Two Words That Will Change the Way You Do Business

Everyone loves a good laugh. Humor is a joyful common ground that brings people together, personally and professionally. Businesses that incorporate humor and good nature into their products, services, and everyday culture give off a much more personal vibe, and consumers are attracted to that.


From the early days of Groucho Marx to the quirky sketches from Portlandia, improvisational comedy has been entertaining audiences for ages. While doing improv on stage is a great way to get a standing ovation at a theater, there are also a number of ways you can apply it at your workplace to improve your business.


Just remember these two words:

“Yes, and…”


The “Yes, and…” concept is a standard improvisational comedy rule, often described as the cornerstone of improv technique. According to this rule, improvisers are encouraged to agree with the ideas and direction of their stage partners during a scene and continue those ideas forward, rather than disagreeing and trying to take the scene in a different direction. Improv actors who use “Yes, and…” are much more easily able to keep a scene going, lead to more humorous actions or situations, and ultimately get a bigger laugh and a better reaction from the audience.


Here’s an example: this classic scene from Anchorman, a movie in which many of the lines were improvised.



Instead of each actor trying to establish the lead and take the scene in his own direction, they build the scene off of each other’s lines, continuing the idea and leading to the hilarious conclusion that Brick is probably wanted for murder.


This same idea can be applied to the business world. Not murder. The “Yes, and…” rule.




While brainstorm sessions can be productive when one person leads the discussion, you can implement “Yes, and…” to foster creativity, encourage additional ideas, and collaborate on new ways to operate.


Teamwork makes the dream work.

Running a business is a team effort, so it makes sense to use the brainpower of your entire team to achieve success. Give your co-workers and employees a chance to share their thoughts. Say yes, accept those thoughts, and run with them for a minute. Let the ideas flow freely and without judgment, and unless Kevin keeps suggesting “No Deodorant Wednesdays,” you’ll be surprised to see how far it’ll take you. This can also help boost morale in your workplace.



This happens more often than not, unfortunately: You hit a roadblock on a project. A co-worker wants to do things his way instead of your way.

The “Yes, and…” rule can help you reframe your perspective and view a seemingly negative situation as an opportunity. If your co-worker is insisting on moving forward with his ideas, give him a chance. Say yes, work with that direction, and build onto it with your ideas, instead of pulling away into a different direction. By changing your attitude toward the circumstances given to you, you can sidestep any resentment or negativity and turn the situation into a positive one. Also, if you’re willing to work with someone else’s ideas, it’s more likely that they’ll be willing to work with yours moving forward.



The future can be intimidating. Full of mystery and risk, the path that lies ahead is usually preceded by a number of difficult decisions. This can lead to a drastic increase in stress and anxiety. You can use the “Yes, and…” mentality to combat this stress and turn your future into something you eagerly anticipate.

Over the course of your career, your job (and your life) will throw some curveballs your way. The best way to stay alive at the plate is to figure out how to adapt to the unexpected circumstances that are placed in front of you. Practice the “Yes, and…” mindset: Say yes, accept the things that come to you, and roll with it. Your company wants to use different software than what you’re used to? Try it out, and see what you can do with it that you couldn’t do before – it might actually make your job easier. Your boss decides to replace “Casual Fridays” with “Hawaiian T-Shirt Fridays?” Aloha! Now you’ve got a great reason to grab some Hawaiian pizza for lunch.

By slighting shifting your attitude, you can greatly improve your level of satisfaction at your workplace, enhance your enjoyment of your personal life, and increase your chances of eating more pizza. And let’s face it, that’s the most important thing of all.


Have you tried using “Yes, and…” in your workplace? Did you find it helpful? Let us know what you think!

10 Reasons Why You SHOULD Join a Startup: Part I

I’m a big fan of startups. I interned with startups, I’ve worked at startups (and currently work at a startup), and I support startups, so when I read John Rampton’s “10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Join a Startup” via, I took it a little personally. Startups don’t have the best reputation, I get it. They’re flakey, unstable, here today gone tomorrow. But it’s a reputation that’s undeserved.


