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Finding Our Path: Growing a Happy Company During the Great Resignation

“We’d stopped the car on the edge of the cliff, with half of it hanging over. We were holding on by the back tires. Barely.” 

That’s Carson, our COO and my right-hand man, describing a pivotal moment in the early days of the company. 

(Sometimes, when you’re passionate about finding your own path—both personally and professionally—you take some wrong turns, or go too far, without realizing it.)

We’d grown quickly, but we weren’t ready for the expansion and we had a breakdown. 

With just a handful of team members hungry after our ambitious vision, we brought on client after client in an eagerness to deliver, grow, and do it all over again. Then we hit our breaking point. 

For really the first time since founding the company, we had to stop, take stock, and more or less do some CPR. We were on the edge of the cliff, and the next move was life or death. 

So, how does a young startup—with all the grit and grind in the world, but lacking the experience of established vets—not merely recover from the edge of disaster, but manage to grow, exponentially, into a flourishing and cutting-edge team of storytellers and mission-makers? 

What began as my personal journey evolved into a one-of-a-kind adventure that just keeps going. 

This is our story. 

***

In the wake of Covid, the Great Resignation swept America, leaving a resounding 10.9 million jobs open at the end of July. The pandemic changed most everything for most of the world: Burnout skyrocketed, parents opted to (or had no choice but to) quit their jobs to be home with school-aged children, and countless professionals first adored – then quickly deplored – “WFH.” Most notably, though, the Great Resignation signaled a shift in collective values: American workers expect more meaning, better culture, and to know they’re valued in their careers. 

In all truth, what we’ve built here is almost an answer, somewhat unintentional, to the Great Resignation. 

We are, and always have been, fully remote—and our culture is built with intention around working collaboratively and independently, feeling like a true team, and connecting with each other in meaningful ways from wherever we are in the world. 

We are a deeply communicative group that values speaking up and playing as a team, where each person is comfortable and confident to share their perspective, challenge leadership in order to grow, and take initiative for the betterment of the company. We are a rag-tag crew of uniquely talented writers, thinkers, strategists, artists, and dreamers, and it’s our collective power that makes our work so good. 

***

But let me back up a bit. A brief history: 

I started BWM in October of 2018 as a one-man consultancy, guiding clients toward their highest success in whatever goals they brought to me. I was on a professional journey to find my own path, and I wanted to help others do the same—with authenticity, vulnerability, and some laughs and tears along the way. That’s all I really knew, and I built my mission around it. 

Almost a year later, in June of 2019, Carson joined me as an accounts intern while in college. The next spring, he decided to leave school behind in order to take on a full-time position as my right-hand man—just before the pandemic hit. Marjie had been with us since January of 2020 as a part-time freelancer but transitioned into full-time that year in September. Shortly thereafter, Ashley came on board as the fourth member of our Leadership Team, followed by Ariel, who heads up our book-writing division. 

From there we’ve made numerous new hires and fleshed the branches in our family tree, from interns to account managers to senior writers. But Carson, Marjie, Ashley, and Ariel have been integral in building the company we know today, and they are the core of what we do. 

They are the ones who saw the diamond in the rough, the seed that could be a great tree, the dream that I saw. And because they saw it too, they were willing to put in the long hours, the hard days, and the emotional investment to see it through the growing pains early on. 

It’s their story as much as it is mine, so I want to let them tell it, too. 

MARJIE, VP of Content and Editorial

Marjie joined us in January of 2020 as a part-time freelance writer while working as an actor, dancer, and singer in New York. By September that year, the pandemic had left her future in theater increasingly uncertain, and Marjie agreed to step into a full-time role with BW Missions leading the content division. 

Back then, Marjie recalls, BW Missions was a “scrappy, roll-with-the-punches, dream-big environment with a big appetite for learning and adapting on the fly.” We may be more organized these days, but those original qualities haven’t changed!

