Why we care about being a “Best Place to Work”

Vivayic was just named as one of Inc. Magazine’s Best Places to Work 2017 and we’re not going to lie: we’re proud of this one. Why?

  1. This is part of our purpose for existing.

Vivayic’s purpose is to build other’s capacity to do good in the world. This purpose drives the partnerships we develop with our clients and shows up in our learning solutions, but it also means we invest in our own people. Our teammates do amazing things to build other people’s capacity – both as part of their role with Vivayic and in their communities. We invest in cultivating their talents and passions to help build their capacity to do even more good in this world.

  1. We love our teammates and want them to love working with us.

One of our business mentors, Tom Walter of Tasty Catering, taught us that it’s okay to talk about love in the workplace and we ran with it. We love our teammates. We know their spouses, their kids, what’s going on in their community, and what they aspire to do and be. And, when you love people you want them to be fulfilled and engaged in their calling as a vocation. While that’s not a great business metric; it’s a great “living a good and full life” metric.

  1. Happy teammates = happy clients = sustained growth

The funny thing about caring about people is that they, in turn, care a whole lot about what they do and who they do it for. Vivayic made the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing small businesses in 2016 and will likely again this year. Coincidence? We don’t think so, either.

  1. We work hard at this

Creating great culture, especially in a virtual working environment, doesn’t just happen. We connected with the Small Giants Community five years ago and have learned from some of the country’s most outstanding business leaders. The most important lesson: make being a great place to work a priority and work on it every day.

 

Official Announcement: https://www.inc.com/profile/vivayic

Building our Small Giant

Vivayic leaders venture to a conference of values

Vivayic is a company that chooses to be Great instead of Big. A big part of our motivation for this revolves around the Small Giants philosophy.

This philosophy is more than just that – it’s a community – and it is founded upon the operating principles in Bo Burlingham’s book, Small Giants: Companies that Choose to Be Great Instead of Big. At their annual conference, a small group of like-minded business owners whom, like Vivayic, want their values to show up in every facet of our business, get together to share best practices and discuss current issues.

Seth, Carrie, Emily, and Doug at the Welcome Reception overlooking the Chicago skyline. Photo via Small Giants Facebook

Seth, Carrie, Emily, and Doug at the Welcome Reception overlooking the Chicago skyline. Photo via Small Giants Facebook

 We recently returned from the Small Giants Summit and are excitedly implementing what we learned. The Small Giants mission and vision align well with our business and personal beliefs. All attendees believe in and run their business based on six themes from the Small Giants book. Members of this group focus on as much, if not more, on being great places to work (and to work with) as opposed to rapid business growth and expansion. It’s reaffirmed our belief in hiring good people.

 As a result of the conference, we realized that we can do better as leaders if we start our team interactions by revisiting our vision, values, strategic goals and operating principles. If we’re all on the same page, our daily efforts and interactions with each other and our clients will be more clearly aligned with these guiding philosophies.

 We did more than gain a renewed belief in staying true to our culture, we learned from each other. It’s important, especially as business owners, to build a network of peers and mentors that have similar experiences and challenges in building a small business, while focusing on values-based leadership. At this conference, we did just that. We gathered ideas, brainstormed with others and learned what’s worked and what hasn’t in their small businesses. Now, we can apply each of those small lessons at Vivayic.

 And we’re definitely on the right track to building our small giant of a company. We have documented our values, vision and strategic goals, and we strive to follow them every day. As with any company – large or small – these are ever-evolving.

Part of the journey will always be leading our team toward full alignment between these three cornerstones – values, vision and strategic goals – that guide our work and interactions with each other.

Kansas City here we come – 2014 Summer Meeting

Bringing Power & Light to Our July Vivayic Team Meeting

In our virtual office setting, it’s important for our team to come together and connect, whether it’s professionally or personally. Through quarterly team meetings, we do just that.

Not only do these meetings help us see all the ways we are helping clients, but they also allow us to teach, as well as learn from, one another. Of course, we spend a lot of time sharing knowledge with each other during these meetings, but we also leave time for socializing and getting to know each other better.

