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Culture

JMARK Employee Celebrations Continue Through Remote Work

JMARK has found a way to celebrate its team of 100-plus people in less than 30 minutes, and the impact is long-lasting.

By Ettie Berneking

Nov 2020

JMARK employee Zoom call
Photo courtesy JMARKJMARK Business Solutions began celebrating employees through monthly rallies they started six years ago. After a brief pause when the team was sent to work remotely, they've re-started the rallies, which are now celebrated in weekly virtual meetings.

Today, nearly all 120 members of the JMARK Business Solutions team work remotely. In most situations, CEO Thomas Douglas says this would kill company culture. But not at JMARK.

Douglas gives a lot of credit to what has become known as the monthly rally. This is not your regular meeting. This is not a time to talk shop. It’s a time to celebrate the team. JMARK has been hosting monthly rallies for the past six years. “It started as an employee appreciation lunch to say thanks,” Douglas says. Over the years, the lunch evolved into a celebration. Now, the whole team gathers over a catered meal to celebrate successes and company anniversaries where, as Douglas explains, “we spend a little bit of time celebrating that person, their career highlights and the impact they’ve had on the company.”

It’s a quick celebration—not lasting more than 30 minutes—but its impact has been meaningful. “I think people really look forward to [the rally] even if it’s not their anniversary,” says Kristin Dunn, collaboration specialist. “I think everyone needs a place to belong where they feel like they’re part of a big team.”

Douglas took over the company in 2001 and introduced the rally a few years later. “I brought my style of leadership to the table,” he says. “It stemmed from my bad experience in the Navy with a [jerk] of a lieutenant. This company is built on people doing good work, and if we fail to recognize the contributions people make, they won’t have a reason to stay. They need to feel like they matter.”

Douglas was thrust in the spotlight at one time on his birthday, which is how his team learned he had been a cheerleader at the University of Missouri – Columbia. And while Douglas says his time on the cheer squad hasn’t impacted his leadership style, some of that pep has definitely worked its way into the monthly rally. Case in point—the team uses a two clap, boom to cheer on each team member being highlighted. A celebration or victory is announced and instead of getting lost in a sea of applause, the group claps twice, yells boom and then moves on. It’s a simple way to keep the meeting on track while still celebrating with some much-deserved pomp. “This helps to corral the applause,” Douglas says. “Plus, it becomes a company rally call, and we take pride in rattling the walls.”

Even when JMARK took everyone off site for its yearly retreats, the two-clap, boom would get people’s attention. “Pretty frequently, people would peek around the corner,” Dunn says. “We’re loud and proud.”

When COVID-19 hit, the JMARK team hit pause on the rallies but is back at it, only now the rallies are hosted weekly through Zoom. In order to catch up, Douglas is celebrating five work anniversaries at each rally. “It’s about honoring good people for good work,” he says. “You have to lead from the front and find ways to celebrate people’s contributions.”

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