There are, of course, pros and cons to joining a startup, as there are when joining a major international agency, but I feel that a person’s reasons for working at either are mutually exclusive: some go after the money, others follow their passion. Rampton states that joining a startup could change your personal and professional life, and I truly believe that it does… for the better.


Here are 10 reasons why (in my opinion) you SHOULD join a startup:


1. You will get paid. There’s this assumption that because it’s a startup, there is not enough money to go around, but startups wouldn’t hire people if they couldn’t afford to have them. The salary you’re offered probably won’t be as high as you would like it to be if you’re experienced, or it may be higher than you’re used to if you’re entry-level.


In my professional and personal experience, money doesn’t mean happiness (it wouldn’t be a cliché if it wasn’t true!). You could make double the salary at a bigger agency and have no work-life balance, a toxic boss, ridiculous hours, etc., and for what, a better paycheck that you can’t enjoy? Been there, done that, was miserable the entire time.


Don’t not take the job with the startup because the pay is not what you think you’re worth. The experience you will gain will be invaluable, the startup will see and appreciate your worth, and I promise you it will get you to where you want to be. You have to start somewhere!


2. You may not land a role on the executive team. But you just might. Everyone has to climb up the ladder, no position will just be given to you. You want the role of CMO? Show the CEO you have what it takes. Could it take years to get there? Sure, but nothing happens overnight. What if the role doesn’t exist? Create it. One of the best things about working at a startup is that thoughts and opinions (that provide value) are welcome. If you think a position/title should be offered that’s not, speak up. More likely than not, your boss may agree and if funds are available (and necessary), that position could be created – and you just might be the person to write the description for it, or fill it!


And don’t worry so much about titles – industries and companies use them differently, so while you may be “Senior” at one company, you could be “Assistant” at the next.


3. Some startups fail. And some don’t. Rampton states that there’s a “very real chance” that the startup will fail (citing a Wall Street Journal study, which found that 3 out of 4 startups between 2004-2010 failed). I personally have a problem with studies for a number of reasons which I won’t go in to, so I’ll just say that I wouldn’t give that study too much weight in your decision to join a startup.


If you’re concerned about the “status” of a startup you’re interested in and/or interviewing for, ask questions. Many questions. Specific questions. Do your research online, ask people in your circles if they know anything about the company and the people. If you sense in the interview and/or email exchanges that something is not right, you’re reading/hearing that the company is not doing well, then go with your gut. But don’t be afraid to take a chance, either, especially if it’s for a company that you really, truly believe in, and genuinely want to see it succeed, and you have ideas on how to gain that success.


4. You’re going to work really hard. I hope that no matter where you end up working, you’re going to work really hard. Here’s the difference, and this is why I love startups: each day is not the same. Like I stated in the beginning of this post, I’ve worked at the major international agencies and I’ve worked at the boutique agencies, and let me tell you something, there’s a big difference in the “work” part.


Yes, you have the same responsibilities and clients and deadlines, but with startups there is far more flexibility in the day-to-day. The structure is not so solid; there’s room for improvement, suggestions, ideas, changes. You, in a sense, help to build the startup (or keep it growing) – you’re a piece of the building block so your input is valued, important, and, quite frankly, necessary. At an established company, you are a tack on the ladder and trying to change anything or point anything out, well, don’t bother having to deal with the bureaucracy of it all. Unless something is absolutely unacceptable, it’s best to keep things to yourself because not doing so might actually hurt you.


And don’t be deterred by Rampton’s statement that “you might work like a maniac for an excessive amount of hours each week because the startup is in a race to beat the clock”. Sure, that happens, but this is not the “norm”. With any job, if there are many deadlines arriving around the same time, of course you’re going to work around the clock to meet them. If there’s a big client event next week with top tier press attendance, yes, you will be working long hours, evenings, weekends… but that all comes with the territory, no matter which industry you’re in or who you work for.


And I would think that you choose to work at a startup because you feel a connection to it, you are passionate and excited about the product/service, not just because it’s the only job offer you get. If that’s the case, then it doesn’t really feel like “work”, does it? You’re just doing what you love, and getting paid for it, no matter the work schedule. What could be better?


