Remote working has enabled employers to hire people not only who live anywhere but who come from a wealth of diverse backgrounds, bringing to the table a range of personal and professional experiences that can serve to make a company stronger.
In the case of Vista, hiring a team with a rich and varied CV has also paved the way for a dramatic brand recasting.
“We know that this transformation requires the best teams we can find,” said CMO Ricky Engelberg, who joined the company in 2019 and has been instrumental in reshaping the company, once known for printing business cards, into a multifaceted design and marketing partner for small businesses. “We want the best of so many different experiences and learnings. We need people that have been at Vista for 10 years, people that spent the last few years with companies that have seen massive growth with digital services, people that have been at smaller companies that are emerging. Blending these collective experiences increases the odds of creating great teams that can help serve small businesses.”
Engelberg himself brings to Vista experience with some of the world’s top sports apparel companies, having previously been vp of brand at Converse and, before that, having spent 13 years with Nike.
Since its repositioning, the company has rapidly expanded, acquiring several companies now under the Vista umbrella: among them, social media template and design company Crello (now VistaCreate) and 99Designs, an Australia-based design firm that connects freelance designers with clients. Last October, it launched a partnership with web development company Wix.
The company, while focused on small businesses, has also built partnerships with some heavy hitters, notably from the sports world — including the Boston Celtics and Liverpool FC.
After transitioning to fully remote operations in August 2020, Vista has also been on a serious hiring spree, attracting marketing, design, content, strategy and tech talent from companies as diverse as Target, Netflix, Verizon, Paypal and Apple. The team is based worldwide, operating from bases as farflung as Holland, Brooklyn and Minneapolis. As Engelberg put it, “All is made so much easier with remote-first, as the first question to a candidate is, ‘Do you want to help small businesses?’ Never do we ask ‘Are you willing to move your whole life to another city?’”
Kate Armstrong, Vista’s vp of brand and previously vp, global integrated media at Nike, said she joined Vista a year ago principally because of the people there, which she called “smart, passionate and collaborative.” She was also drawn because of its mission to help small businesses, notably during this challenging time, as well as being part of a total brand transformation.
The fully remote nature of the company was also a major part of her decision, she added. “I’ve been a longtime resident of Portland, Oregon. My friends and family, my community, my work with Meals on Wheels here is an incredibly important part of my life,” she explained. “Being able to join Vista and not have to move was an awesome opportunity and benefit.”
The remote setup said a lot to her about the company’s leadership and Vista itself. “They pivoted from the beginning of the pandemic, listened to the voices and needs of their employees, and made a significant shift to address that,” she said.
Armstrong leads Vista’s brand marketing team, which was instrumental in new business like the Celtics and Liverpool FC pacts. “Typical sports marketing partnerships focus on brand exposure, but because there was no sense of ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ at Vista, we’ve been able to reimagine what these partnerships look like and use them to help local small businesses in really innovative and meaningful ways.”
Steve Gianakouros, vp of design at Vista — who joined the company in November 2020 from Netflix, where he was vp, UX and design — said he was lured by the challenge of building out a whole new UX and design operation, but the main appeal for him was the idea of democratizing design for business owners. “I come from a family of small business owners,” he related. “Design and marketing are often a struggle. Most small business owners don’t understand design or its value in helping start or grow their business. It’s mysterious and expensive … and working with agencies or high-priced graphic designers is not an option.”
Vista’s remote arrangement was also a significant selling point for Gianakouros, enabling him to move himself and his family back to his hometown of New York from California, where they’d lived for the past decade. “With the time saved from not commuting, I’m able to have more quality time with my wife and kids,” he said.
Alexis Lotzko, Vista’s director of global brand activations and formerly director of global premium marketing partnerships at Spotify, called joining Vista just over a year ago a no-brainer — as helping small businesses is a personal passion. Lotzko opened her own business, a weightlifting gym, in Brooklyn during the thick of Covid.
“In this role,” she said, “I could be my most authentic self as I truly understand the needs of a day-to-day new business.”