How to Make Work Fun with Adham Yusupov at Ecology Mir Group

Most leaders don’t think about how to make work fun. A few evolved leaders do think about adding fun into the work environment. Today’s interview is with Adham Yusupov, founder of Ecology Mir Group. Adham gives the reasons behind making work fun especially important when you have such a critical mission. When you make work fun, you give your team a way to connect to more than just the work. They relate to each other on a deeper level. Discover new ideas about how you can make work fun.

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Adham Yusupov: The Transcript

Target Audience: Adham Yusupov is the founder of Ecology Mir Group. EMG is a movement with a growing presence in the Federal Marketplace, Ammunition Manufacturing, and Disaster Response we are ready to transform and revolutionize the commercial and federal environment.

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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.

Adham Yusupov:
Communication is so critical to the success of a company that has an open workspace work or accounting department can literally just look across the other side of the room and talk to our sales department about, you know, any questions that may arise with our vendor or customer. Because things get very complicated, especially with big contracts and Astros, 700 contracts that we require. It gets very, very intricate. We put it that way. So I think the openness of the worst face, super forceful communication.

Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insights from the founders and the CEOs. The fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host, my name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett: [00:49]
Making work fun when you have the kind of place that people enjoy to come to and they create the kind of relationships that are more than just work, you have something special because people begin to bond together. They connect, they really relate to each other in a different way than just on the work. So we have all of these fun things inside of organizations. Maybe we have been shags bags, floating around pool tables, ping pong tables. Are those things necessary? Well, some of those things are fun to have around their fun environment for the culture, but they’re not necessary. But spending time together, maybe offsite, maybe doing something, a barbecue, doing something else outside the office actually can bond relationships. Studies have shown that this has a huge impact on productivity and also the ability to collaborate together. So I wanted to find a company that is doing this really well.

Gene Hammett: [01:40]
So I found Adham Yusupov the CEO of EMG it’s Ecology Mir Group. I had to look at my notes for a second. They were number 42 on the INC list in 2018. They grew it over 6000% and they’ve continued to grow since that ranking came out last year. I’ll share this with you because it, Tom Talks about the importance of, of making fun together, having fun with your employees and what that means overall to the business. They’ve had a very serious mission that they’re working on and everyone has to do their job immaculate. And so when they actually do have time to decompress together, it actually makes a difference. So we’re going to talk about making work fun today with the time and this interview is brought to you just for you to grow as a leader.

Gene Hammett: [02:32]
Thanks for tuning in here to Growth Think Tank. Really excited about sharing this with you. And before you run, I have done so many interviews in the last few weeks. I have such an exciting time to share with you that those interviews have been organized into the 12 core principles of fast growth companies. So all you have to do to get that is go to so you can get the 12 principles. And I’ve been able to go in there and which episodes will align to each individual episodes. When you subscribe to grow think tank, you will find exactly what you need so that you can move forward. And many of them haven’t been published yet depending on when you’re hearing this. But you can, you can tune in to the date that means the most.

Gene Hammett: [03:14]
Adham, how are you?

Adham Yusupov: [03:15]
I’m doing well Gene. How’s it going today?

Gene Hammett: [03:18]
Well, I’m excited to have you here. That’s how well it is. We’re going to be talking about, you know, creating a fun place to work, but I wanted the audience to get a little bit of idea of what you do as the CEO and founder of EMG. Tell us kind of who you serve and give some context to the business.

Adham Yusupov: [03:36]
Absolutely. So EMG found in 2012. We’ve been around for about seven years. We are a department defense contractor. We handle mission-critical solutions to the federal government. Everything from it down the gamut sees are logistical services from vehicles, moving, personnel, lodging, firearms, ammunition, explosives. Basically, everything that you can imagine as a small business. We’ve grown tremendously in the past few years. And our core focus, 99.9% of our business revolves around the federal government.

Gene Hammett: [04:12]
Well, you have a really interesting kind of workplace. It’s a very serious job of moving stuff around, especially for the military. But you also believe that we should create a fun workplace. But where did that come from?

