bit.

Gene Hammett: [04:22]
Well, those are two topics that I talk about a lot. I go to a lot of conferences. I speak a lot of conferences. I just happened to be back from the great places to work conference. Have you ever heard of that one?

Brandon Hull: [04:34]
I haven’t been to that one. I’ve heard of it, but I haven’t been to that conference.

Gene Hammett: [04:37]
A pretty phenomenal group of, of speakers and attendees and everybody’s, there’s learning how to, um, to innovate. I’m going to share a stat with you just because I just thought it was pretty interesting. Companies that grow much faster when their employees experience a climate that encourages innovation. So the top 25% have a 26.2 26% higher growth rate than any of the other companies.

Brandon Hull: [05:10]
Just doesn’t surprise me. Doesn’t surprise me. I think the reason it doesn’t surprise me is the idea that you can map out your next three to five years as a business. I feel like that’s just a misnomer. There’s just, it can’t be done. But you can foster an environment that encourages people to sort of test your assumptions about how you do what you do, how you differentiate, how you work with clients. No matter whether you’re, you know, it’s a product or a service that you’re offering or you’re a legacy company that’s been around for decades or a newer company. And I absolutely believe that you can foster an environment that causes people to bring their best versus those where everything is hierarchical and the decisions are going to be made by a small group of people and have to be validated by that team. So I absolutely believe that that’s true.

Gene Hammett: [05:57]
You know, I want to make sure we’re clear on this because I read this off, this report. This is only looking at just the top places to work. So this is not just every company across the board. This is the top 25% of the best hundred.

Brandon Hull: [06:13] Yeah.

Gene Hammett: [06:14]
And it’s looking at their revenue growth is 20%, 26% higher. And that top 25%. So when you think about innovation in your workforce, you mentioned something there about, you know, ideas and empowerment. What, how do you make sure that the best ideas come forth within the culture of the company?

Brandon Hull: [06:38]
Well, I mean, I think there’s, I’ve always felt there are numerous means to an end. I don’t think that there’s any one way that every company needs to embrace. I think that there are some principles that can apply from one workplace to another or values even that can apply from one workplace to another that are important. And we have a list, for example, of expected behaviors. And it’s sort of a whimsical, sort of a fun list of things that, that we all embrace as employees and as leaders in the company that make up, this is what it means to work for Pacific. And everything is in there from the financial to the way we excuse me, interacting with, with one another as employees to the ways we, um, we think the way that we work with clients. And the idea is right out of the gates to let new employees know that we embrace that notion of if you are, if nobody laughs at your ideas, for example, this is one of our values, then they’re not big enough. You’re not thinking big enough. And we want to people to appreciate even if the day one really, that if you’re not bringing something new to the table, you need to challenge that thinking herself, you know? And it’s, I think it’s, it’s encouraging and maybe even challenging. every employee, it doesn’t matter what their role is to think about what they offer and their process for providing value inside the organization and outside the organization.

Gene Hammett: [08:05]
That’s gotta be fun to sit in a room where someone says, yeah, that’s a pretty good idea, but it’s not quite big enough.

Brandon Hull: [08:12]
Yeah, and it, you know, like any company, I suspect that you know, you, you create your expected, you’re expected behaviors and maybe you, you need to make sure that you’re living them every day. So we’re challenged with that just like any other company that does spires to great things, but okay.

Brandon Hull: [08:32]
Always has to ask itself if it’s actually living up to those things. So I’m not going to suggest that we have it all figured out, but it is, it’s I almost want to say it’s fun. I’m old enough when I look for a fun workplace necessarily, but it is kind of an energizing to be in an environment where you feel like, is this the best way we should be doing it? Maybe we need to pivot. Maybe we need to make an adjustment to how we do new business development. How we write up sow is for clients. Uh, how we engage with those clients, how the team operates and interacts with this team. And I thrive in that. Environ I liked that kind of environment. And I think people like to know that they’re working for an employer that’s willing to adjust, adapt and change.

Gene Hammett: [09:11]
Now I remember a conversation I had with a CEO of an inc 5,000 level company cause I’ve had like 300 or more and he said, if I have the best idea in the room, I haven’t done my job as a leader. What does that mean to you?

Brandon Hull: [09:30]
Well, I noticed this with our CEO and, and he’s a pretty creative guy and a while it’s hard for him to do this. I do notice that he tries to speak last. For example, if we’re in team meetings, group meetings, whether that’s, you know, an executive leadership team meeting or a team meeting with others involved. He tries to make sure that his opinion is not you holding back on sharing his opinion so it doesn’t, you know, sort of overshadow anything that else that, that people might want to share. And I think that’s an important value to hold is that you trust and respect the opinions of others before you feel like you need to form yours or share yours with a, with a larger group. Because Ceos and even any kind of departmental leader can really squelch that notion of new, fresh ideas by forcing their opinion out there too quickly because there they’ve already thought through it a little bit more, but given people a chance to speak up with an idea that has been thrown out to them for the first time, I think it’s a great way. I think that’s a great way to foster that open dialogue and to make people force people to think a little bit more creatively. Before you’ve shared your opinion.

