Behind the Hustle
Stories worth telling.
Stories worth telling.
BUILDING A LEGACY THROUGH TIME AND TRADITION
Repetition is a part of nearly every breathing creature’s reality. Whether or not we realize it, routine is how we learn: how we adapt and live out our day-to-day lives. Going through the same motions time and time again is a survival instinct and contrary to popular belief, doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result isn’t actually crazy. If anything, it points to the capacity of the human imagination and our ability to advance as the result of our commitment to patterns. Repetition has a more nuanced meaning among humans than it does in the monotonous life of, say, a hummingbird – a creature that must eat all day long just to survive. While we might go to the gym every day and expect to see a change in our fitness over time, the hummingbird will continue to feed constantly and get the same result each time: more fuel to make it to the next flower. There is something comforting about the familiar, but it’s also interesting to look at the role of repeated actions in the lives of humans vs. animals. Perhaps one of our main differences, whether it’s a daily routine or an annual ritual, is the human capacity to develop and maintain traditions as more than a method of survival, but as something that gives our lives a richness that may be unattainable by other species. Intelligence aside, fulfilling tradition is part of what makes humans so different from other earthly inhabitants. Traditions bring us together. They are a source of identity as much as they are a source of joy and routine. And for us at DLX, they are a cornerstone of the company culture. To really understand our brand, you need to know who we are and where we come from. If you don’t know that, I encourage you to read this post first. If you know our story, it should be no surprise that the tight-knit team who founded DLX made it a priority to build and nurture the company as they would their own families. The result has been nothing short of magical, and as cheesy as that word reads it’s the only adjective that accurately describes what DLX has created over the last 9 years.
What began with homemade casseroles, leftovers, and the occasional Little Caesars pizza, has grown into what hungry Hustlers now affectionately know as Monday Lunch. Back in the founding days, a very small group of OG staff, working in an even smaller office space, would occasionally press pause to share a bite together. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was DLX. That motley crew – hustling to make the DLX dream a reality and content with whatever showed up in a crockpot on any given day – is to thank for what has turned into a formalized Monday tradition and for DLX’s continued success in general. COVID presented the challenge of making what was once a communal lunch into a more individualized experience, but we adapted. At first, we attempted socially distanced, outdoor eating, but as the weather got colder and the threat of COVID got higher, we retreated to our workspaces to enjoy our individually packaged lunches, including meals for those with dietary restrictions (as one of those people I can speak for all of us in saying how grateful we are). From crockpot creations to fully catered meals from local restaurants, the Monday lunch has evolved as the company did. Now that we’re all vaccinated and able to gather a bit more freely, we’ve begun to safely congregate on Monday afternoons to reconnect, refuel, and reflect on our humble beginnings.
The OG Hustle Mom, Katie Urhausen, wanted to find a way to continue celebrating Hustler birthdays as our crew grew and individual festivities became less feasible. Thus, the most highly anticipated event of the month was adopted: Cake Day. Each and every month we are treated to decadent cupcakes (more pandemic-friendly than cake) from a local market. Unnecessary expenditures like these are usually the first to go when a company looks at improving its bottom line, but DLX isn’t like most companies. Our leaders decided early on that there would be non-negotiable features of the DLX culture, things that reiterate the ethos of being relationship-centric, people-oriented, and make our staff feel recognized. While Cake Day might seem superfluous to an outsider or new addition, little morale boosts like these are part of what makes working at DLX special and that is worth fighting for, as emphasized by Katie.
The history of challenge coins is rooted in tradition, but the annual release of a new DLX coin helps us tell the story of where we’ve been and where we’re going with a pocket-sized memento. Within DLX culture, challenge coins are used as an indicator of our belonging to the team. Similar to other DLX swag like t-shirts, socks, and even boxer briefs, the insignia branding and sleek design of our coins make them a highly desired item and sought-after conversation starter. The coins also serve a dual purpose of conveying camaraderie to the frontline heroes our products serve. The origin of challenge coins can be traced back to the military, like the personal stories of many of our champion customers. They understand the nuanced meaning of challenge coins and their representation of brotherhood better than most. It only made sense then, to extend the challenge coins beyond our team to the people who are out there on the ground making a difference with a little help from their friends here at DLX. It has become a DLX tradition to carry challenge coins. Whether it be to compete in a coin check drinking game among friends or to hand off to a well-deserving contact, we make it a priority to have them with us always. This year we rolled out not one, but two new challenge coins to represent what was accomplished in 2020 – a year that redefined our positioning in the world of rapid deployment products.
ANNUAL DLX BBQ & BOIL
It’s the pinnacle social event of DLX’s year – a moment to step back from the serious nature of our work and celebrate the friendships forged through our collaborative efforts with our customers and with each other. This year was my first time attending the Annual DLX BBQ & Boil; the pandemic forced us to take a leap year from full-scale festivities last summer. As the BBQ week neared and our out-of-town team members and friends began to arrive at DLX Headquarters, I could sense joyful anticipation among those who have attended before (I would discover their excitement to be fully justified). In accordance with tradition, the merriment spanned multiple days and included a happy hour, a day trip to the river for crawfishing, and treats throughout the week – all leading up to the 8th annual BBQ & Boil event on August 7th, 2021. This year the event’s bragging rights included: a shaved ice van, a professional face painter, four bounce houses, two custom DLX piñatas, a basketball court, giant Jenga, cornhole, a photo booth van, beers brewed and poured by our neighbors at Viking Braggot, and an absolutely massive amount of food (yes, crawfish included). Just by reading the above-mentioned list, you can probably gather that “fun” is a primary objective of this tradition.