Adham Yusupov: [04:26]
So it honestly came out of college. I went to George Mason University and graduated from there. And as I was growing through the social aspects of the school, I have coworking spaces were a big thing back then. This is before we work became, you know, the big thing, and I always wondered when I was in college to create a lively environment or team members can come in and really not just work, but hang out, have a good time. Even when they’re off the clock somewhere where they wanted to come and spend some time to get away from, you know, daily stresses. Then they might be feeling at home with their family, with their loved ones, whatever they may be, or even bring their kids and their puppies into the office. So they could, you know, come here and have a sense of joy being at this location. So I want to build that atmosphere from day one. And on day one we actually started, it’s a funny story. And our parents may say, which was an open basement with a theater of game or a gym, pool access and open space where you could work. And that’s how we started those, the heydays between 2012 and 2013 and a half. And then we transitioned into a bigger office space.

Gene Hammett: [05:45]
Well, before we dive into how you create a Flint fun workplace we already know that you were, you know, grew phenomenally fast with number 42 on the inc list and does an 18 revenues continue to grow from there? you’re over 6000% over the last three years. That level of growth is impressive, but is that what you would, you know, kind of factor back to a big part of why you’re growing so fast?

Adham Yusupov: [06:13]
Absolutely. I mean, again, I think our growth is attributed now to one person or one mentality or, or one protocol. It’s attributed to the team that we have. It’s the people that we have. Most of the employees and team members that we have on our, in our company have been with us for years, multiple, multiple years, some of them straight out of college. Some of them, you know, little later on junior-level people that had been looking for positions and a work environment like this. And again, our success is attributed 100% to our personnel who understand that we have a very important mission to accomplish while also understanding that this is more than just a company, a, a firm that you go to and work. It’s all about, you know the social atmosphere about the team, having fun together, working together.

Adham Yusupov: [7:06]
I mean, I have examples from just this past weekend, our whole team was out at a nice Saturday event and unfortunately, I couldn’t join because I had other obligations. But, um, you know, it’s great to hear that everyone had such a good time and you know, that they bond so well. So that’s very important to me. I think that should be still a lot of the success on the, on the work side of things, especially when it gets stressful. When we have mission-critical solutions that need to be dealt within a 24-hour span, we get those a lot. The team really comes together, focuses and gets the job accomplished.

Gene Hammett: [07:41]
How many employees do you have?

Adham Yusupov: [07:43]
So currently we’re at 10 employees here at this office. And then, of course, we have our account accountants, our legal people that handle all of our different avenues from federal to civil to business, litigation and law over.

Gene Hammett: [07:59]
When you think about creating a fun workplace, what was the first thing that you did? Maybe when you go out of the basement, but when you said, okay, we’re gonna move to this new place, what was one of the first things that you could share with us?

Adham Yusupov: [08:11]
I think the social aspect of openness, it’s very important. What I noticed is a lot of companies have cubicles, they have offices and some even have the remote aspect, which I don’t really agree with those approaches to a certain extent due to communication. Communication is so critical to the success of a company that has an open workspace work, our accounting department can literally just look across the other side of the room and talk to our sales department about, you know, any questions that may arise with our vendor, with our customer. Because things get very complicated, especially with big contracts and after 700 contracts that we required, it gets, it gets very, very intricate. We’ll put it that way. So I think the openness of the worst case, the superintendent for the communication, but also has aspects like for example, a gym available for their own health aspects.

Adham Yusupov: [09:08]
I encourage our employees, so, you know, let’s go get on the treadmill, take that call, that conference call, I’m sorry about that. Calls, keep coming in to go take that conference call and treadmill to, you know, really invest into their health. And if they needed some time off or needs to just reenergize their brain, we have a relaxation room with bean bags and all that and you know, they can go in there and take their time in there.

Gene Hammett: [09:33]
Are they using the relaxation room?

Adham Yusupov: [09:35]
You know, actually, you know not as often as you’d think. So there’s, we, they took the bean bag out of the relaxation against the open social area. So if they need to relax, they actually like to just sit down, relax on the bean bag and interact with the team, which is great. Because again, you know, to me it shows that they can be serious, they can be focused, but at the same time, you know, they can kind of sit back, sit down and relax and they want to do it with the team and I’m all for it. I’m all about the team mentality.

Gene Hammett: [10:05]
Well, I think all of us leaders, value team and all of this and we know that we need to kind of come together at certain times. You do a lot of social events. So what does a lot to do to you?

