*This blog was originally published on Rusty Shelton’s personal website
This month Zilker Media turns four years old.
At our house when a member of the family has a birthday we go around the table and share three things we love about that person.
As you can imagine, when it’s my birthday I usually hear things like “I love Dad’s singing” or “Dad tells great jokes” from my kids…Ok, they may not say it but they’re definitely thinking it!
In all seriousness, it’s always a great way to celebrate what we love most about that family member and gives them a chance to hear things that stand out about them to other members of the family.
As I was thinking about the right way to celebrate Zilker Media’s birthday, I thought I’d do the same thing.
So, here goes – three things I’m thankful for about Zilker Media at 4 years old:
- Good Vibes
Back in 2017 when we worked together to create the core values for the agency “Good Vibes” was one that hit us like a ton of bricks as an absolute must.
Sure, it has some Austin in it – which we love – but it also is a simple, clear way to approach building culture and has provided us with a foundation to attract talent, retain team members and engage clients & partners in a way that delivers a fun & positive experience.
I have done my best to bet the foundation of each entrepreneurial venture I’ve been involved with on Peter Drucker’s famous truth: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” and although my wife hasn’t allowed me to get it tattooed on my arm yet, it’s a permanent fixture at Zilker Media and allows us to punch far above our weight class in reputation as we grow.
2. Lead The Way: Everything Changes with an Ownership Mentality
Zilker Media Partner & CEO Paige Velasquez Budde took the reins as Chief Executive Officer of the agency in 2019 and in less than two years has exceeded just about every expectation I had for her leadership (and my expectations were SUPER high!).
Without a doubt the most impactful decision she made was to champion an “ownership mentality” from all Zilker Media team members.
That sounds good in a frame on the wall or as a rah-rah line in a team meeting but what does it really mean when embedded in the culture of a business?
It means everyone brings an ownership mindset to every aspect of their day. As you might imagine, this took some time to implement and Paige focused on four key things to make it happen:
- Open Book Management – Paige worked alongside Zilker Media CFO Patti Conrad to implement open book management, which gave team members complete access to the financials for the company. Patti led a number of educational sessions to teach team members how to understand a corporate P&L but, more importantly, how they could impact the results of that P&L based on how they served clients. This also opened up opportunities to provide financial training for our team members that could be applied to personal financial management.
- Profit–Sharing – We believe Zilker Media is successful because of our talent – not in spite of them or at their expense – and to reinforce that belief Paige & Patti launched a carefully planned profit-sharing program to allow team members to participate in the results they drive for the company.
- Consistency – The leadership team reinforces this ownership mentality at every opportunity – including one-on-ones with team Members – tying their results back to the broader initiatives the company wants to drive for clients. This reinforces the value at every opportunity and takes it from a generic encouragement to a piece of the company’s culture.
- Empowerment – You can’t truly implement an ownership mentality with your team unless you empower them to make decisions at every level to drive the results you’re looking to achieve. This requires leadership to be open to team members making mistakes and learning from those mistakes as they gain more and more control over the outcomes they are driving. We have been nimble enough to do this really well at 4.
I will admit to being a bit nervous about open book management – not that there was anything to hide or that I didn’t want everyone to have access to the numbers – but I was worried it might cause unexpected challenges in terms of missed expectations or misalignment on results. I’m very happy to have been dead wrong on that concern and would whole-heartedly recommend other leaders consider Paige’s approach to implementing an ownership mentality across their team.
3. It’s Fun to Work with your Friends
My favorite part of entrepreneurship is the opportunity to work alongside friends to serve clients (who are often also friends) and do everything possible to make an impact on both along the way.
If you would have told me four years ago that we would be clicking at the rate we currently are it would have surpassed my already high expectations.
I think a lot of that momentum has to do with working alongside friends that I’ve had the pleasure of working with from the early days at Shelton Interactive. We hit the ground running from the start and didn’t have to worry about a lot of the stuff other companies deal with when they have Team Members who haven’t worked together before and don’t come in as friends.
This doesn’t mean we haven’t added talent outside of our sphere of influence. but the foundation was set with a core team with deep roots of successful collaboration, trust and a spirit of having fun along the way.
To sum up my perspective four years in, I feel blessed beyond measure to have partners and team members at Zilker Media that I count among my closest friends, all while having a chance to focus my energy on the things I enjoy most and that drive the most important outcomes I can control for the agency.
As we continue to grow, we’re committed to making Zilker Media a gathering point for good ideas, meaningful relationships and good vibes and I’m humbled and honored to be a part of this team.
In the year ahead, keep an eye out for Fitzhugh Fridays (come see us down on the edge of the Hill Country!), the launch of the Texas CEO Series (in collaboration with Texas CEO Magazine) and other fun stuff from the Zilker Media team.
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