Where We Are
Subtext was born from the frustration and exhaustion of the existing agency structure and culture. A culture that encourages grueling hours, massive workloads, and a work-life balance that can harm emotional health and ruin relationships. But under this structure more hours worked never begot better work. Conversely, it creates strife, burnout and diminishing returns for clients. Subtext’s founders decided to find a new way forward.
This new way focused on building and maintaining client relationships while achieving a healthy work-life balance for all Subtext team members. This new model has been a success and it is time to grow it beyond just Subtext.
Taking the next step for us means joining a small but growing group of businesses by becoming B Corp certified. B Corps are for-profit organizations that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. We are in the process of achieving our certification, making sure we have all our i’s dotted and t’s crossed. This process has allowed us to reflect on what it means to be a business in this world and how we can positively affect change through the power business.
Beyond Our Walls
Maybe it’s a Portland, Oregon thing or maybe we’ve been fortunate, but the Subtext team is committed to helping improve the environment and our community. While it is great to work on a team that shares these values, for real change to happen we have to encourage others to get involved. We want more than just clean water, air and healthy food for Portlanders. We want to have a hand in helping the world.
With that idea in mind, we know that demonstrating that businesses can work to create a better world and still be viable is a key to getting more businesses (and people) on board.
Do no harm is central to the Subtext character. Not unlike the Boy Scout’s motto to “leave no trace”, it is an ethos rooted in a call to be conscious of how we are affecting the world around us. If we hope to engender change that heals the environmental crisis we have to first be aware of how we affect it. Finding a balance can be difficult to do, but for Subtext it means minimizing the effect we have on the environment and changing our approach when we cannot. The goal is to make the work we do and the way we do it sustainable.
As a digital-based business this means offsetting our carbon output, encouraging employees to walk, ride their bikes or use public transportation, and partnering with like-minded, local vendors. It also means finding alternative ways to make digital greener. This includes partnering with hosting companies that share our values, making sure that the way vendors power their servers are from sustainable resources.
Our efforts recently earned certification from the City of Portland for Sustainability at Work.
Subtext is committed to making Portland and Vancouver even greater cities. One way we help is by partnering with local nonprofits. Working with organizations such as SMART, the Community Foundation of Southwest Washington, and the Equity Foundation has allowed us to share our expertise and help them succeed.
Subtext also encourages its team members to volunteer with organizations they feel passionately about. We walk dogs for the Humane Society, provide digital expertise to ShadowCliff Lodge, and lead school tours as a docent at the Portland Art Museum. Every year our team donates hundreds of hours to local and national causes.
We’re planning a team volunteer project for next year, if you have a great organization you think we can help, you should get in touch.
At the end of the day Subtext is a business, but for all the failings or risks associated with being successful, we are striving to find a better way.
We have seen friends and family lose jobs unexpectedly as business shifts or sales wane. To avoid such uncertainty, Subtext holds quarterly financial reviews for our team. These meetings give our team visibility and allows them to assess what we are doing well and where we need to improve. This visibility encourages a shared ownership of Subtext’s success from sales to efficiency.
Creating Great Work
If we are not creating strong work for our clients, our business will fail. From communication to execution, Subtext has processes that ensure quality and gain the trust of our clients.
A key process we’ve implemented are Post Mortems, which gives clients and our internal team an opportunity to honestly review how the entire project went. We examine where we succeeded, failed, and how we can make our next project better. This unfiltered feedback channel between our clients and our team is one of the key reasons (beyond great work) for Subtext’s success and continued relationships with our clients.
On the employee-level, we know that when we do right by our team we are doing what is best for the business. Having processes that help us grow personally and create great work are one way we’ve acknowledged that. Each quarter our team revisits personal goals and receives feedback on the past quarter. We assess current professional certifications and identify others that can help our team grow in their expertise. These reviews provide time for us to plan the next year, to set new goals for the team, and better the whole business.
Where We B Going
Subtext is rooted in its mission: to do incredible work for our clients while promoting the well-being of our employees and making a positive impact on our community and environment. Our mission goes beyond the walls of our office and guides us to be better members of our community and stewards of our environment.
The goal of receiving B Corp certification in 2017 seemed like it was so far away when internal discussions started. The process from early research to audit is rigorous to say the least. We have come to see however that the foundation of our business was already in line with being a B Corp.
The values of B Corp align with Subtext’s and will help make the agency better. It will be a guiding star for our work moving forward and we’re almost there.