Five Ways to Build Community – Article 2 of 3

Engaging Employees Series – Five Actions to Build Community

By: Marcy Fortnow – Founder of Engaging Play


Date: Originally Published – April 2020


It is hard to believe, many of us are still working virtually! Some of us, certainly the people I am connecting with, my friends, colleagues, and clients, are feeling lost and disconnected. Some are struggling with low motivation and low energy. All of us are missing that sense of community that our work place world provided, and it can be lonely.

Creating community is so important now. It is not “too much” and your efforts will be appreciated. As Helen Keller said, “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much”. Great Leaders create community for others.

To see this discussion in video, check here.

Here are five ideas that create community in your organization.

  1. Virtual lunch breaks or happy hour – Lots of organizations are implementing these and I am hearing participants are having fun! People need a replacement for gathering spots like the lunch room or the coffee station. Create this opportunity for your team to gather together remotely.
  2. Asynchronous socializing – There is still a need for friendly non-work related conversation and connection. Consider using messaging tools, Slack, or even text and email for personal connection. Encourage individuals, small groups, and departments to meet up in this way.
  3. Virtual Clubs – Foster community and build stronger relationships by creating clubs that speak to people’s interests. Form book clubs, movie discussion groups, or music channels for people to develop deeper connections.
  4. Stay Active together – Look for ways to keep your community active and supportive at the same time. Create a step challenge or find a low cost subscription for your team to a yoga or exercise studio for classes. Have participants register their progress on your company’s google drive so they can share their successes.
  5. Make time for Celebrations – Recognition and celebrations are more important than ever. Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and work accomplishments as a team. Successes, milestones, and celebrations should be called out and applauded in your community!

Intentionally creating and maintaining a healthy community will help keep your employees connected, engaged, and more motivated. You can implement any or all of these ideas with your distributed team and build a more positive culture.

If you would like more support around building better connected engaged teams, scroll down and fill in the contact form below and I will be in touch! Looking forward to supporting you!

Five Actions to Build Trust – Article 1 of 3

Engaging Employees Series – Five Actions to Build Trust

By: Marcy Fortnow – Founder of Engaging Play


Date: Originally Published – June 2020

Trust is on the decline in every part of our society. Even before the Novel Corona Virus came along, trust in government, trust in organizational leadership, and trust in the media, were dropping. In a research study done in 2018 by the Grossman Group, trust in our society had fallen by 43%. With recent developments such as Covid-19, illuminated racial justice inequities, false information from government agencies and political leaders, and economic disruption, I imagine trust has fallen even further.

As a leader in your organization, it is imperative that your employees trust you. Trust is a fundamental element, especially in times of change. Lack of trust in a manager results in employee dissatisfaction, low motivation and morale, and reduced productivity. If you would like to view the video on this, click here.

I have a colleague who, as the business owner, had to lay off a member of her team. The firing understandably upset the entire staff. In another instance, a client who was implementing a reorganization in her firm, was rightly concerned that everyone involved was feeling unsettled and unsure of their future. In both cases, failure to build and maintain trust in their leadership affects their employee’s loyalty, morale, and the quality and productivity of work. Low trust will also impact staff member’s engagement, team collaboration, and inhibit future innovation.

Here are 5 things leaders can do to build trust with their employees:

  1. Be ready to intentionally work on building trust because it takes effort. Trust is not something that happens quickly or in one shot. Trust is built over repeated consistent behavior. A commitment to building trust is one of the best commitments a leader can make. Trust is the foundation of all positive interpersonal traits.
  2. Be honest, open, and transparent. Always tell the truth even when the truth isn’t pretty. Be conscious to communicate what is real and true, whether people want to hear it or not. Communication needs to be timely, relevant, and focused on what the employee needs to know and why. Honesty and transparency can sometimes be challenging, but in the end, it will build trust.
  3. Listen. A good listener is more trustworthy because they have taken the time to understand another’s perspective. Be supportive and giving and recognize that leadership is about others, it’s not about you.
  4. Be consistent with your actions and your communication. Set a consistent schedule for team and 1 on 1 meetings and keep them. There is nothing more troubling to an employee than when their manager cancels a meeting with them. Lots of leaders fell off the consistency wagon when the virus hit, but that is exactly when they needed to be communicating and exhibiting consistency even more. Consistent behavior builds trust.
  5. Reinforce the culture of your organization. Especially now, make every effort to demonstrate the traits you want to see in your people. If you expect your team to hit their deadlines, then you need to hit yours. If collaboration is a wanted part of your culture, then build opportunities for people to collaborate and positively reinforce cooperative efforts. This is not the time to let your culture go unchecked, so take an active role in making positive culture happen. Help to build relationships and community among your team members. Reinforce respect and accountability within the group.

