Welcome to the home of The Bureau Briefing, our very own podcast. Each episode, we talk to a member of the Bureau of Digital community doing awesome, inspiring things. Check in each week for a new episode with your host Carl Smith. 

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Episode 024

Carl Smith

Carl Smith


with Carl Smith

From the beginning, the Bureau has been about strong connections. In this episode, Carl shares the direction the Bureau is heading to make those connections even stronger.  While events will always play a central role in how the Bureau community comes together, a new community site will provide new levels of collaboration, education, and support.

Join Carl and the Bureau Community in San Antonio for Digital PM Summit 2016!


Welcome to the Bureau Briefing, a podcast by the Bureau of Digital, an organization devoted to giving digital professions the support system they never had. Each episode, we're going to talk to a member of our community doing awesome, inspiring things. Now for your host, Carl Smith.

Carl Smith:
Isn't that an awesome intro? I've never taken the time to thank my good friend Greg Hoy for that amazing intro. The dude is a sound engineer, or he should have been. Thank you, Greg, for that.

Today on the Bureau of Briefing my guest is ... It's you. It's anyone who tuned in, you're my guest today. Now, since you can't respond to me, I'm going to talk to you based on things that I've heard again and again people want to know about the Bureau. The most popular episode of this show was the very first one, with me and Greg, and it was all about what is the Bureau of Digital. In 2012, Greg Storey and Greg Hoy got together and decided that they wanted to invite a bunch of shops to sit down around a table and talk about what was working, what wasn't working, mostly unscripted, a little bit of guardrails there, to make sure that we stayed on the road. It was magical, and I was lucky enough to be one of those first shops invited to be at a camp.

Now, we've done 20 camps now. We just finished our twentieth one, and we've reached out to owners and operators now, the people who are making the shops run, the creative directors, the digital project managers. It's amazing. The shops are coming and coming for this event, and it's great, but we're going through some changes at the Bureau. When “the Gregs”, as they're collectively known, first started, it was really about events, because there is nothing that replaces that personal connection. You can't get the same feel on a phone call, on a hangout, on Zoom, on any of these things. You can't get the same feeling that you get when you're in the room. 

Events will always be a critical part of what's going on at the Bureau, but the Bureau is not events. The Bureau is community, and today I was thinking about that, because we've got an event coming up, and this is the nature of being at the Bureau. You're talking to the community, you're helping people, you're connecting them. Somebody has a situation, and you try to find somebody else who's had it, and you put them together. At the same time, in order to sustain yourself, you have to have these events, because that's where you get revenue, and this is my sole focus now, so to be sustainable we have to make sure that we're selling these tickets for events, where the events are all about connection and education.

It's really easy to lose focus, honestly. If it feels like an event's not doing well, you want to sell it more, and this is where things start to get tricky, because our whole focus is the community and adding value to the community, but we can't do that if we're not here, so therein lies the rub, and this morning I was getting ready to put all of my lists together of what I wanted to get done, and it just didn't feel right. What I was focusing on was not going to make the community better. Our goal, our job, our vision, has to be creating enough value that other shops and other digital professionals want to be a part of this community. 

It's all about value. We have to create a place where you can show up, where things aren't working for you, and you can find help, and you can find support, and when you're feeling really good and you're rocking it, you can come in and you can help other people, because when we look at it, when we look at all the professions in the world, we are building the future. We are doing some amazing things, but at the end of the day, it can just feel like we just launched another, you know, restaurant site, or we just put an app out there, whatever it might be, but it might not be the kind of thing that is truly fulfilling, whereas if you've been doing this for a while and you're talking to a shop that just started out and you say "Oh, we went through that. Here's how we got everything done," and then you hear in their voice, or if you're at an event you see in their face, "Wow, you just saved me like months of heartache and pain. Thank you."

That's what this is about. This is about collections of people helping each other. This is about that African proverb that says "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." We are here at the Bureau to go together, to take each other further. That's why we're launching this online community. That's why membership is going to be a cornerstone of how we go forward.

The ability to connect online, to share the things that everybody's been asking for, to put that value there, then we can do what the community asks for, and which is what we've been doing, honestly. It's just occasionally you get to this point and you look something, and fear sets in, and you go, "I don't know," but ultimately we just have to ask ourselves is this what's best for the Bureau community? Is this what's best for those of you that are listening right now? 

I'll tell you that when we launched membership, and we had this little prelaunch, we reached out to about six hundred shops, just about eight hundred individuals, and we said, hey, we want to do this. We want to create this online space where we can have a directory of resources and tools, where you can actually find other shops to collaborate with, where you can ask questions, where we can do primary research, find out how's it going this year for everybody. When we explained that we want to get together and have an agency directory, so that you can find out where the other Bureau shops are around the country, help with local meet-ups. There's a list of like ten things that are really important to this community. 

We've been given the blueprint on how to take the community forward, and that's what we got to focus on, and once we launch membership, which, and the beta is going to be launched in November. The full membership is going to be launched in January. Once we launch this, we should be able to set prices for events and other things at a point where it's accessible even for a shop or an individual who's having a down year, and that's critical. 

A lot of what I've experienced at the Bureau as a shop owner and as a digital professional I experienced early on when I was really struggling. If I didn't have the opportunity to be there when I was struggling, well, showing up when everything's great isn't really as beneficial, except you get to help others, which is awesome, but the ultimate value, when you first start, is the community makes you better, and when the community makes you better, you have that innate desire to then make the community better, and that's what we've seen in the Bureau.

I want to create something with you, everybody that's listening, that is the Bureau, an opportunity for us to be better together, to go further together, to curate the content that comes out of these amazing discussions we're currently having in Slack and in Basecamp, to put them in a knowledge base that's in the community site and is accessible to everybody in the Bureau community.

This is what we're doing. This is what we have to do, because this is the  way we make an industry that is already great even better.  The events that we have are really, really well run. That's a testament to Greg Hoy and Greg Storey. For me and Brett and Laurie, I think we're carrying forward. We're adding some touches. We're doing some things, but the events are really great. 

What we have to do is fill in the gaps between the events so that at any point of the day or night, you feel like you can log in, you can see what's going on, you can ask a question specifically to the group you want to ask, and you can get an answer, so that you can look at a quarterly report and say, "Oh wow, it looks like about 40 percent of the shops in the Bureau network were down. We're not the only ones," or you can say, "We're having the best year ever. What the hell is going on?" and see there are other people having the best year ever. That's the future. That's where we're going, and we're going to get there quickly.

That's why I wanted to have myself on the show today. We are a community of passionate, opinionated, intelligent, successful, experimental, and crafty individuals, people who are making a difference. Our job at the Bureau is to connect everybody. Our job is to to amplify the great work, the great thoughts, the great things that you're already sharing. So thanks for listening today, thanks for giving me the opportunity to just spout off at the mouth a little bit. I hope that you will be a part of this great community with us, and we'll be back next week with a regular guest. I'll talk to you then. Bye.