Meet the Referential Team: Ryan Barron

RyanIntern-turned-employee Ryan Barron has worked with Referential for 18-months and currently serves as an Advocacy Consultant. Although he recently graduated from college, Ryan has plenty of experience gained from both working at Referential full-time during the summer of 2017, and delivering half-time throughout the school year. Originally, Ryan was unaware of the world of advocacy. However, today he loves that it’s much bigger than he anticipated and is a nice change of pace. He enjoys helping to expand customers’ product markets and grow profit margins by enabling their best customers to share their positive experiences.

Ryan credits his impressive success to being a people-person and having the ability to talk to almost anybody. That, in addition to his dedication, skill with Microsoft office tools, and multi-tasking abilities makes for a bright future.

He’s thankful to Referential’s intimate setting with bonds that are closer than those of an average workplace. Ryan finds comfort in everyone knowing each other well and says it helps the group to communicate with ease. He appreciates coming in to work, seeing familiar faces and having a good laugh. He says he hasn’t had a bad day yet – which means a lot because the work can be quite stressful – and he appreciates having some light moments that reduce the tension.

One of his favorite things about working with multiple clients is the exposure he receives to how different corporations go about business: Understanding how a company is run, how offices function and interact, and learning from co-workers. His day-to-day routine is to soak up everything like a sponge!

In his free time, Ryan plays basketball and takes part in the occasional video gaming session. He also watches a lot of Netflix, which he says should be a hobby! He looks forward to having a sustainable lifestyle.

Ryan works well with people and believes understanding where a client is coming from, and adapting to their style, is vital for success in a relationship. He aims to grow alongside his clients and looks forward to a bright future ahead.

The Referential Team: Meet Ankit Singh

We will be posting profiles of the team over the next several months and are pleased to start with introducing you to Ankit Singh.  You may have seen Ankit's blog post, here, full of tips for Salesforce reporting.  Here's Ankit, with his absolutely darling niece.Ankit Ankit has worked in the advocacy world at Referential for some while now. During this time, he credits three key practices with enabling his success: He’s had the opportunity to work closely alongside very seasoned experts, take on multiple roles as an Advocacy Consultant, and gain an abundance of experience with a variety of clients.

Being a highly-focused consultancy, Referential has a tightknit team that knows each other very well in a both professional and personal aspect. His peers and his position at Referential have taught him how to interact with others within marketing, advocacy programs, and C-Suite – which is crucial for success in business. Ankit appreciates his job for exposing him to the behind-the-scenes operations of business.

When asked what he brings to Referential as an individual, Ankit explained his ability to speak well and keep a conversation flowing whether it be face-to-face with clients or during customer calls. He can be exceptionally engaging, convincing, well-spoken, and very patient when training people. It’s a valuable skill to have, especially when a large part of the advocacy job entails communicating with others. He emphasized how he loves to meet and get to know clients, which he said allows him to connect with them better over the lifespan of the consulting engagement.

With a passion for cars and motorcycles, Ankit is considering buying a bike of his own eventually. He also enjoys cooking, eating, and trying new restaurants. In his free time, he likes to play video games, listen to music, and watch films. He plans to travel more when time and money allow it.

Ankit shared that he’s still learning new things with every passing day, and appreciates that advocacy is a space that’s constantly evolving. He has many goals: He joked that his first and foremost goal is to make ridiculous sums of money but on a more serious note he simply wants to be happy and healthy in the future. Referential is thankful to have him, we hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the person that Ankit is inside and outside of work.

We're already half way through 2018!

Hard to believe but we are half way through the year. Time for mid year check points not only with employees but also with clients. We just completed a round of client reviews.  Simple format – one slide with goals for the client and progress in the first half, plus a second slide with action plans should there be any issues and comments about what is expected in the second half. These reviews complement the monthly metrics and client checkpoints that we also do. In addition to a checkpoint of first half results, we also looked at statistics which allow us to compare client performance to industry norms.  We looked at everything from what percent of customers contacted agree to participate in advocacy programs to how long does it take to fulfill an average request for advocate participation.