July’s team meeting found us in Kansas City, Missouri, which was special because several of our team members (Doug, Emily, Miranda) grew up in Missouri and others have spent time there (Cara). Our team loved being able to share some fun facts about Missouri and the different connections members of the team have to the state, too. Who knew Chillicothe, Missouri, Miranda’s birthplace, was also the home of sliced bread?

We all know now.

Stationed in Hilton President hotel, we shared completed projects and lessons learned with each other. It’s a great way for us to all stay on the forefront of new technologies or learning methods and tools. We know we have a talented team, but it is energizing when we get to actually see what other teammates are doing and the awesome services we are providing our clients. We believe it’s important to always share our knowledge and learn from each other, and not just at these meetings.

Lora-Doug

Beyond that, we also talked about progress on our 2nd quarter goals and shared our upcoming 3rd quarter goals. To further our strategic efforts, we broke into account management teams and brainstormed strategies for not only the upcoming 4th quarter, but also into 2015.

The bulk of our meetings centered around a fun, happening area in Kansas City called the Power & Light District. Socially, we enjoyed dinner at a couple restaurants in the area, and as a team-building exercise, we took a private grilling class at the Culinary Center of Kansas City. With amazing chef teachers who guided our grilling, the whole team had a really fun time hanging out, cooking and enjoying a delicious meal.

We ended the meeting on a high note with our friends from Field of Hope. They shared pictures and stories from when they taught the curriculum we wrote for them as a part of our Vivayic Cares initiatives. We also discussed our future partnership with them. It was great to hear from Field of Hope and see the impact our curriculum had on their program and their work with the folks in Uganda.

These meetings always energize the team and get us motivated to create more innovative learning solutions. We connected with teammates, shared cool ideas and started to look at strategic plans for next year. We’re so excited for what 2015 has to offer and thankful for how incredibly blessed we are to work for Vivayic – a team that truly cares not only about each other, but also about our clients.

Field of Hope: Cultivating a Country of Farmers

Vivayic Cares’ first partnership is about more than learning

To those who have been given much, much is expected.

Vivayic exists to help others – whether in a corporate office or a third world country. Through our giving program, Vivayic Cares, we do just that.

An important part of that program is our partnership with Field of Hope (FoH). Field of Hope is dedicated to helping Ugandan farmers not only grow their own food but also understand how to store and sell their products to provide money for their families. As a team, we spent the last few months donating our time and specialized skills to develop a 200-level production agriculture curriculum to support the Field of Hope organization.

Field of Hope April 2014

Basic knowledge that we take for granted – like storing and irrigating crops and understanding supply and demand – are not common knowledge in Uganda. This life-giving curriculum trains people in Uganda to become self-sufficient and profitable through tractor ownership and farming.

This was not just a “good idea” or an exciting outreach effort. This was about empowering people who are in desperate need of good agricultural practices right now, so that they can feed their families.

Our partnership with FoH was born in August 2013 when the group shared their mission with us during our August 2013 meeting in Minnesota. Our whole team was immediately excited about the chance to contribute to outreach in developing countries. 21 questions game We saw this collaboration as a perfect fit not only because of our learning solutions, but also because of our backgrounds in agriculture, whether it was growing up on a farm, majoring in agriculture, living on a farm, or working with our clients in the agriculture industry.

Our relationship with FoH employees, especially Mike Hafner and Brandy Young, was a great fit right from the start. Mike, FoH president, said that he felt the same way.

“Vivayic is an organization that not only knows the content but also knows how it should be presented so that it will impact the lives of the farmers meaningfully,” he said. “I feel very blessed and grateful for all Vivayic has done for Field of Hope, especially all they have done for the farmers with whom we work.”

Brandy, FoH co-founder, feels humbled and grateful to have found the perfect partner in Vivayic.

“We were just looking to hire a company to develop training,” she said. “Instead we found a partner.”

