For the past 6.5+ years I have been an integral part of the Manoverboard team. As Manoverboard’s longest running employee, I’m in a unique position to share some insights about this great company—how it evolved, and how it eventually grew to become the first B Corporation in Manitoba.
When I first met Andrew Boardman our company’s founder, he was looking to hire his first full-time employee. He’d already been at it for 7 years working with a close colleague and a network of contractors, but it was time to grow in a new way. Andrew’s kind nature is apparent at any first introduction—there’s no doubt when you meet him that he’s “good people”. Together we hashed out the details of a freelance trial position where I would eventually prove my worth as a designer, and get hired full-time.
I was still quite fresh when I started out, having previously held positions as a junior designer in an ad agency, as a freelancer, and as a part-time design instructor for a workplace skills pilot project. I already had decent design chops but my development skills were pretty weak. I needed to solidify my understanding of HTML and CSS and develop a deep understanding of WordPress. Manoverboard had worked with a variety of other content management systems in the past but WordPress had been identified as the direction for the future. I was given the necessary time to grow on-the-go through books, training videos, and other self-teaching.
For years, we experienced growth and success. As a part of a small team you have more influence in the results of each project. You also have more responsibility, and need to wear many hats. We tackled increasingly bigger projects, eventually to the point where there wasn’t enough bandwidth to keep up with the workload coming in. It was time to hire again, and Jory joined our team. A talented web designer from the Big City (Ottawa), Jory brought immense knowledge of interface design and user experience. Through the course of any given project, each one of us would make our own contribution to its success. Knowing that everything your company produces has been made possible in some way by your actions has always given me a strong sense of fulfillment.
The need to wear many hats never really goes away in a small company, but we eventually settled into our primary roles—Andrew as overall lead, Jory as lead designer, and I as lead developer. Together we were producing increasingly higher quality work. We were at a point where we really wanted to define who and what Manoverboard was—to position ourselves as experts in our field. We worked with Cal Harrison, a business development consultant, to begin narrowing our vertical. At the time, many of our clients were non-profits, educational institutions, and socially responsible businesses so it seemed natural to focus on them. These sorts of organization tend to do the good in the world that we want to do, but that can’t necessarily be achieved directly by a design firm. In short, we were helping people who help people.
That’s when we heard about B Corporations. Andrew explained that they were a new kind of company, and a new way of doing business. Becoming a B Corp was a way to position our company on the side of good. Manoverboard has always had the opinion that what makes a company good was more than a good bottom line. That having a positive impact on the environment and people too—on the planet as a whole—was where the real good was. This triple bottom line attitude has always been at the heart of Manoverboard, and the heart of its founder. It just didn’t yet have a name.
In 2013, Manoverboard completed its first B Corp assessment and became the first Certified B Corporation in Manitoba. We wear our B Corp status as a badge of honor, and strive to increase our impact and B Score constantly. In 2016, Manoverboard was even awarded the honor of B Corp’s Best for the World, in the Employees category. We’ve grown to a team of 4 with the addition of Robyn Kacperski, a talented designer, and illustrator with huge knowledge of book-binding, print and pre-press.
‘B’eing The Change
As designers we are very powerful. Each one of us has immense power to help others. We have the power to simplify, clarify and amplify the message, and influence the work and outcomes of individuals and organizations. At Manoverboard we often refer to the axiom of Spiderman’s Uncle Ben: “With great power comes great responsibility.” It’s as true for designers as it was for Spiderman. Our hope is that we are empowering just businesses and organizations with just causes, and not directly or indirectly contributing to the global level of ‘world suck’.
It’s easy to come to work when you love the studio, the people, and the projects. At Manoverboard, we are doing our very best every day to save the world through the work that we do, and the clients with whom we work. I have a sense of accomplishment in what I do, and I believe that the work I do here has value, and purpose. I believe in this company with all my heart, and I’m proud to have contributed to its success.