It’s good to take a step back and assess.  Each team has done very well in the first half and is looking forward to an even more impactful end to the year.  The reviews are always a valuable experience. There is a chance for learnings that we can bring to all clients, valuable insight to share with our lead contacts, and there were many pats on the backs for jobs well done!  The first half has been full of amazing accomplishments and huge financial impact for our clients.  Looking forward to even greater success in the second half of 2018!

Working While Moving - Tips From Our Expert, Regina Dawkins

We are lucky to have access to more than one desk treadmill in our workplace. It has become second nature for several of us to walk while working. While It may even seem counter intuitive or strange, anyone can do it by following a few basic tips. In addition, walking at least 20 minutes a day comes with a variety of health benefits. Building up your eye, hand coordination and finding your ideal walking pace at a desk treadmill is imperative. Here are a few basic tips from our expert and super walker Regina Dawkins which will get you started:

-          Start off walking casually at a 1.5 to 2.0 speed, or a select a pace that feels comfortable for you. Keep your strides short and relaxed.

-          Try typing on your keyboard and moving your mouse around. If your hands are little shaky or wobbly, adjust by reducing your speed. Over time as your hands become steady, increase your walking speed.

-          Ensure the desk treadmill is adjusted to your height by checking to see if your bent elbows are perpendicular to the countertop while easily resting on the countertop. Your shoulders should be relaxed.

-          For stability and support while typing, rest your forearms on the countertop.

-          Have a straight body with good posture. Make sure your hips and shoulders are square and facing the countertop at all times. See Regina's great posture, below!

-          Wear comfortable, flat shoes, preferably athletic shoes, that have good traction.

There are great health benefits to walking. It is one of the greatest low-impact cardio exercises, enhancing the level of HDL (good) cholesterol, curbing the production of LDL (bad) cholesterol and it can even lower the risk of cardiovascular problems. If you sit at a desk for hours at a stretch, walk breaks keep your blood circulating and help promote a less sedentary work day. If you wear a fitness tracker, it helps to meet your daily step goals. You may also feel a sense of accomplishment by getting multiple things checked off your list of to dos for the day. It has become a daily routine for many of us and can be for you too!

Regina

Enjoyed our Hunt!

Most of our remote employees have been here this week.  It's been busy with lots of onsite client meetings, we've taken the opportunity for strategy meetings for Referential, and we made time for some fun. We did a scavenger hunt with Big City Hunt, learning a lot about our home town of San Jose, California along the way.  It was a beautiful afternoon and a nice walk through a variety of city sites, some even the locals had never seen.  It was a great introduction to the area for the remote team members.

And we're good at what we do!  Answering questions, doing challenges, we beat 100% of Big City Hunt Teams with 10 players!  And we have a few pictures to share.  One of the group, in height order but our 6'9" team member took the picture so you don't get to see our tallest.  And Andreas hugging a tree, one of our challenges. We really enjoyed the hunt!

Holiday Volunteering

HealthTrust 2017
HealthTrust 2017

Volunteering as a team during the holidays is a Referential tradition. As we did last year, we sorted food with the FOODBasket Food Sorting team of The Health Trust.  We sorted and helped with storage and display of fresh produce which is offered to their AIDS Services and Family Resource Center clients.  The photo shows just part of the food we helped process. We are in the heart of Silicon Valley, a place of great wealth, but also of great need, as this paragraph from The Health Trust website makes crystal clear:Silicon Valley is a place of innovation, opportunity and affluence. On average, it is one of the healthiest, wealthiest places in the world. But not all residents of Silicon Valley share in that wealth – or that health. More than 13 percent of children in Santa Clara County are living in poverty. More than half of the adults are overweight or obese. Nearly half of the county’s older adults are considered impoverished. More than 19,000 adults and youth are homeless.

Contributing our time as a team is one way we can make a modest contribute to their vision of a healthier Silicon Valley for everyone.

A week together!

