The Haystack Way: Trust and Teamwork

The Haystack Way: Trust and Teamwork

It’s a weird time for work. 

First, the gig economy encouraged freelancing and short-term contracts, then the pandemic pushed us into our homes, and now we’re reemerging to talk of the Great Resignation, the Great Reshuffle, the Big Quit. Workers are burnt out, the landscape is changing to the soundtrack of Beyonce’s latest single, and many companies are struggling to find an appropriate response.

Amazingly, that hasn’t been the case at Haystack. We’ve experienced substantial growth during the last few years, with new work and new hires. Why?

Trust and teamwork. 

Of course, we are not immune to the impact of these epically challenging times. Like everyone else, we deal with stress, burnout, and confusion. Fortunately (mercifully), we aren’t experiencing the turnover. We’re learning hard lessons, taking breaks as needed, and coming out ahead because of a bit of luck and a lot of strategy. 

I believe our luck lies in the timing. Born out of the 2008 financial crisis, Haystack embraced a remote work model well ahead of the pandemic. So, when everyone else was scrambling to make that work, we were business as usual, and many clients called asking, “how do you do this?” We used that edge to craft strategic pivots in our service offerings to meet new creative needs as they arose, e.g., virtual events and webcasts. Once again, nimbleness won.

Today, we’re facing new questions about company culture. In a previous post, I noted that a positive culture is a crucial part of attracting and retaining quality talent and that trust empowers and motivates. From my perspective, this is as true now as ever. But what about the perspective of our talent? 

We know happy talent is productive, and flexibility is key to that happiness. But is work-life balance a realistic goal? Should we expect our work to fulfill us? Given the percentage of our lives spent working, I think it’s reasonable to expect a certain emotional return on investment. 

The answers to these questions are highly subjective — we’re all on a hedonic treadmill, and no role can be pleasurable all the time. That’s ok. Because we’ve found that by focusing on trust and teamwork, we’ve created the difference-maker — something Marcus Buckingham aptly describes as a Love + Work organization

It’s a simple formula: when people enjoy their work, others enjoy working with them, which equates to retention. As a bonus, clients feel enjoyment, equating to better results and referrals. So, my long-standing strategy has been to build up the work that people want to do — and that clients are asking for — by focusing on trust and organizing it around teamwork. 


In addition to trusting talent to work efficiently remotely, Haystack offers a healthy dose of autonomy over that work. Our team members are encouraged to choose their own adventure by learning new skills, cross-training with other teams, and occasionally changing roles completely. The goal is to support talent in finding meaning in their work by matching strengths with available needs and giving everyone the freedom to grow and change. What do you want to do? What are you good at? Magic happens when the answers to those questions align. 


Success doesn’t happen in a silo, it occurs in a community of support with like-minded professionals. Haystack’s team structure is built with this in mind. Each of our seven teams is focused on specific media (branding, websites, video, social, search, events, and photography), all of which fit within our greater network and collaborate as needed. Each of these groups of subject matter experts has a unique personality and workflow while participating in some universal processes as part of the larger whole. This team-focused atmosphere and intentional lack of standardization encourages powerful people-to-people connections and synergies.  

Trust and teamwork are fundamentally why I believe most “Haystackers” choose to stay (and of course, in the rare occurrences when one of our own moves on, we do our best to support them accordingly). But the other half of that coin is attracting high-quality talent in the first place. Our hiring process goes deep into learning who a person is and not just what they can do. We understand our business is built on the talents of real people and believe this human-centric approach ends up being a win-win for all of us in the long run. 

Consider how trust and teamwork are valued in your work environment. To us, they matter more than any perks or incentives. Despite our penchant for swag (you should see our holiday party gift bags) and internal events (team retreat, anyone?), we get that extras are just that, and what really counts is empowering our talent to succeed on their own terms.

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