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23.01.12 + Perspectives

Small Family Business

Trollbäck + Company isn’t exactly a small family business, but Director of Client Partnerships Ryan McRee writes about why the “+ Company” in our name defines a studio culture that feels that way.

After the Trollbäck holiday party a few weeks back, my wife Emily commented on the familial vibe in the room and how much love there was amongst our tight-knit group. She also noted how many of our team had young families. I’ve found that having a family atmosphere, and applying that dynamic to the relationships we have with our clients, is part of what it means to work at Trollbäck+Company. Through that lens, the “+Company” takes on added meaning.

Emily and I have two daughters, aged 7 and 5. As far as children go they’re both quite manageable, though still a handful, as all children are. It’s hard to manage work while also being attentive to the day-by-day. It’s easy enough to make a game on Saturday, sure, but the smaller daily activities—a trip to the library here, a dance practice there—are harder to warrant attending, and those misses accumulate quickly. You have to prioritize; flexibility from an employer is paramount. But perhaps more essential is empathy.

It’s a funny thing about being a father while having a career—I think men often feel like we need to make excuses for prioritizing parenting. Like it needs to be justified, and can’t exist simply as fundamental. Maybe it’s a generational thing, or maybe it’s just me. When I joined Trollbäck a little over a year ago, I found immediate understanding from Trollbäck leadership about the challenges inherent in parenting. Whereas in the past, I might have left out the details around needing to suddenly pick up my kids from the bus stop by way of a detail-less “I need to step out,” I’m now open about it, and have found that openness leads to trust. By extending that same empathy to client relationships, a similar trust is established.

We hear the phrase “wear a lot of hats” often in our industry. I used to think the concept was tied to doing multiple roles, and typically out of necessity, due to limited resources. But as a father, with the expectation that one needs to be many things at all times, I’ve come to a different, somewhat broader appreciation of the concept. You’re doing all these things—being a role model, guide, disciplinarian, friend—through the parent lens. You aren’t attempting to change who you are at the moment, you’re always the same parent. It’s just “parenting,” and you bring all your experience to each situation.

I try to apply the same lens to my work and my relationships with my clients. How can my experience, the whole of it, make this project better and/or this collaboration stronger? What can I bring to the table that will set the relationship up for success? By applying the lessons of empathy, and approaching every conversation as an opportunity for growth, we can build the trust that is requisite in a partnership. By listening and understanding what’s on the line for our clients each and every day, communicating to establish goals that are clearly defined, then collaborating to get to the desired outcome, we build the trust that makes for lasting relationships and the best work possible for all involved.

Before I joined the team at Trollbäck, I spent a good chunk of my 30s as Executive Producer and Partner at Juniper Jones. Through entrepreneurship, I found a deeper sense of purpose for the work I did. I had always valued my work, but it made for a widening of the aperture around the success, well-being, and future vision of the agency as a whole, beyond the project level. The emotional investment was motivating, and the deepening of my relationships with our clients and the resulting mutual trust we built was rewarding. I loved every minute of my time at JJ and owe a lot of where I am to Kevin and the team there.

Since joining Trollbäck, the motivating factor that drives me daily comes less from entrepreneurship, but rather from the +Company: a team of talented individuals, each possessing a unique lens through which to look. The diversity of thought and perspective helps me to learn something new every day, and through that education, I’m growing into a better person, parent, and partner to my clients. Through that lens, the +Company widens to include our clients too!

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