“But why?” With an open invite to all champion customers, employees, and their loved ones, the purpose of the annual BBQ & Boil can be found in its guest list. This is a chance to celebrate those who have been a part of the DLX success story. Our founders recognize the sacrifices involved in making the DLX dream a reality, and the BBQ & Boil is really just another way to say, “We see you and we appreciate you.” There is a huge emphasis on making this a family-friendly event, as we know a Hustler’s time at work is time spent away from their children and partners. The people who give our team a soft place to land when they go home each night are just as much a part of the team as the people who are on our payroll. When I began this blog post about DLX traditions, I only had photos from past BBQ & Boils as a reference to write about the event. While I could gather details about activities and likely the intention, it was worth the wait to be able to write about the event from my experience. For me, the most important takeaway wasn’t just a good time. It was the faces behind each of my team members and behind our team as a whole. Now, when I look at our General Manager Adam Barr…I don’t just see Adam. I think of his son enthusiastically eating a fruit rollup utterly unphased by the party happening around him. When I hear about the man who introduced our sales manager to DLX’s president, I now get to recall the time we sat in the grass together and swapped stories. Each time I encounter our sewing lead Oscar, I will remember his oldest daughter sharing her piñata candy with me. The benefits of such a connection are difficult to quantify, but there is something to be said about a team who can think about one another in a more amicable – more human – way. While the pandemic certainly dashed the possibility of a big company BBQ last summer, it encouraged us to find other ways to connect, even at a distance, and reinforced the importance of such team-building events.
FRIDAY BEERS AND CARNE ASADA
In lieu of the BBQ & Boil last year, we started new traditions that allowed smaller numbers of us to come together safely and celebrate what we accomplished that week. Working from home was never an option for DLX employees, especially for those who work in the actual manufacturing of shelter parts and accessories. Friday beers were a long-standing tradition that rewarded our warehouse employees for hustling the longest hours, with the most physically demanding job in the company, even before the pandemic. In the face of COVID and with a huge uptick in shelter demand, these Hustlers rose to every occasion. So in true DLX fashion, it only made sense we’d use that as a reason to do something special. To elevate Friday beers to the next level, many members of our production crew – with various backgrounds in kitchens – took it upon themselves to collaborate with our HR Director and commenced a new tradition: the COVID-safe Carne Asada BBQ. Together they organized every detail from grocery shopping to grilling. Our first of these events was back in October 2020, which meant eating outside throughout the Oregon winter if we wanted to safely continue the tradition. Freezing temperatures didn’t stop us from seizing the opportunity to bond over tacos courtesy of our coworkers and employer. As we inch closer to the other side of the pandemic, we have a new tradition or two to show for it. These events are more than just a meal, they’re a physical representation of our staff’s tenacity to remain positive and connected through uncertain times.
October 2020 was a month where the sharp contrast of “life before the pandemic” vs. “life now” became even more apparent. As the seasons changed and we were all forced back indoors, the frustration of ever-changing regulations and general isolation was starting to weigh on us and our families. With the holiday season approaching, many of the DLX parents worried about how they would make sure their kids didn’t miss out on childhood defining moments like trick-or-treating. This time inspired by the DLX Creative Director, we made it our mission to transform DLX Hustle Headquarters into a sprawling haunted house complete with gloved ghouls (DLX staff) passing out candy along a one-way route, all to ensure the DLX kids could have a safe trick or treating experience. While this tradition might look different in the future, seeing all the adorable kids in costume was just as good for our morale as it was for theirs.
GLOBAL PARTNERS CONFERENCE
DLX established so many new traditions in the last year, we figured why not one more? Last month we hosted the inaugural DLX Global Partners Conference in Guadalajara Mexico – putting our work hard, play hard philosophy back in practice after a year of mostly just working hard. Initially, this was pitched as a Hustlers-only trip to celebrate the grand opening of the DLX LATAM office, which was a part of the DLX business plan before the company even formally existed. Reaching this milestone was an affirmation to DLX founders that the company was doing all the things it sought out to do. In assessing how we got here, a commitment to personal relationships with our customers stands out as the main catalyst to our success. We literally could not and would not be in business without them putting their trust in our products and advocating for DLX’s customer service. So, it also wouldn’t have made sense to celebrate this new office milestone without extending the invitation to the people and companies that helped get us here. Thus commenced the planning of our first conference. We wanted the event to be informative and educational, but also a much-needed dose of fun after a very serious, difficult year for most of our customers. Albeit a learning curve, we pulled off a successful four-day event with three days of speakers, product training, and group meals, and a grand finale in the form of a cultural excursion to a tequila factory on the last day. We took away many lessons from our time spent together in Guadalajara but more importantly, we reemphasized what we already knew: company culture is key, and preserving one that is built on camaraderie is our corridor to continued success.
CULTURE GROWS ON THE VINE OF TRADITION
I once read that traditions reveal what your family values enough to repeat time and time again. At DLX, this family places a lot of value on making people feel seen and celebrating our accomplishments as a unit. I don’t think the founders knew just how important traditions would become to the DLX culture and truthfully, when some of them started they were probably just kind acts – not necessarily events destined to become traditions that would still be going strong nearly a decade later. But as Katie Urhausen, Creative Director and OG Hustle Mom explained: “We won’t always do things perfectly as a company, but if, at the end of the day, the people here feel seen and celebrated, then we’re doing something right – and developing a culture of traditions helps make that happen.”
Of the many lessons learned from COVID-19, one of our biggest was to never take for granted an opportunity to gather. As life as we knew it walks a blurry line of one day resuming, it seemed like a worthy time to look at the role traditions play at our company, how we’ve managed to maintain them through the pandemic, and what new traditions came to be because of what we went through together. Here’s to the preservation of OG traditions, the continuation of COVID-era traditions, and to celebrating the people who help make it all happen.
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