  • Number 4 brings me to another point, which wasn’t mentioned in the original “10 Reasons”: In a startup, as with any company/organization, there are titles: you know who the boss is, you know whom the CMO and interns are, but you don’t feel like anyone is “above” or “below” you. Startups truly feel and function like a team, because you’re all working towards the same goal: a successful, growing, thriving business. I have experienced very few negative “typical corporate atmosphere attitudes” (read: toxic environments) at the startups I have worked at, and am currently working at. No one is out to “get” another person because no one will “profit” – if anything, the startup will suffer, and then everyone loses. However, the same can’t be said for established organizations – there is far much more to gain (and lose) when there are many “I”s in the “teams” (which there are). Choose your poison wisely.


5. Your list of responsibilities may be lengthy. Let’s be honest – if they aren’t lengthy, you should be worried.


Rampton states that “you may be asked to do multiple jobs” and “startup jobs also include the same mind-numbing responsibilities that the big companies have.” I agree. Like I stated in point 3, you won’t know any specifics unless you go on an interview and ask questions. There is no negative to either situation, it just depends on what you prefer. Do you like wearing multiple hats or knowing exactly what you have to do? I’m the first – I love unpredictability, I thrive off of not know what is going to happen next, I enjoy constantly ‘getting my feet wet’ in different areas and always learning and experiencing new things. Then there are others who don’t like change; they need structure and a guide to follow, which is perfectly fine, too.


It also depends on what, and how much, you want to get out of your job and how you see your future. I personally don’t think maintaining status quo is something that should be strived for – I think you should always be challenged, and challenge yourself, in anything and everything that you do, otherwise you don’t learn or grow.


As I mentioned in point 4, startups (should, I hope) welcome constructive criticism and valuable feedback. New ideas need to be thrown around, inspiration boards need to be created, trends need to be followed and implemented. If you want to wear a different hat or sombrero or baseball cap, or try on a new one, perhaps of a different size, let someone know. Trust me when I say that you will only get out of your experience what you put into it, so prove your worth and make it priceless.


Stay tuned for part II…


4 Steps to Better Thinking for Your Business

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” – Shakespeare.

We’ve created systems that allow for our  team to think differently so that we’re in a near constant state of innovation.    The act of thinking and the process of coming up with more imaginative ideas and then taking action is a much more scientific method than most like to admit.  Innately we know this.  Here are four ways to provoke thought that work for us that I’d like to share:

1.   Start with Simple

Understand the simple stuff deeply.  Seek where you’re missing expertise, dig in to learn it, and learn it inside and out, and then move forward.  In my business we have become so good at the simple processes that we have taken a process in social media that any business owner with the right motivation could certainly DIY themselves, but because it’s become so fluid, so simple and so efficient, we now add exceptional value.  Because we spent the time that our clients don’t have we can now offer innovative ways to approach every social media campaign from a different perspective.  Learn the simple stuff and build on that.  You can’t play a concerto without first knowing the scales.

2.    Screw it up. 

Every so often we mess up, and that’s OK.  Lately however I’ve been pushing myself and my team to color outside the lines intentionally. Empower your team to take risks and make small mistakes. This is the only way you’re going to learn and push the line of standard. Allow for your junior people to step up and take risks as well.  Sheltering them in process and protocol only hurts their development and the innovation of your team. Trust them, trust that you’ve hired well, and allow for them to make mistakes.

3.   Ask hard Questions:

Raise questions to clarify and extend your understanding.  The right questions will help you see connections that you will miss otherwise.   This is a tricky one.  You don’t want to create an environment when everything is being questioned, but enquiring properly and from a pure place, and create an environment where asking “why” is accepted practice.

4.   Look behind you.

When the new ideas start to pop up you need to step back, take a breath and see where they came from.  Close your computer, sit with a piece of paper, and think about where the last innovative idea came from within your organization.  Ask for help. Inquire internally and see if you can document the last time someone really cracked things open.

My most recent big innovation came while traveling. I was alone in my hotel room, reviewing our processes and challenging myself to improve, push, grow and expand the business beyond what I could conceive.  I asked myself – “what would you do at Silverback if money was no object”, and it hit me.   I began to roadmap my idea. I pinged my team to bounce the idea off them, and we got to the business of making it happen.  Now I try to calm my mind and ask that same question over and over and over “what would you do at Silverback if money was no object.”

