CultureFostering a Culture of Retainment and Happiness at Work Speech

May 11, 2016

Cassandra Bryan was asked to speak at the Wichita Chamber of Commerce 2016 Small Business Awards Ceremony on May 11, 2016. The following is the speech and presentation.

(Event photo gallery below the speech.)

First, I would like to say congratulations to all of the small businesses that are participating in this year’s awards. We all know that getting here isn’t easy.

My company was established in 2009 in a basement walk in closet. Since then, we have grown into a successful design agency that helps other businesses reach their full potential by designing beautiful logos, building custom websites and managing their digital marketing. Our sales have escalated from $60,000 a year to a projected $1 million this year. I attribute this success to having a very well put together team that cares about our work and clients.

When I first received the invitation to speak at this luncheon, my initial reaction was excitement and I responded with a YES. I later regretted that decision as anxiety at the idea of speaking to my peers and to many local business owners I admire set in. I even Googled ways to overcome public speaking anxiety and found that the fear is more common then fearing death itself; that didn’t make me feel better, so I got back to focusing on writing this speech.

I’ve been telling people I have two goals for this talk: 1. For you to leave inspired. 2. Not to suck.

But the more I thought about it, the more I circled back to excitement and appreciation for what an honor it is to have the opportunity to speak to you about something I am very passionate about: fostering a culture of retainment and happiness at work.

If I asked you to guess what percentage of American workers are engaged in their jobs every day, what would you say? I’m a little optimistic, so I thought 70 percent. But if you guess that, you’re wrong. So it’s got to be like 50 percent, right?

Nope. Still wrong.

Only 30 percent of people are actively engaged in what they do every day. Very simply put, we are in an engagement crisis.

I find this extremely depressing. We spend most of our lives at work. So to spend this time doing something we’re not passionate about is definitely a problem worth solving. But it is not just costing us our happiness; a Gallup Report estimates that disengaged employees are costing American companies between $450 and $550 billion dollars a year.

So to simplify things and because I like sweets, I have chosen to use cupcakes to represent our lives as a whole. Each cupcake represents one year of your life, assuming we all live until 90.

I’m turning 30 next month, so I’ve already used 30 of my cupcakes, which means I only have 60 cupcakes left. That might sound like a lot.

But to put it into perspective, that means I only have 60 more summers by the pool.

I only have 15 more presidential elections, thank goodness.


And for me, once my current kitties are gone, only two more batches of cats.

So when you look at it this way, it really isn’t a lot of time.

Americans spend an average of 47 years in the workforce. For most, this is the largest portion of their life. So how do you make sure you don’t waste any cupcakes?

Today I’m a small-business owner, and I love what I do. But seven years ago, I was one of the large majority of unengaged employees. My first job out of college was within my major, and I thought that was all I needed. But after a year and a half of doing the same thing in a mundane environment with uninspired leadership… the days began to drag on, and it became harder and harder to get out of bed every morning.

So when I finally had the opportunity to start my own business, my number one priority was for me and my team to never feel this way.

Over the last seven years, I found three key aspects that have greatly contributed to the strong company culture we have at cb{d} – Bouncy Chairs, Cheerleaders and Ducks.

Okay, let me explain the Bouncy Chairs.

As we have continued to grow and expand, we recently moved into a larger office space at the CorTen building.

During our move, we found these awesome bouncy chairs at an IFG sidewalk sale. There were so many colors to choose from, the team and I couldn’t decide, so I bought them all.

When we give tours at the new office downtown with the Pop-Up Park on one side and a courtyard on the other, visitors notice the nice open layout and fully stocked kitchen and bar. I regularly hear clients say “Wow”… “Can we stay here all day?”… and “We need something like this”… as they nudge their bosses.

But this doesn’t mean you need to have an office exactly like ours. Think about what you can do within your own environment. What will contribute to productivity and morale? What can you do to make small changes? Sometimes those small changes can make all the difference.

Studies show that offices with plants can increase productivity by as much as 40 percent. And did you know that simply decorating your office with artwork that your staff enjoys can increase engagement?

