People First, Processes Last

I’ve been a part of the Distilled NYC team since the beginning. I distinctly remember my first day (just over 14 months ago), showing up to the office, saying hi to Tom Critchlow, configuring my new laptop, and thinking “what’s next?” Conversely, the subsequent next few months passed by in a blur - the office struggled, we didn’t have our own clients, and had prospects that just wouldn’t close. On top of it all, over half of the office had moved to NYC from out of the state / country to be a part of this team. Here we were, a team deep in the red in an unfamiliar city. And so, we painfully struggled (personally and professionally) for the next 6 months.

It’s not a rare story to hear about a business struggle. In fact, I’d vouch that’s the norm. What did surprise all of us was the team spirit and how we built a cultural framework around it. Each individual member of the team has different strengths, whether it be building relationships, establishing project frameworks, or even the intangibles, like loving a challenge. Ron is amazing at communication, Julianne owns planning and organizing, Chris relishes in building frameworks / owning challenges, John is a master of data / blogging / social media, and Pete at getting “stuff” done efficiently. Those differences have inspired us to acknowledge that we need each other, which has only allowed us to work more collaboratively together.

Doing so has produced amazing results - working on fulfilling projects and all of us owning less than exciting tasks because it helps the collective. As a team we know that ultimately, sustaining this office is everyone’s responsibility and we take that very seriously. And it’s also so important to celebrate victories. Recently, one of the more stoic members of our team came back from visiting a client and exclaimed to the rest of the team with a big grin “It was like magic!!” The energy was magnetic. It’s moments like these that are truly indescribable. 

Being a part of Distilled has been such a tremendous experience for me. As someone who thought they loved (and needed) processes and solid frameworks in the work environment, I’m starting to see how valuable it is to just trust the people I work with - that we will all make decisions with everyone’s best interest in mind, that although I’ll be continuously challenged, I will also be continuously supported, and that truly anything is possible. 





Stephanie Chang

Stephanie Chang

Stephanie helped open Distilled’s New York office in June 2011 after working for a year at a New York-based full-service agency. She oversaw the SEO and social media execution for a variety of clients including B2B, B2C, e-commerce and international...   read more

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  1. Kiko

    Just the fact that this post exists shows that Distilled does not buy in to corporate impersonality. But let's not forget the strengths that Stephanie brings to the team, like her awe inspiring humility and drive to constantly improve her craft.

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  2. I love you guys! Our NY Office is such an inspiration - always supportive, progressive in their thinking, and amazing at getting shit done. I'm so fortunate to be from the area and get to come back and work with you more often than others in our offices. Thanks for always being supportive and a pleasure to work with!

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  3. This is such a meaningful post to be me because you encapsulated so many of the experiences and learning that we've done as a team trying to make a significant impact on the world. Working on and building our team has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life, that key component you talked about trusting in the people you've brought on the bus. Yes. That's it.

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  4. Great writeup, Steph. I have had similar experience in my company as well. The way you wrote it with honesty is commendable.

    I absolutely liked the picture you placed at the end. A few years from now, this pic is sure to bring some nostalgic feeling! People change. Circumstances change. But that picture with good memories will be alive forever.

    Cheers from India.

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  5. James Daugherty

    Yay Stephanie! I want to come work out of the NY office.

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  6. James,

    We would absolutely love for you to come out! Just let us know when!!!

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  7. Stephanie, I'm glad to hear your team is working well together. It sounds like a great mix of people where each brings special value.

    Your title "People First, Processes Last" caught my attention. Again, I commend you all for the great people culture you are establishing. However, the title shows the either or scenario that I often read on LinkedIn groups about people vs. process. It really doesn't have to be an either or, at the expense of the other.

    As you build great people culture you can't help growing processes in parallel that compliment and empower each other. As Julianne creates another plan, Chris drives a framework, John analyzes social data, and, well, Pete executing stuff, they are all doing processess on a day-by-day basis. As your team makes the magic happen, processes are being executed.

    So, my suggestion is to view processes are an integral friend that provides the glue of getting work done by great people. Also, think about how processes can become well documented on paper or with technology just in case John is out on a holiday or ill and someone else needs to fill in to write a blog or help with data analytics. Running your processes as projects (or projects as processes) is a great way to think about constant improvement with people interaction and feedback. This is what I call best practices becoming "alive" and "organic" with people collaboration.

    Again, great to hear you all are creating magic!

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