(Project Smile is CULT’s non-profit charitable initiative aimed at providing help and happiness to people who find both hard to come by. Activities include: volunteering at soup kitchens in Calgary, providing meals and entertainment to Ronald McDonald Houses, and an annual service project to over a dozen impoverished communities in the outskirts of Mazatlan, Mexico).

Lending a Helping Hand

Yesterday150709_727517233990853_136682454277719441_n, seven of my colleagues and I left for another eye opening, hard working, team building, do good/feel good week in Mazatlan, Mexico. Our mission is simple: make a positive difference in the lives of those in need. This will be my second time taking a week away from my laptop, cell phone and demanding deadlines to spend a week volunteering with my colleagues. It cost me a few vacation days and some personal inconveniences; friends, family, clients and Cult generously cover all other expenses. West Jet donated all the airfare and waived their baggage fees (which is significant because we’re toting along hundreds of pounds of donated clothing and personal hygiene products).

Upon our departure, I took a few moments to reflect on why I love participating in Project Smile and why Cult is so committed to it. This trip aligns perfectly with my own personal values, and also our company’s four core values. Here’s what I mean:

Personal Initiative:

Cult’s culture caters to those with ambition and passion and people who can thrive within ambiguity. Employees are asked to spend 357 days a year proactively looking for solutions to whatever challenges our agency or clients face. The Project Smile work in Mexico offers us the opportunity to use that same drive and determination to look for solutions to problems we are completely unfamiliar with, such as poverty, sickness, and homelessness.

Positive Attitude:

In our offices, positive attitudes affect our teammates, clients and the quality of our work. Optimism is contagious. And negativity is toxic. Project Smile naturally gives our team the opportunity to re-fuel on positivity. While the circumstances we witness can be very depressing (especially to outsiders unfamiliar with third world living), it is remarkable to see the positive spirits of those living in it. These impoverished communities find ways to love and rear their children, display charity to their neighbors, and support each other. It is impossible to come back from our trip without a surge of optimism and an even greater can-do attitude.

Teamwork:

Cult is filled with ridiculously talented people who understand how to work well within teams. We foster a collaborative environment where everyone feels valued and goes out of their way to help others be successful. Teamwork is mandatory on these Mexico trips. It takes all of us to do the fundraising. It takes all of us to dig through the sunbaked hardened clay to install electrical lines or plumbing from one building to the next. No one person can prepare and distribute meals to the hundreds of families we feed. And no one person can host over 400 children at a carnival we put on (my personal highlight of the trip) to spread some joy to kids who have so little. Taking our team outside of their comfort zones, for not one day but seven days, inevitably presents new opportunities to learn how to work with one another.

Craftsmanship:

Cult employees have an insatiable appetite to keep growing and mastering our crafts. We understand that our clients pay us to provide best-in-class solutions to their problems so we do whatever is necessary to remain top in our respective fields. But this trip is a perfect friendly reminder that there is more to life than marketing. We must stay humble and open our eyes to the world outside our day-to-day routines. It’s important to be good at what we do, but it is equally important to be good people.

Too often company values are ignored or thought of as platitudes in the employee manual, rarely being revisited or lived. But they should inspire employees to become their best selves and excel at everything they do. I feel pretty darn lucky that Cult has created an opportunity for us to participate in Project Smile activities, because they inspire and motivate me, what more could you ask for?