September 23, 2021

Organizational Culture, The Virtual CMO Podcast
The Virtual CMO Podcast

The Virtual CMO Podcast

Season 6, Episode 13

Hosted By: Eric Dickmann
With Guests: Brian Roland, Travis Gravette

Our Featured Guests

Brian Roland

Brian Roland

Founder - Abenity

Brian Roland is a social entrepreneur and Founder of Abenity. He invests his time and efforts in helping like-minded entrepreneurs establish a giving plan of their own.

Travis Gravette

Travis Gravette

Chief Executive Officer - Abenity

Travis Gravette is a social entrepreneur and CEO of Abenity. He began in the non-profit sector and is now creating a great impact in his workplace. Travis continually uses his entrepreneurship skills and talent to make a social impact.

What's Hot?

"Perks are About People: Real Savings For The People Counting on You"

Abenity is a a 6x Inc. 5000 Company founded by brothers Brian and Mark Roland.  The company helps employers, alumni groups, and associations supplement their benefits with private perks and discount programs,. They are powering corporate perks for top brands including US Bank and MasterCard. 

Abenity has partnered with the world’s top brands to provide member-only access to private discounts and corporate rates on everything from pizza and the zoo, to movie tickets, oil changes, car rentals, and hotels. Brian, Travis, and their team continues to excellently provide millions of subscribers with perks and benefits while pursuing the company’s social mission which is fighting extreme poverty with every program they deliver.

Recently, the company has exceeded a million dollars of total giving and expanded its team to accelerate growth and serve clients better


Brian Roland

Shared purpose is the hidden secret to a remote team being effective."

What We Discussed with Brian and Travis

On this episode, host Eric Dickmann interviews Brian Roland and Travis Gravette about creating culture through remote relationships. Here are some highlights of our conversation:

  • [00:04:33] Managing a remote business- Brian and his brother Mark Roland faced the same pitfalls and struggle that remote companies face. First, there was the stigma that remote businesses only offer second-class service. That is why it was not until 2014 that Abenity introduced itself as one. Roland also points out that having this kind of business interestingly doesn't dilute diversity and instead promotes a tightly knit culture of mutual trust and respect even if 90% of their team hasn't met each other in person. When starting a business, it is essential to consider individuals who are willing to learn, open to criticism, and can be trusted with the smallest to the most critical responsibilities.
  • [00:08:55] The dynamics of communication in a remote business- Roland points out that there are many things to do to build a healthy remote team. Among the steps are having discipline in communication with each other and recognizing the personality profile of each team member. For instance, at Abenity, Brian makes it clear that all quick questions should be sent via their chat system, while more significant inquiries must be saved for their monthly team huddles. As much as possible, they get together face to face once a month as an entire team and once a month within their individual teams- marketing with marketing, operations with operations. Outside of their monthly meetings, they avoid needless meetups and do their best to stay on point. 
  • [00:12:38] How does culture and having a mission bond people within a company together? – Travis highlights the need for businesses to discover a bigger purpose. Business owners may focus on growing a profitable company to support their families and lifestyles, but he believes that when you have something bigger than the company, more significant than what you're selling, it brings people together to achieve this higher level purpose. Doing more than the job description and being part of a good cause can be rewarding. 
  • [00:15:05] How Abenity's social mission gravitates towards their customers and corporate partners– Brian Roland talks about Abenity's partnership with World Vision in eradicating poverty and promoting sustainability. Brian believes that having a social mission and delivering superb results to his customers weighed more than financial success. Abenity created this social mission so that there would be an output to a cause for every input into the business. Their formula was kept internal for a number of years, but in 2014, their team started sharing it more openly with their partners and later on expanded it out to the customers. They shared their social mission to customers through their sales presentations and promotional videos. Having a social mission gave their team a competitive advantage, allowing them to build a bigger and more robust network. Recently, Abenity and World Vision together grew a sustainable community and helped 116 kids graduate from school.
  • [00:23:07] Perks through the years- Travis has seen perks becoming a bigger thing now that remote work has grown and teams are more dispersed. Abenity offers many perks to employees of their partner companies; one of those is a free drink and chips with every order at Quiznos and amazing offers from Jiffy Lube and Firestone. Brian mentions that perks are a way of giving advantages to people. Whether it be giving free coffee every day or giving them discounts to local fast food restaurants, company perks are designed to provide convenience to their employees wherever they are at.  
  • [00:27:50] The secret to make remote working work- According to Travis, the hidden secret to a successful remote team is a shared purpose. He emphasizes the company's challenges during the pandemic is maintaining a tight-knit team and having a shared purpose. Gravette says that it will be tough for businesses if they haven't built some mission supported by their organization, something beyond just making money. A social mission is something that your team and customers can actively participate in together. The company's mission is successful when it becomes predictable, builds trust and confidence, and turns out to be a fantastic marketing initiative that never intended to be one. 

Resources Mentioned

  • Set up a perks program for your group with code "Founder150" to save $150 off your first month's service- Abenity
  • Text code  "Impact" or "Rules" to +1 (615) 802-6853 to get Brian's free Rules of Engagement & Impact Plan to help you build a more connected remote team- Brian Roland's Personal Website

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Eric Dickmann

About the author

Eric Dickmann is the Founder / CMO of The Five Echelon Group, host of the weekly podcast "The Virtual CMO" and YouTube series "Work-Life" and a fractional CMO for a variety of small and midsize companies. An executive leader with over 30 years of experience in marketing, product development, and digital transformation, he has worked with large, global companies and small startups to develop and execute marketing strategies to bring innovative products to the market.