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Conversations with Chip LaFleur

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chip LaFleur.  

Hi Chip, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I spent many years working for organizations that had one primary focus: profits. Even with that focus, it was rare to see an organization lean on evidence-based methodologies to maximize its output. When I left the agency, I was with to create LaFleur, I wanted to take a completely different, human-first approach. 

That meant rethinking a lot of traditional structures around the purpose of the organization as well as the management structure. As we’ve grown, we have had to remain adaptable – a 30–40-person team operates differently than a 5–10-person team. As we’ve grown and adapted to the size and structure necessary to sustain our business, we’ve stayed hyper-focused on the “Why” behind the work and the structure that we have in place. 

If we are a human-centered organization that means that we take a different approach toward knowledge sharing, and in our case, we’ve made a commitment to radical transparency, both internally and externally, so that the people that work here and the people that we work with can see what they’re getting and why they’re getting it. That applies to roles in the organization, salaries/compensation, and deliverables. 

What I believe is that when people are treated as humans first and employees second, we can find ways to maximize their potential alongside them by supporting them, instead of driving and pushing them. It’s the result of that approach that we have seen success in the work product that we create as well as the relationships that we’ve built with members of our team and with our clients. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Growing a business from one employee to close to 40 is always going to have its challenges. For us, one of the bigger challenges we’ve faced has been understanding and adapting our organizational structure with growth. My goal has always been to try to keep LaFleur as flat of an organization as possible, but as we grew, we started to introduce more and more traditional management structures to manage that growth and maintain a quality of work that we could be proud of. 

As we started walking down that more traditional structure, I found that we were not able to provide people with the type of environment of trust that I set out to create. As I worked on addressing this and bringing us back to the organization I had envisioned, we also experienced some leadership changes within the organization. Change can easily be stressful, but can also open up opportunities. 

In our case, those changes allowed us to revisit our structure and recreate the sort of human-centered, team of teams approach that aligned much more closely with my original vision. But that change is still challenging; we’re in the midst of it now but I’m excited about the journey and the destination. That excitement seems to be present throughout the rest of the team as well, and I’m confident that we can continue to build the type of organization I’ve set out to create. 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
LaFleur is a full-service digital marketing agency, and we’ve worked with local, regional, and national brands all over the country. I believe that we’ve delivered outstanding work across all sorts of mediums. 

What I’m most proud of, though, is our commitment to and alignment with our values as an organization. We commit to excellence, we invest in what matters, we value relationships, and we act in good faith. When I see our team act in accordance with those values, that is the moment that I feel like I’ve found success. 

These values inform every deliverable, whether that’s a blog post we’re writing, a new website we’re building, or a complete go-to-market strategy. So, when I see people on our team taking ownership of those values, that’s the moment that I feel truly proud of what we’ve been able to create. 

Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?
Running a business requires a certain comfort level with taking on risks. We’ve certainly taken on and approached engagements with varying levels of risk involved. Some examples include investment in tools and technology, especially where we’re looking to change the way we approach solving a problem using a specific tool or process. This is an ongoing risk vs. benefit analysis, as choosing to retain a system can carry risk just like changing can introduce it. 

We’ve taken risks around our project management tool/professional services tool in that we’ve completely revisited how we approach projects within our system in order to introduce an increased level of transparency and accountability as we’ve pivoted from being largely driven by Asana and now, we’re shifting to Scoro, which is more of a professional services automation tool. 

Another area of risk involves custom software development, where we’ve looked through existing tools that are on the market, found them lacking, and have undertaken the development of new tools associated with performance tracking and accountability, both internally and for our clients to lean on. Development of those tools has been challenging, with some missteps taken in the process. Those missteps can be expensive, but ultimately inform the direction of the project and its eventual outcome. 

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