Featuring Brian Stann: CEO of Hunt Military Communities

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It’s hard enough to become the new CEO of an existing company: to settle in and build relationships and get to know the business you’ve joined onto, even before you begin to roll out with new policy and process changes. A lot of fear tends to run rampant, as staff don’t know what sorts of changes to expect –– good or bad–– and it’s critical to quickly address those concerns.

It’s even more difficult to become a new CEO when you know there are already existing struggles and complaints in the business you’re joining, and your now-employees are expecting you to address those issues with all potential haste.

That hurdle was exactly what met Brian Stann when he took over as Chief Executive Officer for Hunt Military Communities in August of 2021. But to the U.S. veteran’s credit, he wasn’t afraid of whatever conflict might come out of facing the challenges head-on.

NEW JOB, NEW COMPANY, NEW PROBLEMS… WHO DIS?

“Any time a company gets a new CEO or new leadership or they’re undergoing change, people start to question things,” Brian freely admitted. One of his first steps in his new role was to begin assessing employee satisfaction surveys to see where to start with morale improvement. “The number one complaint we had was communications,” he confirmed.

A communications gap in this particular organization was, in all honesty, not exactly unexpected. 

Hunt was split up across the United States long before the COVID-19 pandemic swept over the planet and shuffled the majority of businesses into hybrid or remote-work arrangements. Being a company with a central focus on providing affordable and high-quality housing for American military communities, Hunt has forty-four locations across the country as of 2022: “from Hawaii to California to Delaware to Georgia,” Brian acknowledged.

Unified communication and effective country-wide all-hands meetings was an understandable challenge.

SIMPLE VIDEOS AND ZOOM CALLS WEREN’T CUTTING IT.

To start off, Brian started trying to connect with his teams by using self-filmed videos from an iPad. His prior experiences made him comfortable and familiar with on-camera delivery, but the videos still had low engagement… and morale wasn’t improving.

“That’s when we found Optimum,” he recalled.

Hunt’s executive team and their new CEO decided to invest in virtual all-hands meetings that would broadcast live out of a professional studio, instead of sending pre-recorded one-way videos. The livestream would reach all of their countrywide locations, as well as provide interactive features like a chatroom and polling opportunities for the entire staff to feel involved and valued as participants in the company’s conversation.

But even after making that decision as a team, the pressure didn’t end there.

IT’S NORMAL FOR PRESENTERS TO GET NERVOUS IN FRONT OF CAMERAS.

Brian was familiar with television work, but none of the rest of his executives had been on-camera in front of hundreds of viewers before. How were they going to talk live, un-edited, about coming changes to the business… about employee awards… about anything without messing up?

Fortunately, Optimum Productions’ livestream and virtual all-hands meetings services don’t just come with a professional studio… but also with a professional producer and director.

“They had great coaches,” confirmed Brian. “They settled the team down.”

Optimum’s crew helped the Hunt executives to shape their messages and delivery in order to be effective, but also comfortable.

They helped guide the use of visual aids, made suggested changes to verbology and jargon that might otherwise lose the viewers, and also insisted that the company participate in a full-length dress rehearsal before their very first broadcast. That first hour or two in front of the cameras, but without thousands of eyes watching, did wonders for helping everyone get the jitters out.

By the time the “Recording” light really did come on, the Hunt Military Communities leaders were ready for it.

“The first time we did this over an hour period,” Brian chuckled proudly, “You would have thought [they] were professional broadcasters!”

But even more importantly, the company executives weren’t the only ones who lit up as the virtual town hall progressed.

THEIR COUNTRY-WIDE AUDIENCE FELT VALUED AND INVOLVED.

“The engagement skyrocketed,” Brian recalled. “We were actually able to watch… we could get live interactions with the folks watching it back in our office to see what got them the most excited,” thanks to Optimum’s interactive livestream platform, designed particularly for all-hands meetings like this one.

The platform was set up with an interactive chatroom, live emoji reactions that all participants could witness, as well as some fun polling questions and a live Q&A session at the end of the afternoon.

That final session was perhaps one of the most memorable elements of the entire event. Those watching got the privilege of witnessing Brian, unscripted and unrehearsed, addressing their genuine questions and concerns about the direction that Hunt was going… and all in real time.

“It was incredible, and really a tremendous competitive advantage for us to boost morale, increase communications and knowledge throughout the business,” he later shared.

And when it came to measuring that morale boost, Brian’s views on the livestream’s results weren’t based on mere sentiment.

The virtual town hall ended with a company-wide poll for all of the attendees, in addition to all of the data that had already been collected based on their real-time emotional reactions during the broadcast itself. Combined, