The Sunflower Incident

When I first began working on the Sam’s Club account, we would have special meetings on Wednesday mornings where different employees working on the account would be selected to give a presentation to everyone else on the Sam’s Club team. The presentation could be about anything as long as it was somehow related to the work we were doing on Sam’s Club. There were generally around at least 30-40 people at this meeting.

When my turn came up to do a presentation, we were just about to kick off our very first Christmas season for Sam’s Club. Having worked at LL Bean before I worked at VIA, I’ve lived through Christmas season on the retail side and had a pretty good idea of what we were in for. Christmas at LL Bean, like any retailer, is crazy, wonderful, don’t-sleep-for-at-least-four-months insanity and everyone crosses their fingers that in the end all the blood, sweat and tears will be worth it. At LL Bean, like many retailers, we begin planning for a Christmas season the year before. On this particular year with Sam’s Club, we were kicking off everything for the upcoming Christmas season in July. I might have been doing everything within my power to not have a mild panic attack. I have seen retail Christmas seasons completely destroy account and creative people due to the overwhelming stress, high expectations and insane deadlines because there is so much riding on the success of Christmas. Working on a retailer’s Christmas season can be wonderfully satisfying and it can be a living hell. Most of the times it seems to be both.

Up until now, most presentations that had been presented seemed to generally be about what Sam’s Club’s competitors were doing or were examples of cool designs/ads/products people had been inspired by and wanted to share. This was great, but I wanted to do something different. Knowing how stressful working on a Christmas retail account can be, I wanted to do something that would help minimize that stress and remind everyone on that account that no matter what happens, every single one of them was there because they were an awesome person and because they were the best person for that job.

I decided to divide everyone who was going to be at the meeting into pairs. Everyone was given an index card with their partners name on it. On the index card, each participant wrote something they admired or something they thought was great about their partner. Once they were done writing, everyone then exchanged their cards. The idea was that everyone in the meeting would keep their index card somewhere and throughout the coming Christmas season, when things just seemed a little too much or a little too overwhelming, they would have that card to remind them that they were valued, wanted and loved by the people they were working with.

Each person was also given two sunflowers. One sunflower they were to give to their partner when they exchanged index cards and the second sunflower was to be given to someone else in the agency who didn’t work on the Sam’s Club account. I had enough sunflowers so everyone in the agency could have one and would be given one. The next few hours were great with everyone who participated in the meeting turning into flower faeries and going around giving everyone else in the agency flowers. Meanwhile, everyone in the agency who were not at the meeting were completely baffled as to why they were getting flowers at all. The result was the creation of a little bit of happiness within the agency and an agency covered in sunflowers for a few weeks. It was amazing.

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