As one of the first to join BW Missions as part of the Leadership Team, Marjie has seen it all—and she was in the car as it hung over the cliff. What is it that makes someone want to stick it out through brutally long days, uncertainty about the future, and general exhaustion? 

Faith in the mission.

“I believed in the team. I knew that Bryan and Carson wanted to build a sustainable business that supported its employees and served clients in the best way we could. Things were incredibly stressful for a while, but when the going got really tough, they listened and made promises to get the company to a better place. I wanted to see that through.” 

And she did. Since day one, Marjie has been integral in key evolutions we made in order to grow effectively: 

“We’ve created solid operational and organizational systems. We’ve developed a methodology around our client work that’s specific to our company. We’ve grown and diversified our client list. We’ve created an awesome speak-up culture and fostered community, despite having a fully remote team. We’ve expanded our services and offerings.” In addition to those, Marjie also pioneered our generous PTO policy after seeing the dangers of burnout.

Now, almost two years later, she knows what it took to get us here and makes a point to keep culture first as she grows the team from a leadership role. Marjie is as good a mentor as she is a writer. In fact, her proudest moments are those where she’s “seen team members share feedback, grow, and really shine, and watched her direct reports take over client relationships and manage them beautifully.” You can’t scale without leadership you trust, both to train new hires to then hand over reins. 

We’ve come a long way since that first year, from struggling to get by to having a scalable infrastructure and making multiple rounds of hires who further our culture and values—and Marjie has been instrumental in each and every step along the way.

ASHLEY, VP of Client Strategy and Success:

Famous last words: “Bryan and Carson sure know how to win you over.”

(Every company leader knows that you can’t win someone over if you don’t believe in the mission yourself. But when you do believe, like I do, well—it’s a piece of cake.)

Before joining our Leadership Team, Ashley worked for a company she loved for seven years and hoped to never leave. Then Covid hit. 

Nearly the whole company of 50 full-time employees was laid off. Ashley was left devastated, wondering whether she would be able to find or rebuild the same kind of culture again.

Always a mission-driven superstar, Ashley decided to turn lemons into lemonade and launch her own marketing consultancy. She had a strong roster of clients and was doing well when a mutual acquaintance put us in touch. We had many conversations over which I shared our vision with Ashley and asked what she wanted out of her next chapter. Ashley loved her clients, wanted to see this new venture through, and wasn’t interested in taking a full-time job… 

But, after lox bagels and talk of our families, she was on board. 

Looking back, Ashley admits that our leadership style was a big reason she was willing to step away from the consultancy she’d been working so hard to build. “It’s rare to find such genuine leaders who want to root for every member of their team as much as they root for themselves. Plus, their roster of clients was inspiring and impressive. I want to know them. I want to help them tell their stories.” 

And now she does just that. Ashley is the captain steering our clients’ ships, keeping an eye on the horizon for the best next move. But she’s not just in the crowsnest; part of what makes Ashley so great is that she forms a personal relationship with each and every client, checking in on things like manuscript deadlines, public speaking engagements, and kids’ birthdays. 

That’s the thing about us, we’re all path-driven people in our own lives, and we bring that hunger to our clients, too. They’re looking for their unique path, and they trust us to help them craft it. 

And her passion for culture—what drove Ashley to start her own consultancy where she could build her dream workplace, and what ultimately drew her to us—still fires on all cylinders. 

In the past year alone, Ashley has pioneered critical evolutions at BW Missions that have allowed us to continue recruiting impressive hires and clients alike. A few of these improvements include full-coverage employee health benefits, holiday events (who knew you could solve murder mysteries over Zoom?), and implementing numerous habits company-wide to help us feel engaged and together despite our remote nature. 

Ariel, VP of Storytelling

Speaking of culture, it’s the environment that Ariel, our VP of Storytelling, is most proud of at BW Missions. 

Ariel joined as a freelancer in the summer of 2020 with the plan to build out and head up our book writing and publishing department—which is now flourishing! 

