We’re celebrating a major milestone in the strangest of times. June 3 was Parisleaf’s 10th anniversary.
A decade ago, we never thought we’d be lucky enough to work with a team we’d be proud to call friends. Then again, six months ago we didn’t anticipate leading them through a pandemic, George Floyd, protests, and a global recession (or should I say Accelerant). Yet here we are, ten years later.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written a company manifesto. I used to write one at the beginning of each year to make sense of change, reset Parisleaf’s vision, and hold myself accountable. Kind of a public diary. Some found their way onto the internet and others served their purpose and remain dormant in word docs.
However, this isn’t a regular year, and we’re not planning to make minor tweaks. If ever there was a time to invest in bettering our agency, it’s now.
The thought of sipping sparkling cider while socially distancing and patting ourselves on the backs didn’t sit right with us, considering the perilous situation many face right now. Before Ali and I could decide how to mark the occasion, our team presented us with a surprise video they created. It was emotional to watch. ❤️
Within a few minutes of pressing play, it really hit home the impact we’ve had on people’s lives and business. We wanted Parisleaf’s 10-Year Manifesto to help us figure out how to do more of that. At the end of our first decade in business, we decided to remind ourselves of how far we’ve come… and how much further we still have to go.
First, these are the decisions that made us the agency we are today.
Rejecting the Darwinian culture of previous workplaces.
Ali and I started Parisleaf to create the kind of culture we sadly never found as employees. I blasted through dozens of workplaces while trying to find my place in this world. Most of them were toxic, fearful environments. There are lots of unhealthy and selfish businesses whose actions are guided only by the pursuit of profit. These businesses chew people up. They are now being confronted by a generation who will no longer stand silent while they plunder. Most of these outdated models are only interested in whatever widget they are selling and profiteering. At Parisleaf, it’s never been about the widget – it’s always been about the people.
Learning how to come from a place of love.
Looking back, this was always our secret sauce. Love is what has kept us together, even recently when we’ve been six feet apart. Love has been our priority — above everything else — to love what we do, to find clients we love, and to love making positive and uplifting work that we’re proud to put our collective names behind. In recent years, we’ve come a long way in helping organizations and leaders reinforce their culture. Our focus is now centered around driving revenue and fundraising by activating Purpose and empowering their workforce.
The work was always good, but we needed to make it better.
There’s a large market for average work at a low rate. One of the biggest turning points at Parisleaf was when we started taking our work more seriously. Instead of being order-takers and “servicing” clients, we became partners with the knowledge to actively lead them. We got big into business, culture, and organizational strategy. We overhauled our process and resolved to make sure every project moved the needles of people and money. We hired smart and creative people, then encouraged them to grow. The commercial impact of our projects has not only helped our clients; their success has also enabled us to grow Parisleaf.
Giving ourselves permission to grow.
As Brené Brown said, “You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.” Realizing that I personally had something worth sharing led me on the path to mentoring other business leaders (currently I mentor about a dozen directors & C-Level Execs). Stepping into this role has helped me grow immeasurably as a leader and has influenced our ability to create supportive and safe work cultures where our clients’ teams can flourish, and as a result, their revenues and profits flourish.
Realizing that we have a voice and that we need to use it.
We’re thankful to have a team that knows how to rage, cry, laugh, despair, protest, hope, and just feel. We don’t expect them to keep their views locked in a box at home. I understand—in some industries, this isn’t appropriate. But for creatives, part of our job description is to observe and respond to our intuitions, feelings, and surroundings. As a team, we’ve been working to get better at using our platform to change the world. We’ve done this by pushing for better workplace cultures and supporting empathetic leaders who are unafraid to advocate for the underserved.
And here’s what we pledge to change at Parisleaf between now and 2030.
We’re firmly on the side of diversity and equity in the workplace.
This starts with addressing the glaring whiteness in our team. We’re finally doing what’s right, and we’re sorry it’s taken this long. Our blinkered demographic has bothered us for a long time. The Black Lives Matter movement has profoundly affected our team — we’ve been sick over recent events. We have listened. Read. Looked in the mirror. We have marched with the black community here in Gainesville. In the past, we’ve succeeded in addressing a gender imbalance at Parisleaf. Now it’s time to address our lack of diversity at the table. Recent events with George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others have made us grossly aware of our whiteness. According to the 2019 AIGA Design Census, only 3% of designers are black.
By 2030 our commitment is to have a 50% diverse workforce, with at least 25% of our leadership team represented by diverse voices from the BIPOC community – because we believe in the value of diverse perspectives. This is what the world looks like and we want our agency to be a representation of the world’s landscape. To do this, we plan to grow our agency and create new jobs. Unless people see themselves reflected on the team pages of agencies, they are less likely to apply. Change needs to happen and we’re done waiting for it. Please send us your CVs.
We’re strengthening our culture like never before.
Our team will be going remote for the foreseeable future – both for our physical and financial well-being, and to widen our hiring opportunities. What does this mean in practice? We’ve decided to hand back the keys to our office. We’ve reached the end of our lease, and it doesn’t make sense to carry the overhead of a space that nobody will be using for the foreseeable future. We plan to review this decision again in 2021.
In the meantime, we’ve adapted our workflow and have developed a seamless remote model for our clients. Regardless of whether we go back to fixed office space, we are committed to permanently offering flexible ways of working that give our team more freedom in the future. This will also widen our access to talent and increase retention, allowing teammates who outgrow Gainesville to continue on as a part of the Leaf Squad for as long as they like.
We’re already experiencing the upside to this decision. We’re currently advertising for a new Creative Director to guide our agency through the next chapter. We’ve received applications from all over the world and it’s liberating to know that geography is no longer a barrier. We can’t wait to welcome new creative leadership to our team. When we have a name, we’ll announce via our newsletter (sign up here).
We’ll continue to be the voice of Purpose.
The CDC did a study a few years back and found that 2 out of 5 people have not discovered a satisfying life purpose. Studies have also shown that people who feel they have a purpose live longer. Another study found that 80% of our workforces are not engaged at work. We’ve seen first-hand what happens when businesses lead their teams from a place of Purpose. We’re investing in more research into the power and value of Purpose, bringing this topic to the forefront of our writing and consultancy. We aim to become a repository and a resource for others who want to understand the commercial relationship between profit and Purpose.
We’re narrowing our focus on what we do exceptionally well.
This means saying no to projects that are not in our sweet spot. Over the last decade, we’ve become highly effective within higher-ed, non-profits, architecture/engineering/construction/development, tech, and capital campaigns. We consider ourselves researchers, coaches, and consultants before we’re writers, developers, and designers. We’ve also realized that brands go much further in terms of revenue and talent when they choose to be held accountable through ongoing coaching and consultancy after working with us on a rebrand or campaign. So, we plan to narrow our focus and deepen our service offering in these specific areas.
We’re leaning in to the uncomfortable conversations.
To Parisleaf, being a Purpose-driven agency means advocating for equity and equality across mental health, LGBTQ+, women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, and climate change. These topics matter to us.
We’ve asked the team at Parisleaf to hold us accountable for initiating uncomfortable conversations and being on the right side of history. We believe a business is a collection of individuals coming together for a common cause. It’s our responsibility to make that cause a good one.
Cheers to 10 more years of advocating, creating, exploring, growing, communicating, and loving. Wings up!
Parisleaf’s 10-Year Manifesto will remain published on our website as a public reminder of our commitments, a display of our gratitude, and a celebration of hope, resilience, and above all — change.