Aspiring to Be Small

Other companies take retreats. At Proof, we Vision Quest.

Picture a van full of hopefuls bumping to Notorious B.I.G., Justin Timberlake and Tina Turner — our first collaboration of the day, and we’re already off to a winning start. An AirBnB listing that looks too good to be true, craft beers, team-cooked meals, games, late-night porch conversations, and so many moments of asking myself, “Is this really my job?”

Last week, we embarked on our Spring Vision Quest, and while it really did include all of the above, it was also a time of intensive exploration of the “how” and “why” we do our work. Specifically, we addressed the idea of “Aspiring to Be Small”. Proof Branding is a group of seven individuals, each with a distinct role. Our goal is to keep it that way, but how can we grow a company without growing in size? With new Moleskins in hand, we set out to find the answer, in ways only a small team can.

We introduced ourselves as though we had never met.

Our CEO, Matt, expanded on our introductions by expressing what he valued most about each of us. This wasn’t just a feel-good exercise, but an intentional step-one to qualifying each of us as an integral member of the team. And that’s tough (and perhaps less personal) to do with a large group.

We discussed specific moments of success and failure.

We shared each other’s accomplishments and praised each other’s strengths, but we also spoke openly and honestly about our own faults and how others could have been better at times. In a smaller setting, there’s nowhere to run. But that’s the idea.

Each team member taught a session.

By Day Two, our notebooks had a few less empty pages as we jotted down takeaways from well-prepared, insightful talks led by our fellow team members. Teaching seems like a lot of pressure, but it forced us to examine our own contributions and aspirations, and helped build our trust for one another.

We charted our personal growth.

If the growth of the company is dependent on the seven of us, then our personal growth is vital to our success. We went beyond the 9-5, and discussed what we could do outside of work to become a better team. While each aspiration was inspiring, we acknowledged that it would take work and accountability.

We set goals.

Talking about dreams, goals and aspirations is great, but without an action plan we will never see those come to fruition. By breaking down our big goals into smaller ones, we build a life of intentionality, realizing that the choices we make each day directly affect each other and the future we want to have.

Proof is seven people, with equal and distinct voices. At Vision Quest, our focus was to bring those voices together and refine their strengths. Every project that goes out has been touched by each of us, and we are protective and proud of that. We are empowered and find fulfillment in knowing that our performance directly affects the performance of the company. Staying small is a challenge and a luxury. It may have been easier to do things a different way, but that’s not what we signed up for.

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