At first blush it all seems so simple, doesn’t it?  We all want to come up with more imaginative ideas for our business, but when will we find the time?   When we’re left to our own devices we go off on tangents, but when we take the time to outline and frame our course of action, everything falls into place. The basic methods are fundamentally the same in school, business, arts, personal life, and sports.  Those methods can be described taught and executed.

I love what I do, and I’m lucky, but I find that thinking …real, deep, introspective thinking has become such a rare commodity that I have had to find a road map to become more efficient in my thinking, otherwise I drift off into unproductive daydreaming.  I’m sure you feel the same way.   We’re in the ever-constant mode of doing, and we rarely have the time to become introspective and really think about the issues that hold us back from over performing.   Over the years I have become exceptionally proficient at this process.  I shut everything down, pull out my notepad and think.

Brilliant innovators create habits of thinking that lead to break through and innovation.  There are practical and proven methods that lead to these breakthroughs.  Education doesn’t stop with your college days.  Learning habits of thought that equip you with the tools to take on everyday life will be invaluable to your success.  You will create an environment of innovation, support and through providing systems that will allow for you company to outperform, outshine, and out smart your competition.   Looking at the world differently by creating habits of mind that frame the world around you differently will change your game.

Transformative ideas means surrounding yourself with people that will challenge you, not by surrounding yourself with the same peers you’ve encountered in the past.  Putting yourself in situations that challenge you and take you by surprise is hard.  My friend Justin Brown is a business owner, and he challenges me every single time I sit with him.  Last week he turned to me and said “do the shit that is hard.”  Simple, right? Wrong.  Seek difficult bumps in your business.  Identify the things that make you cringe and turn toward them.

Creativity is not magical inspiration.  Extraordinary people are just ordinary people who frame problems differently.

The Secret to Building a Successful Business is Mindset

Silverback Social Team

Silverback Social Team

I’m no more talented than anyone. I just work harder.  I learned this trait from my parents. I observed how they dedicated themselves to improving every day. How they worked so hard at everything. How they never gave up. So when I started my career I was in a constant state of paranoia. Paranoid that the guy next to me was smarter, had some sort of edge, or was working harder than me.  So I decided to get in earlier than everyone, and stay later.




I pushed, and clawed and clamored, and then pushed and clawed and clamored more. Then I went back to the drawing board to learn more, improve myself, and critique my performance and to keep growing. I have always had a great mindset.  A mindset of improvement.  A mindset that allows me to critique myself but not cripple myself.

So when I started building the team at Silverback I decided to go with my gut, and hire like minded people. People with a positive mindset.  A mindset that wasn’t fixed. One that inspired growth. Today I’m reaping the rewards of this decision.

Every current employee at Silverback Social at some point in their interview process said some version of the following

“ I don’t care what the pay is, I just want to work here.”

They all have the mindset to learn, to push themselves and their colleagues, to build something bigger, and to be a part of something great.  When clients are complaining and breathing down their neck, you need people, actually no = you need a team that has laser like focus and passion for the work. I  believe that successful employees don’t have to be the most talented, but if they can see your vision for the organization, and If they understand that you will be rigid in that vision but open to being flexible in getting there, they will machete a path to fulfillment for you, for your business and for your clients.

I believe that mindset begets character, and character builds a sustainable business that thrives.

When you get to the top, character keeps you there. Character keeps you working harder than the competition.  I know that my team will squeeze the towel dry for Silverback Social and for themselves. They continually improve themselves, and in turn raise the collective bar for our organization. So even when we lose, we all hold our heads high, and feel good about the work we’ve done.

When you’re focused on effort, and personal best … success will follow. Some view effort as something negative. Choosing to focus only on the end result.  But those who have a positive mindset see set-backs as motivating. They are a wake up call, and will never cripple your team.  They are your scars that will help you appreciate the wins. So allow your team to fall on their faces. If they have mental toughness and a great mindset they will never make that mistake again. They won’t perform for a title, or a raise – they will perform to learn and for sustainability. If you surround yourself with people like this, your business will become more sustainable than you ever imagined.

Have a great weekend. I feel blessed to be surrounded by a team with a winning mindset.