Vivayic feels the same way. The work the FoH team is doing on the ground is inspiring. We are blessed to be part of it and the impact it has on the everyday life of an Ugandan farmer. Through this partnership, we are teaching the farmers to fish for a lifetime, not giving them fish for a meal.

There’s something about being brought back to the very basic field-to-plate concept. If crops fail, people go hungry.

While creating the lessons, time was at the front of everyone’s minds. We wanted to maximize every minute of time these farmers spent in training to increase their likelihood for success. Being efficient and effective is always important, but it took on extra significance for this project.

Like all projects, we were focused on the end user. We put quite a bit of thought into who would be taking these courses and what their daily life and experiences were so we could present things in a way that would be most relevant to them.

It was a humbling experience. We had to try and put ourselves into their shoes, which was a tough task given the many blessings we enjoy daily.

This project just reinforces that Vivayic is a company that truly does give back. We did this project as a service project, without pay, and everyone on the team was so into it. Of course, we gained much as a result – in ways that are hard to measure.

Our hearts warmed knowing we truly helped cultivate their knowledge and empowered them to improve their lives. We were rewarded with the learners’ excitement. The Ugandan farmers’ appreciation and thankfulness affected us deeply. We’ve cried tears of joy and gratitude and understanding.

We’ve been pulled in the direction of giving more and plan to continue to be partners in this journey with FoH. The FoH group presented our curriculum in April 2014 in Uganda with 25 participants, most of whom participated in the 100-level training.

And we want to continue to support their efforts – whether it’s creating a 300-level training, or developing a “train-the-trainer” program where the participants learn the materials so they can share it with their neighbors/friends. The goal is to help them understand how to best operate their farm.

The Field of Hope project was the first Vivayic Cares project that we worked on as a team, but it won’t be our last. We’re looking forward to continuing to help with this project and build upon the strong foundation we have created.

“The Vivayic team has a heart to serve and bless others,” Mike said. “They have accepted us as a part of their team, and these wonderful people have become our friends.”

California Begins Here – 2014 Spring Meeting

2014 Spring Meeting, Sacramento, CA

At Vivayic, we are lucky that we have a team of rock star employees, no matter their location. While working virtually can be extremely productive, it can be isolating at times, which is why we gather the troops quarterly to share, learn and enjoy each other’s company.

Our latest team meeting brought us to sunny California at the beginning of March, which was a welcome change from the endless winter many of our team experienced this year.

We have employees all over the country, from California to Florida, so we try to choose a location close to one of our employees who serves as the host for the meeting. In 2013, we met in Orlando, Minneapolis and Lincoln. We were due for a West Coast visit, so we chose Sacramento as our location this spring, and our teammate Angela, who lives nearby, hosted the event.

Sac Cap

These team meetings serve a few purposes. We revisit our values, show and tell our best work and break down research related to learning design. We discuss our strategic goals and vision as a company, along with our progress towards those goals.

In addition to working on business and project planning, we focus on cultivating our social connection, which is done more easily and with more excitement, in person. We spend a lot of time getting to know each other and recreating the traditional office “water cooler” that we miss in our virtual environment. We do a team builder each morning and take turns designing games and activities that help us learn more about our teammates.

One of our team’s favorite parts is the opportunity to share work with each other in person. We often don’t get to see the final solutions from other client teams, so it’s nice to hear about solutions from each of the client teams and learn some new tricks and tips from each other. We are an innovative little group so it’s always fun to see what is fresh and find ways to implement great ideas across project teams.

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Some of our most widespread tools and solutions have come out of one person sharing a good idea at a team meeting, which results in many team members discovering creative ways to use that tool to meet their own clients’ needs.

Not only do we share in a typical meeting environment, we also find time to eat really good, local food and take a field trip. In Minnesota, we ventured to the state fair, and in Sacramento, we toured a local brewery as a part of Sac Beer Week. Partaking in the local fare and getting out of a traditional meeting environment is a great way for us to learn more about each other and maintain our positive culture. We work so hard, it’s important for us to relax and have fun with each other when we’re together.

