Our core value this quarter is “We Forge a Path,” and I’ve been thinking about what that means for me and our team.

For many companies, Core Values are just for the website and the annual meeting, but at EMC they are a living, breathing part of what we do, and we try to keep them front of mind all year long.

We hire and review to them. We have a focus value each quarter and ask the team to look for moments when their colleagues have exemplified that value and to share those moments with the team.

What does it mean for our agency to Forge a Path?

First and foremost, we are a service business. Our first core value is “We Lead With Service”. So, for our agency “Forging a Path” must focus on how that helps us provide better service to our clients. It means digging in with them to find their problems or pain points. It means finding solutions to those challenges – whatever they are. We are not a “one size fits all” solution. Every client, every campaign, every plan or negotiation comes with its own set of challenges. Forging a path means uncovering the root of the problem and developing a customized solution. It means finding just the right media to target those hard-to-reach, niche audiences. It means uncovering new opportunities or ways to meet (and exceed) client expectations.

Forging a Path also means being advocates for our clients. We must be at the front of the charge on their behalf. That means always working hard to secure the best deals and being tough (but fair) negotiators. Carrying the biggest stick is not always the best solution. Forging a Path means finding a win-win scenario where everyone walks away satisfied.

Also, as a woman-owned business in a traditionally male-dominated industry, we are constantly Forging a Path for greater representation and inclusivity, both in the advertising world and beyond. We must strive to blaze that trail for all the women in our industry and women business owners who come after us. This is a big responsibility and one that we take very seriously. That’s why we have made a commitment to DEI, and doing our best to lead by example.

What does it mean for our team?

When we were developing our core values, we took our team through a number of exercises uncovering how they felt about the agency, their work, their colleagues, etc. At the time they didn’t know the end goal was the set of values so that we could get more honest answers.

When they were talking about their team members, they kept using terms like; “figure it out”, “get it done”, “self-reliant”, “relentless”, and “determination”. These are the words they used about their peers, and what they value about their teammates.

We are a (relatively) small agency, so there are times when we all have to wear multiple hats. There is no room for “that’s not my job”, or “oh well, that’s the other department’s problem”. We all recognize that sometimes we just have to roll up our sleeves. Not only does that get the job done, but often it means you’ve made a path for others to follow behind you – you’ve helped your colleagues by slogging through the challenge so they don’t have to.

It also means our team is committed to always looking for a better way. Forging a path doesn’t always mean brute force, pounding our way through the underbrush. Sometimes it means finding a better path, an easier way to get to the same destination. Or it can mean improving a well-worn path, taking the dirt road, and paving it to make the way smoother and faster. This can be a new internal process, a new tool or technology that we can integrate, or a new system that we can implement to not only make the path but also make it easier.

Coming from small beginnings where everyone did everything, the initiative and ability to “figure it out” and “get it done” is something that is baked into our DNA and something we cherish and celebrate in ourselves and our team.

What does it mean personally to Forge a Path?

For me, the idea of Forging a Path touches on a few aspects of my life.

I am a big believer in servant leadership. Putting the team first, seeing their point of view, giving them support and trying to build a community within the team.

That means being a facilitator for my team, it means being a coach, not a boss, it means removing the obstacles that keep my team from success. It means setting clear goals for the team and then getting right into the trenches with them to make sure they can succeed. And all that means I need to Forge a Path on a daily basis.

Leading a business in an industry that changes as rapidly as marketing and advertising means that new challenges are always rearing their head. There are always changes coming down the road that will affect “the way we used to do it”. There are business processes to address, personnel factors to work through, and a changing business ecosystem. And all those challenges require unique solutions.

Image of a beach with a quote about service from Ralph Waldo Emerson

On the personal side, it also means constantly working to maintain a healthy work-life balance, both for myself and my team. As a mother, a family member, and a friend I have a responsibility to be there for everyone in my life, and sometimes that means finding solutions that allow me to keep all the plates spinning. It can be exhausting and even frustrating sometimes but the drive to just keep moving forward, keep pushing through the challenges, and keep forging a path is always there.