Building trust as a leader takes focus and effort, but the rewards are great. Trust forms the basis of all relationships and so improving trust can positively impact morale, productivity, decision making, and teamwork. Trust in leadership will allow an employee’s value to shine through to the organization. Each environment is unique, so if you would like to learn more about building trust and encouraging trust in your team, contact me, Marcy Fortnow at for a consultation.

Podcast_005: Marcy Fortnow – Founder of Engaging Play

In this episode, we welcome Marcy Fortnow of Engaging Play. Engaging Play creates customized, interactive events to address your organization’s needs and bring your team together. Marcy also teaches communication, uses interactive and competitive games, and designs and leads original community builders. Engaging Play is an investment in your people to enhance your company’s culture, develop productive, loyal employees, and produce amazing results. Covid19 has been especially impactful on Marcy growing the business because efforts had to switch from face-to-face activities to virtual team building. Listen today on ways of rethinking how we connect with our staff and colleagues to improve moral.

Hybridge – Article 6 of 6

Tools of the Trade (TotT) Series – Bridge your team’s IT gap with Hybridge

By: Zach Detweiler, Ph. D.Top of Form

Date: February 11, 2021

Tags: Information technology, IT, cloud, support, outsource



When your laptop is down in today’s business world you may as well go to lunch.  If your office internet is out, everyone’s productivity grinds to a halt.  If your servers go down, you can permanently lose information and/or customers as a result.  In 2021 small businesses cannot forego IT support.


Less dire, but equally valuable IT issues exist as well.  New software apps and features are in constant development and their integration into existing business structures is the major IT related issue experienced today.1  This is followed by concerns relating to backup and recovery challenges, and security risks.


Those organizations that are ahead of the curve on information communication and technology (ICT) are positioned for better outcomes than those who are not employing modern business technology.  Employing methods such as video conference services, smartphone apps, big data, cloud computing, and CRM systems, businesses expect to see revenue increase, maintain business health, and secure comfortable cash flow at rates of 10-15% greater than those who do not utilize these tools.2


Dealing with these issues and deploying and maintaining new software and cloud tools is the purview of information technology expertise.  Although 6.9% of small business revenue goes towards IT,3 as much as 27% of businesses have no IT support whatsoever.4


Often times IT expertise is garnered from full-time employees, which provide a point source for dealing with issues within the organization.  It also provides the expertise on staff necessary to address the specific needs of certain businesses.  However, expecting a single person or even a team of a few employees to manage the entire modern IT/ICT landscape is a tall order.  Fortunately, these broad expertise are now available in the form of managed service providers.


One such service provider that I have experience with is Hybridge.  Hybridge provides IT support through the cloud, allowing remote services and troubleshooting.  They were instrumental to establishing our internal software infrastructure, both consulting on software programs, and seamlessly integrating these for daily use.  I personally enjoyed the ability to reach out to Hybridge with issues and find that they were addressed with minimal input and zero follow up necessary.  Whether that problem was a calendar sync issue, setting up a VPN, or dealing with outdated hardware, the team always provided timely and expert solutions.


I particularly appreciated their aid in onboarding new employees.  Integrating new employees to the team was effortless: Hybridge prompts you with the necessary items they need (computer details, contact information, etc.), establishes email and other business account information for the new employee, and sets up a workstation such that the new employee can hit the ground running on day one.  All remotely.


At a cost of $100/month/employee, this equates to $24,000 per year for twenty employees.  While not a trivial expenditure, it is well below the cost a full-time employee runs ($44k to $110k per year)!


If your business needs dedicated IT/ICT individuals to support your core business, I would not suggest waiving this requirement for a managed service provider.  Conversely, even with staffed IT support, it does not seem cost efficient to go without complimentary services more efficiently provided by an organization such as Hybridge.


Perhaps the only drawback of an organization such as Hybridge is the remote aspect of their services for those organizations outside of the San Francisco Bay Area.  I found this to be a minimal drawback, but if you are looking for a more personal touch, or the ability for your provider to come onsite with little activation energy, I would certainly recommend finding similar local providers where they may exist.


At the end of the day, the expertise and experience available from Hybridge was not only exceptional, but it was also comforting.  It filled an important gap in our organizational expertise and allowed our team to focus on the core of the business.




(1)        Casey, C. 7 Most Common Technology Problems for Small Businesses (accessed Feb 10, 2021).

(2)        Sun, M. H.-N., Kwadwo Frimpong, and Hao. Trends in the Information Technology Sector. Brookings, 2019.

(3)        6 Managed Services Stats Every Business Owner Should Know. Hill Country Tech Guys, 2017.

(4)        10 I.T Statistics on Small Businesses and Their Technology (accessed Feb 11, 2021).