Sac Outside

We work virtually, but our culture is still what makes Vivayic, Vivayic. Getting together for some quality time is critical to nurturing that culture. We always come away thinking how talented our team is and how great our solutions really are for our clients.

Vivayic Values: Empathy

Vivayic Value: Empathy

The truth about learning is that it always happens in the context of time, place and people. At Vivayic, we know that accurately assessing the context – especially the perspective of the learner – leads to much more effective solutions … solutions that really impact people and organizations.

That’s why the Vivayic value of empathy is so important. We have to envision the learner’s environment, their learning state and their support system to know how we can help.

Showing empathy always starts with authentic and patient listening. Listening to the client. Listening to the intended learners. Listening to others with experience or useful perspective. This helps us understand not only what people need but why they need it.

Designing large-scale learning solutions is an immensely complicated process. We’re often trying to keep track of hundreds of small components while ensuring they all integrate into larger, integrated themes and experiences. We continually ask ourselves, “If I were the learner, what would I want and need to be successful?” It’s amazing how much that simple question can help you stay focused on great design.

After all, we’ve all been on the other side of the equation. We’ve all been the kid that just can’t seem to keep up in class, the employee suffering through another seemingly pointless training seminar, the frustrated consumer just trying to figure out how to use the cool new product. We feel like trying to rid the world of these experiences is a noble goal because ultimately we aren’t designing for ourselves – we’re designing solutions for other people. Empathy has to be at the core of our work.

That’s the cool thing about Vivayic and the work we do. We create individualized solutions based upon specific needs of our clients. Our solutions aren’t off-the-shelf productions. Each and every one of us really take the time to know our client and build something that is going to really work for them and solve their problem.

Fortunately, caring about getting it right for our clients and their learners is a non-negotiable requirement to be part of our team. We are driven to help organizations achieve results that matter, but because the work that we do is all about the development of people we have to do our work in a way that honors the individual and their experience.

Empathy is powerful. That value really helps us to make the best learning solutions available.

Vivayic Values: Excellence + Practicality

Intersection of Excellence and Practicality – great ideas that are feasible, leverage existing systems and practices, elegant solutions not just “whiz bang”, honor where people are and where they can go

As a learning solution company, we’ve seen solutions that look awesome but aren’t very practical. We’ve also seen solutions that are super practical but not that delightful to use. I’m sure you have, too.

That’s where our Vivayic Value – Excellence + Practicality – comes in. We strive to strike a balance between the two in all of our solutions – we want those solutions to be excellent AND practical, both for the client and for the learner.

We use the Venn Diagram to depict this value because it represents so much for us. We truly believe that creating innovative ideas to fuel a new solution is fantastic, but making sure they will work in the real world is as important. Our creations are more tangible than just ‘great ideas’ – they are products that actually get results and achieve objectives and goals.

It’s part of the reason we created Vivayic. We’ve experienced plenty of educational solutions that shot for the stars with wild, fun, innovative ideas, which were exciting but not always useful in the learning situations for which they were designed.

One might call it ‘whiz bang’ with a ‘filter of practicality.’ We build that filter by immersing ourselves in real-life educational situations. We spend a lot of time in the world where our clients and learners live. We go to corporate training rooms, non-profit meetings and classrooms regularly. We listen, and we understand our client’s goals and audience.

Learners are bombarded constantly with learning solutions that promise the ‘cool factor,’ but we think that solutions shouldn’t use the latest or fanciest technology if it’s not appropriate for the intended learning objectives.

For instance, when we’re designing a screen for an e-learning course or a video, we might think something looks really cool the way we’ve animated it, but when we look at it from the user’s point-of-view, we might notice that the animation could create confusion, so it’s revised. We want to make sure the learning activity we are designing is effective at informing or teaching something – not just entertaining.

Plus, this value keeps us grounded. It sets an expectation and ensures that we as an organization and individuals continually learn and seek new and innovative ideas to add value to our customers.