Gene Hammett: [10:40]
You know, I want to go back to one of the things you said before is having a list of values that everyone knows and operates by you, when you said values, but you also said we have behaviors and a lot of people skip the behaviors side. So I don’t know if it’s something that you guys have recently done or where did you, where did you get the fact that you needed to have clear behaviors that everyone operates as well underneath the values?

Brandon Hull: [11:06]
Yeah, they’ve been in place for quite a while actually. Um, they predate me and they were in place for at least a couple of years before me coming aboard. So they’ve been in place for some time. They do get tweaked here and there just for language purposes for if the references that who sometimes there is a little bit fun or whimsical like I said before, and we have to make sure that they’re relevant still today. But they’ve been around for a little while now. And I think there’s that it’s because there’s a good appreciation that it’s one thing to hold onto a value or a philosophy about things. It’s another thing to translate that into like a practical application of it. And we’re constantly, I guess you could say working on that as well. Do we, do we actually practice what we preach? Do we live what we espouse the value of a principal? And I, again, I think large organizations are a small need to be thinking about that. It’s one thing to have wonderful principles and values about inclusion and diversity and how we treat one another, how we treat clients who come first and that equation, all of that. It’s another thing entirely due to give people practical examples of how they make that happen in an organization.

Gene Hammett: [12:15]
Yeah, it is. And I think a lot of people missed that. The whole step of going to the behaviors. I call this an operationalizing those values or principles. And it gives, cause if we had a value of excellence, right, there’s a common value across many companies. We strive for excellence, whatever, whatever your phrasing ology of that is. But that may mean something different to me and you, but when you actually had the behaviors, you get to become a common language amongst the people. Have you seen the value of that?

Brandon Hull: [12:45]
Absolutely, and I’m thinking of one of them in particular that we have as unexpected behavior and it’s meeting deadlines. It’s one thing to suggest that the quality of work is always needed to be outstanding. And of course we believe in the quality of work, but we also meet believe in meeting deadlines and, and so it’s important to get things done, get things. I guess I’ve heard it said, outside of our company before get it about right and on time we want to do the best quality work that we can, but we also recognize that there are milestones and deadlines that have to be achieved as well. And so that’s a big part of that. Do you stick to your deadlines to your colleagues or are you kind of flaky when it comes to that? That’s an important behavior. That’s a representation of excellence in my opinion.

Gene Hammett: [13:29]
That’s a good example. I want to switch gears a little bit. Brandon. You know, when you think about being a consultancy or an agency working with clients, what within the culture allows you to best serve the client’s needs and the results that they’re looking for?

Brandon Hull: [13:47]
Well, every one of our clients that we work with has come, excuse me, has come to expect a regular cadence of communications. And they’re very short term in nature. They may work from a playbook that has a long term in nature, but they work in quarterly increments with our clients, but with weekly Check-ins and regular communications. And while I don’t lead our client service team directly, I work with them well enough, uh, and regularly enough to see how that is valued by clients. And it’s, I don’t know that our structure is a differentiator, but the manner in which we work to that structure is absolutely a differentiator versus other agencies. We work with clients extremely collaboratively and it’s based on their resources, their priorities, but it’s also based on their ability from a staffing standpoint to execute certain things or have to dump them on our plate.

Gene Hammett: [14:47]
So there are times that we’re very strategic with clients depending on their staffing resources and so forth and their demands. But then there are times when we’re very tactical with clients where they need us to be an almost a direct extension of their team and when things are being presented internally to executive sponsors and that sort of thing. On the client side, our employees are mentioned as a part of the core team, even though we’re the vendor or the agency or the partner if you will. And I think that’s sort of flexible collaboration with clients. I think it’s a difference maker for companies today. I love that we do it that way.

Gene Hammett: [15:24]
It’s good when you have that and there’s a lot of pressure on you to create [inaudible] VP of sales to create this kind of relationships that allow for that level of partnership. Would you agree?

Brandon Hull: [15:36]
Yeah, totally agree. With my role being unique as a leading up the new business efforts and the waves we work with, the existing clients when they want to expand their efforts and so forth. I have to be careful in my role that I don’t over prescribe a solution for a client for example, and allow our strategy and insights team to have that flexibility to implement solutions or to ideate with them or to brainstorm with clients and not to implement something that I’ve, I have put in place, you know, with through my, my own team. And again, it’s something I have to keep in check my, myself and I worked with our team.