Adham Yusupov: [10:19]
In regards to the social events?

Gene Hammett: [10:21]

Adham Yusupov: [10:22]
So we do quarterly outings. For example, every quarter I want to make sure that we reinvest back into the team and we do something together. So for example, our most recent outing was the Georgetown, they call it a bunch of the Brunch, Booze Cruise which we all got together on Cinco de Myo. As the company funded, we go there on the riverboat and the Potomac and we all have brunch and we have drinks and they invite their plus ones. And it’s a good way to really reconnect and get to know the team members, especially when we’re bringing in new personnel.

Adham Yusupov: [10:59]
As of this week, we have three new people coming on board. So we’re going to go from 10 to 13 and by the end of this week. So it’s very important that this next quarterly outing that we do with something like that. Another example is we’ve done beach trips. We’ve done team-building outings on weekends at the West Virginia cabins with zip lining and all sorts of stuff. We’ve done, you know, top golf trips, we’ve done escape rooms or kind of you get more comfortable with your team members outside the office settings. So that I think is very important. I don’t think it’s detrimental to the point work. If we didn’t have it, they would leave the company, but I believe it does build a stronger relationship with the team.

Gene Hammett: [11:42]
Do you have a team of people that organize this or is this something that comes through your office or how do you organize, how do you decide we’re going to go and what’s going on?

Adham Yusupov: [11:52]
No, that’s actually a great question. So how I like to do it is I like the team mentality. I want people to have input into it. So I actually assigned the whole team. I tell him, hey, this quarter, give me a list of ideas. It goes through them. Then my executive assistant, she puts together some you know, options, some things that align and then we just work together. And once we take a more or less vote on what’s the next outing should be and everything looks fine on the dates. We try to get a schedule as long as, you know, we try to accommodate for everybody. Personal schedules are kind of difficult sometimes, so you have to balance it. You know, some people have children on weekends, you know, they have to look after they can, you know, just leave them and they can’t always bring them to some of these events. But that’s basically I would do through a team a consensus.

Commentary: [12:44]
Let’s pause here for a second. Team collaboration. Why is that so important to your organization? Well, you probably already know why it’s important because you think about ways to get people to share knowledge with each other. A lot of companies struggle as they get bigger because people that have all the knowledge may end up leaving to move into a new role or they may leave. To a new location or they may leave the company altogether. And that really does put them in a jeopardy. But when you have a culture of collaboration, you have something special because not any one person has all of this knowledge. You may have to people that have special talents and that’s great, but you have more sharing going on across this and one plus one equals three when you have the right people collaborating in the right way. So I share this with you because I work with teams all the time and founders to help them create that kind of aspect inside their culture. So if you have any questions, make sure you reach out to me. Now, back to the interview.

Gene Hammett: [13:40]
Well, I really appreciate that you’re not just sitting back and going, oh, this is what I want to do and we’re gonna, we’re gonna do that. When you think about that, some of the mistakes that you’ve made in this journey, what, what comes to mind as far as may be focusing on having a lot more fun then most organizations are used to having.

Adham Yusupov: [14:00]
You know, I’m trying to think, Ooh, I don’t, I don’t really dwell on the stakes and if there is something, I, I take it as a learning lesson. I learned from PE. This didn’t go as smoothly as we wanted. Let’s adjust accordingly. When it comes to the fun aspect, I don’t really have any regrets or mistakes per se. I see some, some of what my colleagues are doing, some other CEOs who are part of bigger companies. You know, companies like Ledo and Northrop Grumman, some of these big primes and I kind of take notes. I like to take notes. And, um, I had a co a buddy, he’s the CEO of a big company to do I think over 160 million a year. He took his teammates and his department’s out to one of those plane festivals where they literally get in the cockpit of a plane and they do the rebel challenge.

Adham Yusupov: [14:56]
And this is kinda going all over the place. Some people are like dizzy and puking and everything. So you know, I take notes like that. I want, I definitely, one thing I do want to do is maybe more social investments who are the community. That’s, that’s the one thing I think what our next company outings I want to talk to the team about. Cause I think it’s important too, reinvest time into the community and help out. Especially when the weather’s nice like this and Virginia and Washington, you really want to be outside kind of giving back to the community as much as you can.