This value makes us who we are and sets us apart from our competitors. Our work is unique and personalized. It’s not the same off-the-shelf solution for every client. We take the time to really get to know the client so we are able to come up with awesome, individualized ideas, try them out and create an authentic, meaningful experience for the end user. We press for solutions that actually WORK with just the right amount of ‘whiz bang.’ 

Vivayic Values

Everyday Values

Our values are not just our values. They are how we live… and work.

After several years of running our company, and our lives, by a certain set of values, we decided to say them out loud so that we could even more firmly follow them.

These values are our “secret sauce,” and like sauces improve with care and time, so have our commitment to our values and our use of them in our everyday work.

To help us identify our values, we created an image to go with each one:

  • Intersection of Excellence and Practicality: (Venn diagram) – great ideas that are feasible, leverage existing systems and practices, elegant solutions not just “whiz bang”, honor where people are and where they can go
  • Empathy: (shoes) – listen, see others’ perspectives, bring breadth of experience, consider about the learner’s experience
  • Durability: (Palm Tree) – flexible, long-lasting, reliable, responsible
  • Initiative: (Gum wrapper )  – proactive, solves problems, takes leadership roles, seeks innovation
  • Authenticity (Real flowers) – shows up real to teammates and clients, no bullshit, admits mistakes, vulnerable
  • Cultivation (Watering a young plant) – invest in communities, support good causes, recognize and support personal lives and families of teammates and clients, treat people and self well

These are our values – our guiding lights – and over the next few months, we will explore each one of them in depth and tell you more about why we believe in these values in our professional and personal lives.

Our vision is to be a world-class provider of learning solutions that help organizations succeed.

We approach our values in a way that is simple and easy, which makes it seamless and natural for our employees as we grow, as well as straightforward for our current and potential clients.

Giving the values names helped us to be clear about what they are so that team members, clients and partners all know what to expect. These are things we’ve done since we were just starting out as a team of three. When we founded Vivayic, we did so because we wanted to build a workplace where we actually wanted to work.

These behaviors, our values, were cornerstones of the type of team we wanted to join. So, they grew more out of “doing” than just “saying.”

We feel these behaviors have helped us build amazing relationships with our clients and with each other. We decided, as a team, to capture them so that we could be more intentional about living them on a daily basis in our interactions with each other and with our clients. It isn’t for show or because you’re “supposed” to have values; these aren’t just things we aspire to…these are things we actually DO on a regular basis.

Our values are part of our language. When we’re brainstorming a new solution, we sit back and actually ask ourselves…does this marry excellence and practicality? Our values are our “gut check” to make sure we’re staying true to what makes us effective.

As a visual reminder of this “gut check,” all of the Vivayic team received a framed set of our values as an on-desk reminder to consider them in all decisions.

In addition, our core values are reflected in our learning solutions, and because of this, our clients get customized solutions that are excellent, practical, authentic, durable, empathetic and innovative.

We always strive to provide creative, innovative, excellent solutions, while being dedicated, authentic people.  It’s not what we do, it’s who we are. We strive to be our values.

 

Yes, It’s Possible to Host a Successful and Enjoyable Virtual Meeting

Introduction
Four times per year, our team gathers in person for a two to three day meeting. As the team has grown, so have the options for meeting locations. This is good as Lincoln, Nebraska is a great city, but it doesn’t compare to Florida in February.

We enjoy getting together/we like each other/we have fun. However, our travel schedules had been unusually heavy this spring and the logistics for a May meeting weren’t coming together; hence the virtual team meeting. We are a virtual company so Skype, instant messaging and web meetings are part of our everyday. But the thought of a three-day virtual meeting didn’t stand out as something I was looking forward to.

To my pleasant surprise, the virtual meeting was one of our most productive, engaging and efficient team meetings to date with zero travel required.

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Keys to Success

As I reflect on the meeting, there were several things we did in preparation for and during the meeting that contributed to success.

