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How a Global Pandemic Helped Create an Even Stronger Culture Than Before

By Shay Hughes

Our culture is something our team takes immense pride in, and I am so extremely proud of each and every one of our teammates who has contributed to our culture and made it what it is today. Prior to the pandemic, we had spent 10 years shaping our culture into what it was, and knew we had to protect it, despite the most challenging of times. By leaning into our core values and our relationships with each other, we became even more connected as a team, and galvanized our culture to something even better than what we had before. While we missed many of the perks of being together in person, and at the on start of the pandemic we never would have guessed we would emerge stronger than before, we found this new challenge brought rewards that we might not have experienced had we not been put to the test. Here are a few ways we have enhanced our communication to further strengthen our culture, which fortunately can be implemented by any company! 

Cameras On!

Years ago, our company decided to invest in video phones as a way to connect our teammates in offices across the country. We found that it really helped connect everyone across the miles by putting names to faces, being separated only by a four-digit extension no matter where we were located, and our teammates have built incredible bonds even if they never actually work together in-person. When the pandemic hit, this decision was really impactful, as our video phones went home with our team, and continued to keep everyone extremely connected and feel a sense of support and collaboration from our homes. Since day one, we have always encouraged cameras on, be it with our video phones, on Zoom or WebEx calls. It makes all the difference with team participation and engagement, and is something any company can implement to ensure their teams are connected and engaged.

Zoom Meetings

Personally, before the pandemic, I had struggled with trying to figure out how to keep our teams and offices connected, since Jason and I were meeting with each location separately, and I had always wished that we could seamlessly share the great knowledge and successes in one office with all of the others. It was an issue then that I didn’t have an easy solution for, as I wasn’t optimistic we could get our team to buy into being on video calls together, and bringing our team together for all-hands meetings was great, but couldn’t possibly bring the daily wins to everyone on the team. Then the pandemic hit and changed the way everyone felt about connecting virtually. With our heavy adoption of virtual meetings, our team’s bond and communication has NEVER been better. We’ve implemented Broker Town Hall calls on a weekly basis, something we had never done pre-pandemic, where everyone has the opportunity to share ideas, discuss trends and collaborate together among all of our offices. I’m happy to say that participation has been fantastic and truly game changing. And when we do have all-team events like ski trips or off-site retreats—with Covid precautions adhered to—everyone already feels connected even before they meet in-person for the very first time!

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The team at our Broker Retreat after competing in a Field Day event.

Grateful Email Chains

We started this tradition years ago, when Jason had an idea to send an all-team email outlining one thing he was grateful for that day, and encouraged everyone to reply-all with what they were grateful for. The positivity took off like wildfire! It’s such a simple concept, but it really proved to be powerful and uplifting, especially during the darkest days of the pandemic. After virtual all-team meetings, or on our monthly half-day Fridays, Jason will kick off the grateful chain to end the week on a really high note, and the responses we hear from our team are truly heart-warming—from growing families and their pets, to life milestones and upcoming vacations. It’s hard not to smile when reading what makes everyone so happy, and it also builds a stronger bond when we learn what’s going on in the lives of our teammates!

Fun Email Groups

To keep the fun communication going across our offices, we have set up different email groups for our team members to opt in, and to share together! For the more ambitious members on our team, we have a workout challenge email group, where you’ll occasionally find some playful smack talk! For our pet lovers, there is a pet group where everyone shares photos of their furry friends (or fish!) and for the chefs in the company, a cooking group where recipes and the final dishes are shared. It’s a great (and simple!) way for any business to encourage communication between their teams, and we’ve witnessed a lot of fun friendships that have formed by sharing their common interests. Lastly, we have our highly competitive in-office billiards and shuffleboard tournaments, which are kicked off every month with a hilarious email from Dave Bates, that I know our team looks forward to for a good laugh!

Hughes Marino Orange County
Annie’s pup Dottie enjoying the snow!

Leaning on Meaningful Core Values

Our core values mean everything to us at Hughes Marino, and they certainly have been a guiding force of who we hire, how we handle tough situations and how we treat each other and our clients. As Jason and I say in every team meeting, “If we live these core values, it’s impossible to fail.” From always doing the right thing, to enjoying the journey, building relationships based on trust, and proactively communicate with everyone, communication is at the foundation of each of our core values, and what we believe is a big reason why we were able to stick together despite working from home and being apart at different offices over the past two years, not to mention for over a decade!

By leaning into an emphasis on communication and connectivity during the pandemic, our team and company has become closer than ever, with a galvanized culture that we all take pride in. We’ve managed to grow in ways we never expected over the last two years and those lessons have positively shaped who we are today as we happily emerge back to the office together again. While it’s not always easy, and it takes immense effort to continuously nurture a culture across various offices and teams, it is absolutely worth every ounce of energy and is something we’re incredibly grateful for!

Shay Hughes is president, COO, and owner of Hughes Marino, an award-winning commercial real estate company specializing in tenant representation and building purchases with offices across the nation. Shay writes about business leadership and company culture on her blog, Lead from Within. Contact Shay at 1-844-662-6635 or shay.hughes@hughesmarino.com to learn more.



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