Creating an Environment Where Honesty, Flexibility and Purpose Are the Norm

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Kim Bode, Owner of Grand Rapids-based 8THIRTYFOUR Integrated Communications, has always believed the people on her team and clients deserve more than lip service—they deserve to truly be heard, respected and cared for.

Knowing this, it comes as no surprise that Bode's communications agency has experienced great growth and success over its almost 15-year existence, most recently being recognized by Forbes as a Top 200 PR Agency in 2021 and as one of the 2021 award honorees for the Michigan 50 Companies to Watch award, presented by Michigan Celebrates Small Business.

Even during the undoubtedly devastating COVID-19 pandemic, 8THIRTYFOUR credits their survival and subsequent growth to the four years they've been utilizing the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). In the past five years, the company has experienced annual revenue growth of 11%, with the addition of four new staff members in 2020/21 and the purchase of a building in June.

"2020 has been a challenging year for all businesses, us notwithstanding," said Bode. "We persevered in spite of all of the challenges we faced because we find comfort in the uncomfortable and we don't shy away from the hard and scary—we seek it out and we are a better company because of it."

Bode says being able to expand their team and physical footprint, in addition to putting down permanent roots in the Creston neighborhood, is proof of this.

"It has been exciting to watch Kim grow 8THIRTYFOUR to what it is today," said Rob Fowler, CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan. "She has recruited a fantastic team and works hard daily to ensure her clients succeed as well."

Bode realizes that after the year and half we've all had, many in the workforce are simply burned out and are being expected to return to their pre-pandemic workflow as if nothing ever happened.

"Work as we know it has changed, and there is no going back, so stop trying," she said. "If you want the best out of your employees, you have to listen, adapt your approach and put it into action. Empathy, look it up."

Bode emphasizes the importance of creating an environment where honesty, flexibility and purpose are the norm, and offered these tips:

  • "Let them ask questions and be clear with expectations."
  • "Don't micromanage. Focus on the work results, not the process it took for them to get there."
  • "FFS cut back on the meetings. Set aside time for them to get work done, empower them to step away from email and chat to really focus and crush things."
  • "Be observant, notice when an employee is 'off.' Offer encouragement and just listen."
  • "Inspire your employees by sharing your company's purpose for being and show how they fit into the big picture."

"When you show you truly care for and respect them, they will want to work hard for you," she said. "Basically, don't be a d*ck. The example you set will always be more powerful than words."

Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.


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