Pay It Forward: Inspire Employees & Cultivate Engagement In & Out Of The Office

As an Entrepreneur who has successfully scaled up his business from my own spare bedroom into what it is today, you’d be surprised to know that I have a simple philosophy of business that has fared tremendously well across my organization:

Happy employees take care of their customers. And happy customers who are well taken care of refer new clients, pay their bills and contribute to the profitable growth of the company.

To achieve a meaningful life, I believe that you have to pay it forward. For me, paying it forward means investing in my employees so they can enjoy bountiful, fulfilled lives as well, which essentially trickles down into customers that are well taken care of, igniting the growth cycle of my business.

So, how do I pay it forward for my employees?

First, recognize the importance of having fun at the workplace. The reality in today’s world is we spend more time at work with our coworkers and peers than we do at home with our families. For employees to get enjoyment out of coming into the office every day, it’s important to have fun thrown into the mix.

Advantage Member and Marketing Expert Mike Veeck details in his book, Fun Is Good, that studies prove fun is good for business. It’s also good for customers and employees. Having fun at work means having energy and enthusiasm while tending to the tasks at hand.

At Advantage Media Group|ForbesBooks, we have a big, hairy, audacious goal called “The Road to 1,000” where we aim to publish 1,000 books a year by December 31, 2018. In honor of our BHAG, we opened the “Pub to 1,000”, which is open every Friday afternoon from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. after our weekly company meeting.

At that weekly company meeting, we highlight all the accomplishments we’ve achieved as a team. Then, we open the pub so everyone can grab a beer and converse with coworkers and friends. It’s a small thing, but makes a big difference (especially on a Friday afternoon).

When you’re here, you are family (and no, we aren’t Olive Garden). At Advantage|ForbesBooks, we create a family environment which impacts a team mentality. To build upon that family feeling, we tell our team members how they’re doing; both good and bad. Most importantly, we want to make our team member know that we’re looking out for them and want them to be “intrapreneurs” within our entrepreneurial company.

With a company that employs over 50 people, there’s a lot of good that happens that I never witness. Therefore, we created “Caught in the Act of Greatness” cards, where team members can fill out a card and recognize one another for doing great work that everyone might not see. We present these on Friday during our weekly meeting.

We also created the “Spirit of Service Pineapple Award,” as the pineapple is symbol of Charleston hospitality. Our gold pineapple is presented and passed down from one team member to another who that week exemplified one of our standards of SERVICE: Support, Encourage, Respect, Validate, Inspire, Cultivate, Engage.

Again, these are both small things but they really pay it forward and make our employees feel good about the work they’re putting in, day in and day out.

Finally, one of the biggest ways that we pay it forward to our team members: Dreamboards. When you get hired at Advantage|ForbesBooks, every team member fills out a worksheet to help them clarify their personal and professional dreams within categories such as family, financial, health, spiritual, travel, career and fun. Afterwards, one of our graphic designers goes to work designing a beautiful 2’x3’ dreamboard to present to the team member. They are gifted with two, one to hang in the office and one to hang at home.

Why create dreamboards at your company? First, every team member should have something that’s beautiful to look at everyday, to remind them of their dreams. Second, when you share your dreams with others, they can actively help and motivate you to accomplish them. Third, when your manager knows your dreams, they can actively work to help you make them a reality.

From these dreamboards I created our “Dream On” initiative, where every year one team member’s dream is granted. Do you realize how much fun it is to see your employees achieve their dreams?

At the end of the day, I truly believe that being a CEO, leader, or a manager is one of the most notable professions, because we can positively influence the lives of people in our company, departments and teams.

When you pay it forward, this has a ripple effect onto families, friends, neighbors – even strangers – creating a better community overall. By inspiring your employees, family and friends, you’re only strengthening the work they do, not only at your office, but outside in the community as well.

Adam Witty

As seen on