Next week nearly all of Referential is gathering at our main office in San Jose.  Team members from 2 countries and 5 states will be here. We will be missing our team member from India, though we have creative ways to keep him involved and updated.  Subsets of us will be off to meet with local clients. There will be more security training. We're ensuring the whole team is conversant in our newest service offerings. New product training is also on the agenda.  One evening we're playing bocce ball.  Good food, and a chance to have some fun together is important. Our newest hire will have her first day Monday, talk about great timing!  Not only will she get a shiny new PC, many of the rest of us will too.  Everyone is here, great time for a technology refresh.  In the photo you can see part of the assembly line that is getting the PCs ready with the newest software and security tools. Large monitors are here too so we still have the benefit of a large display with new, smaller PCs which will be great for travel.Unpacking new PCs

A week together is quite a treat. Nice to see each other in person, not just via video or phone. We're all looking forward to it!

 

Dress code - does your company have one?

This recent blog post from 4Imprint about dress codes was interesting.  In general, attire is much more casual than it used to be.  Of course that varies dramatically by region, by industry and other factors.  We do have a dress code in our employee handbook and we do talk to new hires, especially recent college grads, about what is appropriate to wear to the office, what is appropriate to wear to events where they are representing us or our clients, and what to wear in casual work situations.  College really doesn’t teach that!  The blog post recommends an employee fashion show, illustrating clothing dos and don’ts.  We gathered photos from various places for our own do or don’t wear illustrations. Being specific, with photos or a fashion show, helps ensure everyone has a common understanding of what is appropriate for your company and what you mean when you say terms like “business casual”. Two of the sentences of our dress policy often referred to are: “A good rule of thumb is that if you are not sure if something is acceptable, choose something else or inquire first. Also, it is generally better to be overdressed than underdressed.”  Both are good points to keep top of mind.

We are a professional consulting team which is reflected in the work we do and also in how we present ourselves. In office or off site client meetings call for professional dress while Fridays are often more casual. It is rather nice to see a suit and tie once in awhile! Does your company have a dress code?

Already Fall!!

Fall The year is going so quickly, hard to believe that today is the first day of Fall.  Even in sunny California the weather has turned a bit cooler, a leaf or two is about to change color, and pumpkin spice is ubiquitous. 

In the Southern Hemisphere it’s the first day of spring so our two team members on their way to Australia will experience another week of warmth and sunshine!  We hope they have a chance to enjoy it between rounds of customer interviews and filming.  Here, we will sip a pumpkin spice latte or two to usher in the new season!

It is the summer’s great last heat, It is the fall’s first chill: They meet. –Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt

Longer attention span: your target audience or a goldfish?

Longer attention span: your target audience or a goldfish? Hard to believe but the average person’s attention span is now shorter than that of a goldfish! An article in Time Health quotes a Microsoft study which shows a human will pay attention for 8 seconds and a goldfish for 9! Our digital lifestyle may make us better multitaskers but we’re also easily distracted. There is a lot of content out there, coupled with short attention spans, it’s not easy to stand out from the crowd.

This  post from RO Innovation makes the case that video can be the way to go instead of the case study format. Our brains actually process video faster than text.

Think about how video might work for you as you share stories of your customers and your brand. Our clients have a clear need for written content but we’re seeing an increase in the desire for video. Often times our interviews will become both short and compelling video pieces and a complimentary case study with greater detail. We’re about to send a team to Australia for a second time this year to create video and written case studies for our clients. There are a lot of interesting customer stories among Australian businesses! Whether your customer is in Australia or right next door, think about the format which will tell their story best.

2 clients, 2 projects, 3 days, over 300 phone calls!

phone photo
phone photo

We had two projects overlap this week.  One client needed us to follow up on survey results and another asked us to invite customers to participate in an important event.  Both projects were at the stage where it was time to leave email behind and make phone calls. Between the two projects, two team members have made over 300 phone calls quickly, all in just a few days.  One person even came in at 5:30 AM so he could connect with the East coast early in their business day.  We were able to exceed goals for both projects.  We did leave a lot of voicemails but had great conversations with everyone who answered their phone.  A conversation is a great chance to meet your objective but also check in with advocates, see what other activities they might be interested in, see if anything has changed for them or their company, and answer questions. A lot of talking, but well worth the time!

