Last month, we traveled to Banff, Canada for The Gathering to talk with marketing leaders from the world’s most-coveted brands. We wanted to find out what it takes to create a cult brand and what elevates a brand from “respected” to “iconic.” While we were there, we had a chance to chat with these leaders to get their insights on creativity. We spoke with Fiasco Gelato’s Chief Idea Officer and CEO James Boettcher to find out how his company creates an environment where collaboration can thrive.
How did you get into this business?
James: It’s totally by accident. I was doing freelance design and strategy, and Fiasco was a client. I fell in love with the brand, and accidentally found myself in charge of it.
How did collaboration play a role as you were building the business?
In 2011, I started another company called Calgary Food Trucks, and our tagline there is, “Collaboration is the new competition.” It permeates into a lot of business that we do now. I think so often businesses are looking at competition instead of trying to figure out a way that you can build things together. For us at Fiasco, that’s at the core of what we do. We do a series called this, “Love This City Collaboration.” We featured, I think, 14 brands, local and national, and found a way just to highlight each other’s strengths, and then tell a story around it.
“So often businesses are looking at competition instead of trying to figure out a way that you can build things together.”—James Boettcher, Chief Idea Officer and CEO at Fiasco Gelato
What does creative energy mean to you?
I always think that companies have to create the space for that to exist. Too often brands are trying to force it. The moments when I’m most creative are not 9:00 to 5:00. 9:00 to 5:00 is like, “Great, I had coffee,” and then I probably did a lot of email… But I’m not in the zone. I think you’ve got to create an environment where your team can seize those moments.
Is there anything else you do in your physical environment at work to foster that energy?
Yeah… We have a spot called Bocce Land, which has a bunch of couches and ladder balls. So when people come and do tours, they’re like, “Do you guys even do work here? This seems weird.” I think that if you just create this environment where in the physical workplace people can be like, “I don’t wanna work at my desk right now, so I’ll go sit in the cafe, or I’ll go lay in the grass that’s not real.”
When are you most in flow? Is there a particular day or time of day when you feel most energized and least distracted?
Every Monday, we do a thing called Mojo. We share what’s going on in the week, and do a team lunch together, so it works perfectly. That Monday afternoon, maybe, is the best time. We’ll put a bunch of ideas out. It’s kind of like mixing music… You’re playing with the dials. There’s no boundaries on time or anything like that.
Are there any obstacles that get in the way of your creativity?
I would say I only get in my own way. I choose what I want to work on, and the team does it as well. Then if I’m not feeling it, I’d just go do something else and then come back to it. When you create this prison out of the workplace, it’s like people are stuck, and then they’re just [thinking], “I wasted a whole afternoon staring at a screen instead of going for a workout, or going for a coffee, or having a nap and then making dinner and getting at it again.”
How does technology play a role in your process?
I think we might have been Dropbox user 001, or something. I don’t remember a search bar, actually. At the start, it was just like, “Put stuff in Dropbox.” I was like, “Yes.” So early adopters (of) stuff like that. Slack was a big one… I prioritize our team’s communication, so I look at Slack rather than email. We’re very internally focused. If we didn’t have that, it’d be trying to filter through the team on email. So that changed things for us.
We use a thing called 15Five, which is a weekly review. They fill out a thing where they get asked five questions and they kind of rotate. At the beginning of the week, they get to see where they’re at. Then it comes to me, and I can see what’s going on in their world, how I can support and challenge them. So it allows for a one-on-one every week with all the people that work with me.
Can you tell us about something innovative that happened at Fiasco that you’re proud of?
For those of you that don’t know, Fiasco makes a lot of different flavors, like blueberry basil. When we launched it people were like, “What is wrong with you? No one’s buying that. They want vanilla.” Then all of a sudden, it’s very popular. We just added lime to raspberry, it’s not revolutionary, but at the same time, no one else is doing it. We’re willing to take those chances. We don’t listen so much to what the market says to us about what we should do. When people say, “Are you gonna follow this trend?” I’m like, “Well, that doesn’t seem like us.”
One more question. If you had any advice to give to your younger self what would it be?
Trust your gut. Because every time I have not, it has been right. It’s hard to do, because often it goes against what others are telling you. Then you get to the other side, and you’re like, “I knew. I absolutely knew it.”
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