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Thriving Amidst Chaos

Advertising agencies will be forced to shed 50,000 jobs in 2021; this on the heels of a 66% decrease in overall revenue in 2020. At BNO, it’s now just over a year since “WFH” took on a whole new meaning and we strategically and thoughtfully changed course.

Because of those changes, we’ve gone in the opposite direction and have undergone remarkable growth, experiencing our best year ever in 2020, growing our team and our revenues by double digits, and expanding operations at our southern base. The flexibility to change the nature of “work” itself, maintaining our collaborative and familial spirit, and optimizing the tools at hand – together these allowed us to not only survive but thrive. Following are a few specifics.

Embrace, and stay ahead of, technology

In any business, teamwork and innovation are crucial to success. This applies doubly when making the massive shift to an all-remote workplace in an industry that depends on a face-to-face approach. There was an immediate need to up our game with collaborative and communication tools, applying design thinking and agile work processes along the way to reimagine our workflow.

Communication between client and agency, and between all agency teammates, was critical. Microsoft Teams, BlueJeans, and Zoom all have features and options to fit certain situations and we use them all regularly.

COVID or not, clients need content. We continue to gather quality content via OpenReel and Altru (recently acquired by iCIMS). We’ve created lifelike virtual recruiting environments with Astound, transferred that content via BOX, collaborated on Mural, Survey Monkey, and Poll Anywhere, and communicated via TikTok, Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, and Clubhouse. Agile teams, strong technology, and a willingness to take chances were crucial.

The takeaway: Collaborate with your teams to stay a step ahead and master new technologies.

From culture-forward to culture-focused

The BNO Culture Club began as a way to organize holiday celebrations in the office. Quarantining has upped its role. Weekly “Brainy Breaks” allow for a positive pause in our day. Monthly virtual happy hours feature horoscope reads and costume parties, re-centering company morale in unexpected and positive ways. The happy hours also bring together people on the team who would have otherwise not had the opportunity to meet, as well as promote work-life balance. We’re now much closer and count on our Florida-based teammates more than ever.

We also reimagined our monthly company meeting, enhancing our culture of celebrating team wins and offering every team member opportunities to contribute and share accolades.

The takeaway: Encourage home grown talent to build on your company culture. Better morale will follow.

Put your best face forward

Keeping cameras on during meetings has helped set the tone for our virtual work environment. Leadership set the tone by keeping cameras on as much as possible.

As communicators, we understand that body language and facial expressions play a huge role in how we express what’s being said and perceive what’s being heard. We’re all learning to edit our tone via text or speech. Keeping cameras on emphasized the importance of face-to-face communication. It’s a small add-on to the rest of our strategic, employee-forward approaches, but it’s helped us to connect, especially those of us new to the office. Due to our growth, we now have a sizeable number of teammates who have never met in person. Due to cameras, it doesn’t really feel that way.

The takeaway: When you lead by example, people will follow. Shrink the (figurative and literal) distance between team members wherever possible.

We’re still growing

Whether it’s adding new employees, getting up to speed with new clients, or bringing fresh concepts to long-term clients, we’re continuing to scale and thrive in the new normal. It’s a vote of confidence for the business we’ve built, and it bodes well for our future and the future of our clients.

During this scaling up, we asked some new team members to weigh in on their virtual onboarding. Their thoughts:

  1. Have a simple, casual, and efficient process in place. Starting a new job virtually can be daunting and overwhelming. I was onboarded within a week, allowing more time for training.
  2. I appreciated meeting leadership one-on-one during week one. Also, one-on-one video calls with each department head helped me get a better understanding of roles and responsibilities.
  3. Because everyone works remotely, familiarization with tech tools is crucial. Having training documents ready, supplemented by a walkthrough session, increased our familiarization and resulted in quicker adaption and better productivity.
  4. There is a culture of openness that really helps. New hires can get intimidated when dealing with new processes and technology. Having a team where I could ask anything made life—and onboarding—easier.

If you’re looking for a strategic partner that can help you thrive in this ever-evolving environment, reach out to us at