Our Interns, and Summer, Are Almost Gone!

Hard to believe it but school is about to begin for our interns, and school starting is often seen as the sybolic end of summer.  It’s been great having them with us.  Two are employees of one of our clients, which we have hosted in our office, and one we claim as our very own.  So many benefits, for both them and us.  They have learned much of the ins and outs of customer advocacy but that’s only the beginning.  With very little experience in an office beforehand they also learned communication skills, how to dress, business etiquette for meetings, and that lunch with your friends might allow for a different set of manners than when in a work setting.  They all go to great colleges but there is a lot about day to day behavior in the workplace that they have no way to learn until they are in the workplace! 

We benefit as well.  Nothing like having your documentation tested by someone with fresh eyes and that has never used any of the referenced applications!  We’ve been able to accomplish much more with their help. While we might have to do some teaching or reviewing they have been able to contribute from day one, allowing us to get to ‘wish list’ projects.  Having interns also provides a growth opportunity for Referential staff. Mentoring others is valuable experience and we did match each intern to staff for the bulk of their work. 

Being honest, we’re looking for a great pool of talent to help us not only in the summer but throughout the school year and just possibly to join Referential, or one of our clients, once they graduate.  We’ve had interns for years and the set we have now is great, we’ve been very happy to work with them.  And we must thank them for introducing us to a wonderful fried chicken restaurant, another benefit!

Take Your Vacation - All Of It!

Last year fully 54% of American workers did not use all their vacation according to this post from Business 2 Community written by Kristen Carlson.  Taking time away to refresh and recharge is valuable but do you know just how valuable? This article from Inc by Lolly Daskal has some interesting statistics. When we do go on vacation 3 out of 5 of us do some work, some more than others! If you don’t take your vacation you’re likely to have higher stress levels and negatively impact both your cardiovascular health and even your year end performance rating!

At Referential we believe taking vacation is important.  We just did a quick mid-year reminder to everyone of how much vacation they have already used this year and how much they still have available. We encourage early planning for time off at the holidays, which is really important for us as our clients still need our services. We are open and stagger time out of the office so as to continue to provide coverage.  We discourage carry over, we’d rather people take their full vacation and get the associated benefits each year.  So far team members have had staycations, attended music festivals, visited the Caymans, the Dominican Republic, Spain, France, and Seattle, to name just a few places, with more exciting locations in plan.

Be among those that take all of their vacation time each year!  You’ll feel better and perform better as well.

Good Things Come in Threes - Three Interns!

Good things do come in threes and in our case it means three interns this summer.  We have an intern working on a variety of Referential projects. The other two interns are with us courtesy of one of our clients that wanted increased resources for their projects this summer.  Each Monday for the last 3 weeks one has started.  They are students at St Mary’s, UC Berkeley, and Cal State East Bay, with a variety of majors.  We’ve paired them with “buddies” to help train and mentor them.  It’s great to add to the pool of advocacy experts.  And in case you are wondering about the phrase ‘good things come in threes’, check out this blog post from Historically Speaking. The examples range from the three little pigs, genies always granting three wishes, to a saying from Confucius.   

And from StackExchange:  Good Things Come In Threes - has a definite positive connotation. From fairytales to Hollywood blockbusters, “the rule of three” (Latin-"omne trium perfectum") principle suggests things that come in threes are inherently more humorous, satisfying and effective than any other number of things. 

We certainly believe that good things do come in threes!

 

 

Beat the Lock - Almost!

Well we almost did it. With the very last clues in our hand, solving the last puzzle, to open the last lock, time was up!  From their website, Beat the Lock is described as: an interactive adventure experience where you and your friends are locked in a themed room to piece together clues, decipher codes and solve puzzles to ultimately find the key to escape!   Beat the Lock 3

You have an hour to solve myriad types of puzzles, open all sorts of locks, which lead to more clues for more puzzles! In our theme we were looking for jewels hidden by Grandma Edna so we could have our rightful inheritance. We had an hour to find the jewels before pesky relatives would arrive to stake their claim. 