Gene Hammett: [15:25]
I think that’s the other side of this fun doesn’t have to be a booze cruise, right. It could be you know, we’re going to get together with this charity and do some work as a team and that can be just as rewarding if not even more rewarding for some people. Cause they really looking for a chance to give back, right?

Adham Yusupov: [15:42]
Oh yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And um, we have, so as you know, EMGs, our core company, I own a few other subsidiaries and we have a subsidiary company called auto trunk and we just did an event with them actually a months ago for the ovarian cancer society. One of our good partners, the Hertz Corporation, a rental car company they’re a participant in it. So we, you know, obviously went out there donated and participated in as much as we could. But next time around I definitely want a more hands-on involvement for more of the team that we can, you know, help out in that sense. So I agree with you. It can be rewarding other matters as well.

Gene Hammett: [16:20]
Did there something happen in your previous work where it maybe not as a fun environment and you just weren’t giving as much as you could have given to the organization? So when you started the company, you said, I want to create something different, unique. Curious about that.

Adham Yusupov: [16:35]
Yeah. And you know, to be quite frank with you. I’ve never had a per se office sit down experience. When I was in high school, I interned for a big lobbyist firm and that was I guess my first glimpse of the corporate life and the cubicles and all that. And yeah, that really did open my eyes. And the one thing I wanted to do is I wanted to create this environment and it took years, I’ll be honest with you, when I first proposed some of these ideas to even my entrepreneurship class at George Mason University, people weren’t a hundred percent audit. I even proposed to utilize some of the unused space at the campus for a coworking space that we could bring like-minded individuals and to this hub. And then, you know, as I said, we work, everything else is history.

Adham Yusupov: [7:25]
I mean they’ve expanded and blown up and maintenance [inaudible] business model, boom. We’re doing this before we work was even around before it was even created. So you know, I decided, you know what, it’s not going to be our prime business model, but the least I can do is create it within the world that we live in. Cause we spend the majority of our time at work. If I dread coming into work into my employees, do I come into work? What’s the point of that? Then it’s not fun. It’s not worth it for anybody. And as I mentioned before, one of the greatest things that I’ve heard from our team members, this when they go on vacation for a week or two and they come back and they’ll literally tell me, I am so glad to be back at work. That to me is just a then that makes me happy. I’ll be honest with Ya. So

Gene Hammett: [18:10]
That’s a pretty big honor to have someone go on vacation and be so thrilled to come back to work because of the fun environment. When, when you hear this over and over and over, I mean it’s got to light you up as a leader.

Adham Yusupov: [18:25]
Oh yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, it really makes me happy because again, at the end of the day, I’m all about the team. I’m all about everyone’s success and if one person succeeds in our team, everyone else succeeds. You know the sales department does well and accounting departments does good. It’s kind of a, a chain effect. And you know, that, that mentality of them wanting to come back to work off of vacation, I feel like that as well kind of, it’s kind of a chain and they enjoy coming to work, seeing their colleagues in their affiliates accordingly because there has to be a good balance to everything. In my opinion, everything should be a drug balance. Too much work is not good, too much fun. It’s not good. But a good balance in the middle of there is exactly what drives success.

Gene Hammett: [19:10]
I am curious, you know, beyond the quarterly events, are you doing anything week to week or day to day within the office that makes it fun?

Adham Yusupov: [19:17]
Well, I definitely engage a lot. I engage with our employees. You know, I don’t come in here and just a starch shooting out questions or demanding things. That’s not the way I operate. I start with, you know, just checking up on everybody, making sure everyone’s okay, seeing how everyone’s a weekend was, seeing how we’re looking on this week. Does anyone have anything coming up? And then we just, we take it from there kind of on a weekly basis, like a weekly recap or rundown prior to the start. And then as we just go through the week we talk we’ll try and make an interesting, you know, sometimes I’ll, we’ll just say spontaneously the weather’s great outside. Let’s all go. I’ll set for quick walk for about 20 minutes just to refresh our legs cause you know sometimes you just gotta get out of the office. And we don’t get enough in enough good weather here in Virginia, especially during the winters. It’s really rough. So anytime we can take advantage of that.