For us, it all started with bouncy chairs.

Since the move, I have encouraged everyone at work to make their space their own. Nikki has a series of moon photos that are gorgeous behind her desk, Levi has a painting of Steve Jobs and a record player in his corner and Joey loves his little white ball lamp with the color changing bulb that Sarah got him for Christmas.

Everyone also respects the fact that the office appearance is very important to me and we all pitch in to keep it looking nice for our clients and visitors.

Moving on to Cheerleaders. Okay, not those cheerleaders.

I’m talking about the people at work that give you a high five. That say “You got this!” and bring breakfast burritos in when they know it’s going to be a long day.

A recent poll shows that employees that have received praise within the last seven days are 60 percent more engaged. Another study proves that your staff is 27 percent less likely to look for another job if they have a good friend at work. And more people quit because of a conflict with their leadership – not a conflict with the work they’re doing.

As a leader or an owner, it is critical to remember that the most important part of your job is to create a culture and environment that allows the talent that you employ to realize their potential. No matter how hard it may be to remember, without inspired, talented people working everyday toward a common goal, all businesses are doomed.

It’s so important for you and your team to understand how far kind words and “thank you” can go.

Levi, one of our developers, went out to a client’s location to train their staff on-site. He had never visited the clinic and only had experience with their website. When he got back, he made it a point to tell Sarah, the designer of their website, that she had done an amazing job. He felt the client had built their facilities around the website itself and not the other way around.

We had launched the website two years previously. The great thing about compliments and gratitude is that it is never too late to say “good job” or “thank you.”

An important part of being able to be a cheerleader for your team at work includes understanding who the people are that you work with.

I’m sure this never happens to you guys, but at the end of a long week of presentations, deadlines and getting up early, my brain is just fried. And when I look around the office, I can tell everyone else is doing their best, but they feel the same way – this is a good time to blow off the last hour of work and go get a beer together.

These are the times that we’ve bonded the most. I’ve found out more about the people I work with when we’re all just being ourselves than I would any day in the office.

And the long term benefits of the bonds that are created far outweigh the short term cost.



Finally, the Ducks.

Think of something that you absolutely despise doing. Then think of what you would normally say when you are about to do that thing and replace the first letter with a D.

Let’s talk about finding creative ways to minimize these ducks and realize the correlation between fewer ducks and more happiness.

As an owner, it is hard, especially when I started my business, to delegate tasks with any sort of efficiency.

But then I remembered the reason I have surrounded myself with the most talented team in the city is so we can share responsibility. Never will you find a more motivated group of individuals united in a common goal than one charged with the task of reducing the ducks at work.

Reducing unnecessary ducks is not an easy task. It takes honed perception from the leadership of the company to realize them and the humility to understand the states quo may not be working.

One of the projects we all hated that was really time consuming was making custom tutorials for each of our websites. But these were vitally important to our clients. So, to solve this problem as a team, we improved our dashboard tools and site interface to be so easy that our clients didn’t need tutorials anymore.

Tutorials used to take a full day to produce, and we launch an average of four sites a month, so we were even able to gain four whole days a month to shift our focus on work that inspires us.

This was a change that really revolutionized a major process in the way we do business, eliminating something everyone felt was a major duck. So as a team, we figured out a way to improve this process.

Remembering that adaptability and ability to embrace change is part of what makes small business so special is vital in accomplishing these tasks. Changes like this can start to shift the duck ratio, leading to a more positive work environment.

Being a small business owner isn’t easy. As small business owners and employees, we wake up everyday with the burden of being the sole driving force behind steering the ship in to often uncharted waters, whether it is saying no, getting your ducks in a row, or simply having the fortitude to press through a tough time.

The beauty and the curse of leading a small business is that no one else will be there to do it for you.

You would be hard pressed to find a room of tougher and more resilient people any where in the country than the group that we sit here with today.

Simply put, “Bouncy Chairs, Cheerleaders and Ducks” really all comes down to “Place People and Passion.”

If you focus on cultivating all three every day, your business, clients and employees will thank you for it.



Read more about the winners of the 2016 Small Businesses of the Year