And we almost did it! It requires teamwork and communication and is bounded by time pressure. Just in case any of you do a similar experience we don’t want to share details but suffice to say it’s a great team building experience and even though we didn’t Beat the Lock we did have great fun!

Phishing, Smishing, Vishing, Phaxing…..

Our whole team recently went through one of our regular security training sessions. We talked about a range of issues from physical securitysuch as laptop locks, door codes and so forth ,to various laws and regulations we need to be aware of. As our clients are international and in a wide range of industries there is a lot to be knowledgeable about! Some of our time was spent talking about phishing (email), smishing (text), vishing (phone), phaxing (fax)… all the variations cybercriminals are using to trick folks into giving them valuable personal or company information. Of course it’s much easier if someone hands over that valuable information than if the criminal has to break through variouslevels of security to try to find it on their own.   

The following article from BBC News, though about a year old, is an overview written in layman’s terms so good to share with those that may be less tech saavy. “Vishing and smishing: The rise of social engineering fraud”, by Marie Keyworth,   here.

There are plenty of resources with tips.  If you need a place to start consider this blog post titled: Safer Internet Day 2018: 70 Internet Safety Tips to Follow, here.   Be vigilant!  Stay safe!

Belgium - be there soon!

provinciaal-hof-1508333_1920Two of the team are headed to Belgium.  After a grueling day of travel, which includes a quick stop in Iceland and a multi hour drive, they will arrive in Belgium.  One of our clients has customers there and wants interviews and video which we’ll turn into video testimonials, quotes, case studies and more.  The team is taking what looks like thousands of pounds of camera and lighting equipment, plus all their personal items, carefully packed into many rolling, hard sided suitcases and two backpacks.    Their time in Belgium is completely booked, and short, as they return to the US late Friday.  While they likely will have no time for sightseeing we have been lobbying that they return with Belgian chocolates for the office!

Get up and get moving!

Like most office jobs our roles are very sedentary.  It would be easy to spend the full day at our desks and even walking to the printer and the rest room and the break room does not add up to many steps.  We do care about the team’s health. Our office has two treadmill desks, which have shown some of us are better at walking while typing than others!  We also have a standing desk, balls instead of chairs, and each new employee gets a Fitbit.  We encourage people to stay healthy and get their steps in.    Northern California is an area with wonderful weather, usually, and many of us take a walk around the block at some point in the day.  We’ve had the chance to meet Bill as he’s on his daily walk, he’s the most energetic 95 year old ever!  Sometimes we see our letter carrier, kids and parents walking home from the nearby school, or the couple who watch their preschool grandchild during the day. We’re anxiously awaiting the opening of a nearby coffee shop too! 

Our office is in an interesting area, commercial on one side and residential on the other.  The walks give us a chance to know the neighborhood and nearby residents better.  Also, importantly, research shows getting up and getting exercise, improves your productivity at work, your overall health, and reduces stress. Not only all that, a study from the Journal of Neurology shows exercise slows brain aging by 10 years!  Read the article here. Just as we encourage our employees to get up and get moving we encourage you to do so as well.  Take a few more steps next week than last!

Volunteering at The Health Trust

Health Trust 2016.png Another successful volunteer session at The Health Trust. Believe it or not we moved about 1000 pounds of fresh produce - each!  That's a lot of bok choy, carrots, spinach, potatoes, onions, and celery!

In a region of great wealth there is also surprising need. 13% of the children in this county are living in poverty.  More than 19,000 adult and youth are homeless.  The Health Trust's vision is for a healthier Silicon Valley for everyone.  Please consider supporting this worthy organization: http://healthtrust.org/

CPR and First Aid Certified!

We spent Friday afternoon with the Red Cross and the lovelies in the photo below. All of us are now trained in CPR and first aid. It was a great afternoon of team building and a wonderful learning experience. It's the sort of training you hope to never have to use but if there is an emergency we are now all much better prepared. 

CPr manikins at the ready!!