Gene Hammett: [16:13]
Well, I want to switch gears a little bit here and we’ve been talking about culture and operationalizing, you know, the values and all the behaviors that come out of that. What about the leadership being new and also the CEO of the company that really makes your organization work as efficiently as it does?

Brandon Hull: [16:34]
Yup. Well I certainly can’t take credit for that. We’ve got a CEO who’s extremely receptive to feedback who works really well with the rest of our executive leadership team, which includes our VP of marketing, our COO and our CFO. And excuse me, I can, I can tell you that our COO is a, is, is it starts with the basis of trust I guess. Before anything before practices, strategies, uh, you know, operating plans for the year are put in place. It starts with you trust your team or not. And I know our COO, for example, Jeff’s game, the way he works with his directors, you know, the Seo team, the content team, creative team, that sort of thing is, is also collaborative. It’s sort of a representation of the model that we would hope that they would have with clients. And so there’s this expectation that teams will lead, our directors will lead their teams and sort of that collaborative and discovery sort of way so that we’re not always the ones that have to set the tone.

Brandon Hull: [17:37]
That’s the hope. That’s the expectation. And obviously, some employees will run with it versus others who aren’t used to that sort of flexibility. But it’s really about making sure, and we meet every single week. Every Monday we have an executive leadership team meeting and it is largely cultural in nature or talk in nature, talking about how do we unlock more and our team, how do we get out of their way more and what is stifling that sort of innovation and creativity. And it’s that meeting does not get postponed. It doesn’t get canceled. It doesn’t change too much from one week to the next.

Gene Hammett: [18:09]
I want to highlight something about as we wrap up this conversation, Brennan, a lot of the conversation is about how you’ve removed things from culture and leadership and operations. It’s not, you know, I’m sure you’re adding things to it, but a lot, I’ve seen this with a lot of my clients. A lot of that is just what he removed. I’ve got interviews today where companies are talking about interesting things they’ve removed, like working on Fridays, removing, working through slack and how that works. Can you give me just a quick example of something you guys have removed and the impact that’s had?

Brandon Hull: [18:47]
Yeah, so it’s the most recent one is all of our meeting calendars. All of our one on ones that we do and our skip level meetings that happen, our agency, all of our recurring meetings besides those meetings, we’re all required to be changed from defaults with one hour. If it’s a one-hour meeting, it’s defaulted now to either 45 minutes or 50 minutes and if it’s a 30-minute meeting, switch it to a 25 or 20-minute meeting. That notion that you’re going to use the 30 minutes or the 60 minutes because it’s on the calendar that way, um, is kind of a silly one. And we’ve done what we can to sort of getting off of that, of that horse where we feel like, well, you’ve got to have a one-hour meeting every week with your, your direct reports.

Brandon Hull: [19:27]
Why does it need to be a one-hour meeting? Because that’s how the calendar works or because there’s an hour’s worth of things to talk about. It’s often because of the former reason. So, everybody, I’m including me in with my own team, we made changes to all in on one on one meetings and all of our recurring meetings to be just a little bit shorter so we can buy back a little bit more time for people to actually do the work and collaborate in a little bit more spontaneous or our organic ways rather than these rigid schedules.

Gene Hammett: [19:52]
I want to share with you as a, as this final bit. One of my clients was, we struggled with meetings just when we get the work done and through the coaching. And I said, I just kind of said, well, why do you have to have meetings every day of the week? Why not have a day for just working? He’s like, can you do that? Could we do that? And I’m like, you, you can do whatever you want. And we talked back and forth and literally Wednesday was the day and I was really nervous. Like I was like, because the first few weeks of that, and even the first month was like, I’m not sure this is working. And I checked in with him about a year later and literally, now it’s Monday and Wednesdays, no meetings. Well and so they figured out that, you know, small things that you have to take away too so that we can work better together.

Gene Hammett: [20:42]
They can have one on one work sessions but they don’t have like meetings and it’s just, it’s been crazy to see how that works. So Brandon, I really appreciate you being here at leaders in the trenches and thanks for sharing me with your insights on leadership and culture.

Brandon Hull: [20:55]
Great show. Gene, thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

Gene Hammett: [20:57]
Well, I love this interview because it aligns to the work I do day in and day out with my clients. I didn’t set this up. It just worked that way. But there is something to be said for going beyond just the values on the wall or the values that you may have that your company is operating by and the behaviors at which you are all seeing in representing inside of the workforce. Those behaviors, if you are really true to them and you really have a common alignment amongst everyone, really can change the way you guys work together. So hopefully you’ve enjoyed this interview as much as I’ve enjoyed recording it because it reinforces the work that I do with companies when they want to grow fast, they want to create strong cultures, they want to have better retention rates, and they want to increase or accelerate growth. As always, lead with courage. I’ll see you next time.


Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.



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