Plans seldom work out at expected, I find. But sometimes they work out better than expected, and it’s usually because you meet people who take what you do, think about it and then make it better. Today’s VIAL (Very Intentional Acknowledgement of Love) is for a person and a team who did exactly that for Habits at Work.

I met Jeff Olson in a coffee shop halfway between our offices with Aaron Levy. We had a great first conversation and I invited Jeff to join our Chicago WORK ROOM event. We were somewhat hopeful he would join us, despite the relatively short notice (it was coming up quite soon in the future).

Not only did Jeff arrive, but he brought with him another four people from the PR firm Olson Engage: CEO Bryan Specht, EVP Tricia Ewald, SVP Brian Flad, and VP Kathleen Rafferty.

Seeing them work together as a team at WORK ROOM was one of my highlights in 2016. We didn’t hear from them again for a while, which is always worrying, but when we met again, all my concerns disappeared. They had clearly been thinking about and working on the ideas we shared and the work we did together at the workshop.  

Since that time, Bree and Amanda (from Habits at Work) and Jeff and Jenny Garner from Olson Engage, along with the rest of their core habit team – Alyssa Gold, Leah Jones and Shannon Lovich, have brought the work to life in their company culture.

We’ve watched as they invented “White Space” as a goal for employees to, not only take time on their own health, happiness and security, but also as the time to spend on being restorative so they can be highly creative for clients. Unlike many organizations, their plans have been built WITH the team, not just for the team. The result is that things are moving faster and there is greater buy-in than in many companies we’ve seen deliver top-down solutions.

The most exciting thing is that Olson Engage is now taking on reinventing what it means to be a PR and digital marketing agency for employees. Instead of the “churn and burn” approach to young talent and the myth that “working longer = working better,” Olson Engage is focusing on the life success of their employees, trusting that if they get that right, their employees will look after their customers just as well.

This kind of courageous bet on future-proofing their business is, in my opinion, one of the reasons why Olson Engage has grown so fast and why they are my pick for the agency of the future.

Jeff, you’ve become not only a great client, but a good friend and someone with whom I hope to speak with (or see speak) at many events on the topic of "The Agency of the Future!" Bryan, Tricia, Brian, Kathleen, Alyssa, Leah and Shannon, thanks for your leadership and hard work. We already tell the story of Olson Engage to so many people we meet and we know that your journey has just begun. Can't wait to see where you take this next.

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