Gene Hammett: [20:13]
Adham, are you doing anything in meetings that make them fun as well?

Adham Yusupov: [20:17]
In meetings? Oh, see yeah, with the meetings there’s and our level meetings, we have to be a little more serious. We definitely can’t pop a bottle of champagne for example or something like that in a meeting. But internal meetings. Yes, of course. Internal meetings. You know, we make it fun. We, we have a little trivia we’ll bring donuts and every other week or so like kind of when we have the recaps so that everyone just has a good time with me. But when it’s external meetings with, you know, whoever may be a contracting or a lieutenant or a sergeant, we have to maintain our…

Gene Hammett: [20:52]
I totally get it when customers are around it may be a little bit different atmosphere. I was reading about some of the stuff that they do at apple and Google. There are some really specific details around how they start meetings and what they don’t want to do is for everyone to be on the phone. We’re kind of checking emails and whatnot. They actually want people to be having a conversation and they prefer to debate. Talking about the personal elements of, you know, what did you do this weekend or what did you, what are you planning to go for a vacation or anything personal about kids. And that keeps a little bit more of a caring atmosphere. We’re just looking for something that you might be doing along those lines.

Adham Yusupov: [21:35]
Oh yeah, absolutely. One, my biggest pet peeves is the telephone aspect. Great. We’re also connected to the phone, to the computer. I mean, we’re on this thing, the cell, my setup right now me, I’ve got three monitors and I’ve got the main core laptop. I’m always on my phone with emails and while I’m driving, I’m on phone calls. So when we have that moment, when we all sit down, I really ask everyone to put their phones away. That’s again, I just, I don’t wanna see people texting. I don’t want to see people did take care of emails and I request that when we have internal recaps or meetings, rundowns that put everything away, put it on hold for 15 to 20 minutes and let’s catch up. Let’s see how things are going. Um, what are we planning for this week? What do we have for the next month?

Adham Yusupov: [22:16]
And then we’ll discuss things, you know, like to company out in, you know, if there’s something else that one the departments need, we’ll discuss that. And we always think of ways to optimize. The one thing that I really like about our internal meetings, it’s almost like a think tank. Everybody has input. And the thing is one, I think that the best way to really analyze and take the right course is when everyone has an opinion and idea and you really kind of, you obviously can’t implement every idea and ask that every employee wants in these meetings. But what they do as they bring ideas to the table and you valuate and you kind of go through it, filter through what the good parts are and what can be optimized. And that’s how we’ve been able to succeed as well as through optimization by our employees and team members telling us, hey listen, why don’t we do this differently? What do you think? And then we’ll analyze. And if it works on all departments, if it’s, if we can test it out and it’s proven, then we full scale run it as a protocol.

Gene Hammett: [23:16]
Well I didn’t pay you to say that, but that’s one reason why I created the name of this to be the Growth Think Tank, to have people like you share their ideas, have others listening in and deciding what’s right for them to, to execute on and to create some unique experiences where leaders like yourself get together and share those ideas and what I called the Growth Think Tank. So, Adham, I really appreciate you being here to talk about not only the growth of your company but like some of the core principles of growth. Creating a great place to work and creating unique experiences that make people want to come back from vacation and say they were glad to be back at work. So thanks for being here.

Adham Yusupov: [23:56]
Absolutely. Thank you, Gene. Appreciate your time today.

Gene Hammett: [23:59]
Fantastic interview. I really love some of the details that Tom shared about, you know, making work fun and why it matters and what you can do to improve your working relationship across your team. You don’t have to have all of the fun things at work, but it does help in some senses. But what really helps is creating experiences outside the work environment so people can bond together. This is all about how you could do that. So I hope to enjoy this episode. Hopefully, you’re enjoying all of the episodes here at the growth think tank. Really appreciate you tuning in. I appreciate you sharing this with someone that you feel like would be great to our community. So if you have anyone that comes to mind when you think about these shows, make sure you don’t hesitate because we’re not asking you to spend any money. We’re not asking you to listen to our sponsorship ads. We are asking that you let this podcast grow naturally through you talking about it with others. Well, as always lead with others. We’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.


GTT Featuring Adham Yusupov



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