Focus, Flow State and Distraction (Monkey Mind)

Focus, Flow State and Distraction (Monkey Mind)

Leadership/ Management Series

Date: February 06, 2021

Author: Jared Warrick


Tags: Focus, Flow State, Distraction, Disruption, Rian Doris, Flow Research Collective, Batch, Tech, Monkey Mind, Bineural Beats, Horo Timer


We all want to be more productive, yet it seems that there are more and more distractions being thrown at us every day – family, business, technology – tech is actually designed to capture and hold our attention for the maximum amount of time to benefit 3rd parties (advertisers, social media outlets, news outlets, influencers, etc.). In today’s world of ubiquitous wifi, cybercafes, and remote work due to COVID, this is “the water we swim in”1. We are in a constant distraction mode aka Monkey Mind. As a competitive person this frustrates me personally as I need the tangible result, the completion of things to check it off the list. Not doing so leaves me feeling anxious and soon the action item list grows longer and longer, and prioritizing becomes more complex. There are tools to deal with this – like Meditation and Breathwork, but I want to share something more direct and to the point.

When the opportunity to sign up for The Flow Research Collectives (FRC) Distraction Disruptor2 came through, I jumped on it and signed up. Dorian Rias (cofounder of FRC) walks us through (7) 30-minute discussions about distraction, and how it impacts performance AND coaches a cohort through using tools to regain focus and eliminate distraction. Now, Dorian’s methods are pretty “Scorched Earth” many would say, but customizing even a few of these brings hours and hours of productivity back over the course of the week. Trying this for 1 week has noticeably increased my output and quality of output.


Some reasons to look into methods like those at the FRC are:

  1. The average productive time in today’s world of employees is a dismal 11 minutes daily.2
  2. Anxiety and depression are on the rise in teens, linked directly to tech – this has been known as far back as 2012.3 The adults in today’s workforce have experienced tech interruption their whole lives.
  3. It takes 23 min 15 sec to return to original task after an interruption.4 So, check [insert favorite social media platform here] for 30 seconds and you are then killing productivity for that time plus 24 minutes.
  4. People have so little focus, they switch tasks/ activities in mere minutes.2,4
  5. People check their email daily an average of 74 times in an 8 hr period.3


So, doing the math, this doesn’t work out if you want to get anything done. That said, Dorian at FRC has a very extreme set of tools to disconnect from the distractions – just get rid of them! Things like, turn off your phone until you are ready to use it purposefully, or check email 2 or 3X per week, etc. I understand where they come from, if you’re on one end of the spectrum, going to the other side helps you find the balance in the middle. This is something I learned while attempting higher level skills in gymnastics. But I wanted to share here 10 things I think are more practical for the small business owner, their teams and entrepreneurs who still need to be accessible to a certain level.



  1. Take 5 deep breaths before starting a task to reset your focus. Have a glass of water, coffee or tea by your desk.
  2. Shut all windows on your computer down EXCEPT for the one you’re working on.
  3. Check email only 2-3X per day based on what works for YOUR schedule. You can add a line in the signature part of the email telling everyone how often you will check it and what to do if it’s an emergency.
  4. Shutoff un-necessary notifications on your cell phone. I was surprised – I had 68 apps on my phone and I only really cared about the phone calls and texts, so I SHUTOFF 66 app notifications that constantly divert attention! Awesome!
  5. Log out of all social media after use. This creates a temporary delay that if you do go on it, it should be purposeful, short and then log out.
  6. Phone – set unique ringtones for important contacts that you must answer. Ignore all others on standard ring tone and turn the ringtone down.
  7. Use noise cancelling headphones to eliminate distraction. I also use Bi-Neural Beats5 (free app) for a white noise background to increase focus (btw – my wife thinks I am psycho for this).
  8. Download a timer app like Horo for Mac (free).6 Set the timer for the amount of time to focus – make it a large stretch – say 1 – 2 hours. The timer will alarm when you’re done. If you finish a task early, move on down your to do list. There are similar apps for Windows/PCs.
  9. Have a nature scene for your background that calms you. Keep the desktop clean and clutter free so the picture is what you see when you log on, close or open an app. A cluttered desktop is majorly distracting.
  10. Have a policy in meetings all phones off OR give all your phones to a person not in the meeting and have them filter critically important calls only. A majority – almost 100% will not be and can wait until the meeting is over.


These may seem like a lot, but trust me, these are very effective and help improve you and your team’s productivity and quality output. Getting rid of distraction is great for mental health as well by reducing anxiety and depression.