    • Studied and tested the technology
      • After some research, we decided to stick with Adobe Connect, which we had already been using for basic webinars with clients.
      • We sent the diagnostics test links to each team member and asked team members to run them on the computer they planned on using well in advance of the meeting.
      • We put together a relevant reference guide including dos and don’ts plus  trouble-shooting ideas based on information from Adobe’s website.
      • We held a practice run with facilitators.
      • Established rules of the game
        • We let people know that everyone should have their webcams on throughout the entire meeting.
        • We made sure everyone cleared their calendar for the meeting times.
        • Modified a typical agenda
          • We met for four hours each morning as large group. Then we took time for lunch and any client work that had to be done.
          • In the afternoons, we met in smaller groups for one to two hours. Adobe Connect has a really neat feature where you can send people into their own virtual conference room and it worked well.
    • Added personal touches
      • The week before the meeting we sent each person a package containing a few of their favorite things and some goodies for their kiddos. We opened the meeting by opening the packages.
      • We threw a virtual baby shower. The last day of the meeting a second box arrived to celebrate a new little one on the way. It was complete with a blue and yellow-themed party favors, handmade cookies, a mini bottle of Champagne and a glass for toasting.
      • Utilized the chat function
      • I would not have predicted it to be a key to success, but the chat function in Adobe Connect was vital. We were able to chat with the entire group or just one person at a time. It allowed for banter without interruption and people could type in questions as the facilitator shared. It actually was a large contributor to the efficiency of the meeting because comments and questions didn’t pull us off topic as they would in person.

Issues

There were a couple bumps in the road. While annoying, they were not detrimental. At one point we were interrupted by what sounded like interference from a police scanner. Apparently there was a lot of action in St. Louis that day and Miranda’s speakers picked it up. We banished her to mute until break time. Having her swap over to her headset solved the problem.

Conclusions

While we have no intention of canceling all of our in-person meetings, it’s fair to say everyone was impressed with both the experience and the results of the meeting. We accomplished most of our task list and it was a good venue for showcasing recently completed projects. Perhaps best of all: we did not have to pack up suitcases and catch flights home.

 

 

Cooking Class

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In February during our quarterly team meeting in Orlando, we took a break from work to steal away to a cooking class at  near downtown Orlando. Owned and operated by Marci Arthur, Truffles and Trifles offers group cooking classes and instruction. She was a phenomenal host, imparting sweet southern hospitality while nosily poking into our lives to get to know us better.

Marci made it happen. She set the tone for us to have fun while we cook and then eat great food…what could be better? I laughed about how she unabashedly pried into everyone’s personal lives. -Lora

As it was the day before Mardis Gras, our four-course meal was themed entirely around the festive holiday. We broke into teams and were directed to stand by a station. Each station contained the recipe and measured ingredients for the dish we would make, ranging from appetizers like Pecan encrusted Pork Crostinis with Fig Jam to entrees like Wedding Chicken and finally dessert.

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We immediately went to work on preparing our dishes. Some were definitely more difficult than others, resulting in some humorous dialogue and the opportunity to learn through humor and trial and error.

We got to be the popular kids at cooking school! We made the Pecan encrusted Pork Crostinis with Fig Jam…AMAZING! I also learned, per Craig, that solid sugar in a heated pan will not liquify on its own. Gotta have some moisture. -Doug

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As we cooked, we sipped wine and talked. It was a chance not only to catch up with one another “outside” of work, but get to know the other teams as well.

Our amazing meal culminated with a gorgeous array of desserts, including homemade beignets, chocolate pie, and a super-sized King Cake. I’d never had it before, so I opted for an especially big slice for myself.

My favorite part of the food was the desserts because they were delicious, there’s nothing better than hot, fried dough covered in powdered sugar. – Jessica

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I had so much fun watching all of our dishes come together. Sautéing, roasting, caramelizing, braising, baking — sure, it was prescribed by the recipes Marci provided, but I believe each dish reflected our own creativity as well — not all that unlike the creativity we instill in our work. Only this time, we uncovered the nuances and secrets of each recipe to achieve the best result.

 

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