On May 11th, I participated in the most challenging race since fourth grade field day. The Ragnar Relay Race on Cape Cod provided me with the bittersweet combination of excitement and enthusiasm blended with the type of fear that could make any tough guy cry. The race comprised 400 teams of 12, each team running 186 miles within a continuous 24-hour time period. I trained for the last five months, running every type of terrain and through every meteorological condition (Captain Planet style). With so many people on a course that stretched from one end of Cape Cod to the other, I could only imagine the kind of planning that was behind the madness. And as a marketing strategist at Thinkso, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between the race and our work.
Been there…but haven’t done that exactly.
Although I have been an avid athlete for most of my life, Ragnar posed new challenges and opportunities. With every new project, we have a kickoff meeting to understand the idea, direction and our client’s overall business goals. Each job is unique, and catering to its individuality is of the utmost importance to us. Therefore, we never go into a project assuming we can rest on the laurels of experience.
Listening speaks louder than words.
Ragnar forced my team to sharpen our communication skills. We had to navigate each situation efficiently, passing one runner off and picking up the next while sharing the status with our whole team. None of our efforts would have been successful without knowing what to tell whom when, and, more important, listening. The ability to listen as well as understand a need is a crucial element of any team activity. At Thinkso, we believe that if we’re doing most of the talking then we’re not doing our job—and will not be able to produce work that’s satisfying for our client or us.
Plan twice, execute once.
During the race, we knew that with two vans, a dozen people and separate running schedules, we would need to set some ground rules that were efficient and smart. We also new it was important to plan in advance for emergencies. We got lost, hit traffic and even underestimated distances to get to certain exchanges in the relay race. But we had the game plan in place to handle each of these.
Likewise at Thinkso, we always build our project plan upfront and communicate it to our clients from the very beginning. Mapping out the process before doing anything on a project saves time, money and a lot of headaches, because it allows us to identify and solve for potential hiccups or roadblocks. It also gets the team on the same page, preventing miscommunication down the road. Similarly when budgets get cut in the middle of production and when unplanned services are brought in halfway. Planning out as much as possible with your client sets proper expectations that relieve the project of mistakes.
The “relay” part means efficiency.
Like my Ragnar relay team, each staff member at Thinkso is both independent and a team player. Project teams are structured so that everyone has a specific role, and we seamlessly hand off from one to another. This means clients don’t pay for five people to do the same thing. But when collaboration is needed or our client has an emergency, it’s all hands on deck. to each new project we start, is that the entire team contributes.
In Ragnar, some legs were short, some were flat paved roads, and others were uphill in the pitch dark and through the woods. On these latter legs, all 12 team members pitched in to complete all 186 miles. Everyone gave 100%, blood, sweat and tears. At Thinkso, everyone contributing makes all the hard work, late nights and multiple coffee breaks not just worthwhile, but invigorating and fun.
The finish line shouldn’t be a lonely place.
The best part of the Ragnar race was crossing the finish line as one unit. Even though eleven of us were sleep deprived, suffering from sore muscles that we didn’t know we had, and unable to look at another blue Gatorade ever again, we still ran across the finish line with our last man. We endured the race together, came out in the end with a better average mile, received our medals, and of course humblebragged all the way home.
In the Thinkso studio, we all strive for the best. Meeting client goals and exceeding our own expectations means a successful project. But no matter what, one thing is for certain: no teammate is left behind.