This is not a substitute for going through the FRC module, but a few starters to prime you. If you want to learn more techniques and boost your productivity more by eliminating or reducing distraction, I highly advise taking the course and sitting through the modules. It is a worthy investment of anyone’s time who is experiencing digital overload and lack of quality output. If you want to discuss this topic more and have us help you apply what we learned to your organization, please do not hesitate to reach out at




  1. “Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age”, By Maggie Jackson
  4. Multiple Studies: Gloria Mark, University of California Irvine.
  5. Bi-Neural Beats –
  6. Horo Timer –

Podcast_004: Jason Jacobsohn – Founder Propellant Ventures/ Founder Institute/ Adjunct Professor Depaul University

Join us as we interview Jason Jacobsohn of Propellant Ventures. Jason is in capital investment focusing on early stage healthcare, future work, supply chain, fintech, and edtech startups. Propellant Ventures is a seed and pre-seed stage VC firm. Jason relied heavily in face to face meetings, personal meetups, & networking with goal oriented business / individuals but had to quickly change due to the Covid19 pandemic. Propellant now focuses on virtual networking and envisions this is will be the future. Listen today to this great interview!

Small Business & Entrepreneurial Support in Huntley, IL

What makes for effective small business & entrepreneurial support in Huntley, IL?

Our network of Subject Matter Experts can plug in for almost any problem facing a small business or entrepreneur. From Advisory positions to setting up supply chains or positioning your business for scale up or exit.

What is the usual time frame in executing a strategic plan?

1- 3 months. More complex projects can last 6 months or more. Depends on scope.

What are the 4 key elements of strategic planning?

Align Strategic Vision, set milestones, develop action plan, take action

What are the benefits of executing strategic planning in a manufacturing business?

Mitigate risk and increase speed to achieving major milestones

Is strategic planning necessary in a manufacturing operation?

Absolutely. Without a map, you do not know where you will end up. Having a strategic vision, laser like focus on the right metrics and a solid actionable plan that mitigates risk and moves the ball forward faster ensures owners will meet their targets.


Training Services in Manufacturing in Huntley, IL


Is training necessary in manufacturing?

Quality Systems, Production Systems, OSHA, regulatory items

What types of training services are available in Huntley, IL?

In person, remote, video with tests for information retention, integrated systems to Quality Management Systems, and Interactive training are offered.


Quality Systems in Manufacturing in Huntley, IL


What are quality systems in manufacturing in Huntley, IL?

ISO9001- general business, AS9100D – Aerospace, IATF16949 – automotive, ISO17025 – lab accreditation are a few.

What is ISO for manufacturing?

It’s a Quality Management System covering key aspects to mitigate risk in supplying product to customers.

What is IATF for manufacturing?

IATF 16949 is the automotive standard required for all suppliers to OEMs that mitigates risk in manufacturing products and services.


Active Networking in Manufacturing in Huntley, IL?


What is meant by active networking?

Sharing of capabilities to support American Made, Buy Local initiative. By knowing each others capabilities and operating in a network we build trust and long lasting relationships.

How will a manufacturing business benefit from active networking?

Established trust and relationships are a benefit to customer service and responsiveness.

Technical Sourcing in Manufacturing in Huntley, IL?

What is technical sourcing?

With new products, we work with the right partners to source your required parts to vendors with the proper capabilities based on the engineering parameters.

How can technical sourcing benefit a manufacturing business in Huntley, IL?

Reduced time to get pilot parts, identify best fit with correct suppliers who can execute reduces risk of late and incorrect deliveries. We help communicate your vision, intent and needs.

Regulatory Certification in Manufacturing in Huntley, IL?

Why is a regulatory certification important in manufacturing?

Government and industry regulations are required to be compliant for shipment of products in certain industries. Foregoing them could result in fines, government intervention or lawsuits and shut down your business.

What can I expect in handling regulatory certification matters in Huntley, IL?

Our SME (Subject Matter Experts) who understand your industry and your service through discussion and interviews can advise and help with application and establishing a robust process to ensure compliance.

New Product Introduction in Manufacturing in Huntley, IL

There’s a new product I want to introduce to the market at the soonest time possible. Is there a way for me to do this quickly?

Quickly is a relative term. It relates to the complexity and regulations required for your parts in that particular industry. We can help you put together the most robust development process with proper Stage Gates to ensure not only fastest time to market, but that you don’t miss critical validation steps along the way to production readiness.

What can I expect in a new product introduction service in Huntley, IL?

By surveying your business, the product being designed and the industry, we can put together a roadmap and help you design a robust validation process that you can execute for all products within that niche.

Export Strategies & Models in Manufacturing in Huntley, IL

What makes an effective export strategy in manufacturing?

Understanding the workings of all the players in the logistics chain, necessary paperwork, insurance requirements and regulatory requirements is key for a solid export strategy. Chicago is one of the major hubs for US trade.

How do you develop an effective export strategy and models in manufacturing in Huntley, IL?

We will work with you and your team to survey the business, the supply chain, proper inventory levels and freight/ logistics necessary to execute an effective import/ export model.

Why are export strategies and models important in manufacturing?

Without a solid model, running out of parts/ shutdowns, items held at port, wasted time and money result. Ultimately, can lose customers fast.