“I was concerned about how it would feel to be part of a remote team,” she recalled. “I imagined it would be a lot like freelancing, where I felt like I was on my own island all the time. But we’ve built such a great community! I genuinely like ‘coming to work’ because I love the people and the connections we’ve built.”

I’ll say it again: Culture is everything. 

Ariel believes our culture—and the fact that we built it with intention, as a remote company from the start—is a big part of why we’ve been able to hire and retain such great people even through the Great Resignation. (Keep in mind, this era is defined by employees leaving jobs, or saying “No” to countless job opportunities, if the culture and payoff aren’t appealing. There’s no hiding behind facades.)

“We offer all the benefits of remote work with a true team feel, something that’s typically only achieved in in-person environments. There’s a soul behind who we are, what we do, and the clients we work with, and I think that’s palpable—and a big reason our team members stick around.”

That soul is what makes us who we are, and we build on it every single day. We are listeners, supporters, and creators. We are a people-first team, and that is just as true in our client engagements as it is internally.

“We take the time to get to know clients on a deeper level, understanding where they’re coming from both literally and figuratively. That helps us capture their voice, style, and tone in addition to their message—and to deploy it all quite effectively.”

It’s amazing what can happen when you champion relationships, vulnerability, and authenticity. Putting people first isn’t a recruiting tagline; it’s our priority, and it’s what yields such good results for everybody we work with. 

Carson, COO

That moment Carson describes as the car hanging over the cliff is one he (and I) will always look back on as a turning point for the company. 

He’ll tell you, “It was a really scary moment. We were stuck in this chicken or egg cycle for a year—outgrow our capacity, stress, hire, repeat. But flash forward to today, and we’re on our first hiring cycle of hiring before clients come on, which is a massive blessing.” 

It’s true—we’re still not one full step ahead of the flow, but with each quarter we get closer. More clients, more hires. More infrastructure. And as Marjie, Ashley, and Ariel will attest, it wasn’t easy. 

As two young entrepreneurs, it was easy to think we’d made some huge mistakes that nobody else had, or that we just didn’t know what we were doing (which was true sometimes). Carson remembers thinking, “It couldn’t have been this bad for anyone else, I’m the only one going through this, I’m terrible at business, what do I think I’m doing?” 

But then the clouds clear, the dust settles, and the revenue stabilizes, and you realize that every single person who’s built something incredible from nothing went through the exact same process. 

As Carson reminds me, “You’re always going to have a problem that feels like it’s the worst thing ever, but it’s not. You’ll get through it.” And he’s right. I’m lucky that Carson saw what I saw from the very start, and that he’s been right there beside me the whole way.

The Future of BW Missions

While our journey so far has been nothing short of heroic, I’m more excited about what’s ahead of us. My leadership team is, too—and that’s the best sign. We’re aligned in the direction we’re headed, and we all have the same big vision.

We started as content writers and brand consultants. Now, we have a brand architecture division ready to help you take your idea to the next level, and an outstanding art team to ensure your brand graphics are nothing short of jaw-dropping. Our audio and video editing team produce podcasts from start to finish, and our new book division is in full swing to support ghost-writing, book consulting and planning, and self-publishing, too—so if you’ve always wanted to write a book or start a podcast, now’s the time. 

Our clients are top-of-their-field experts with New York Times Bestseller awards, hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, selfies with presidents, and Good Morning America appearances. They are pioneers, researchers, global movement leaders, and dreamers. And they come to us to carry those missions forward and help carve the path ahead. 

I’m so proud of what we’ve built. But the truth is, we’re only getting started. 

In Ashley’s words, “We are building something big, and we’re building it together. We’re going to impact millions of people’s lives by helping bring our clients’ visions to life. We will be THE company for telling your story.”

As for me, well, you already know my vision… 

We won’t stop until we’re at the top.

The Pathfinder
Bryan Wish

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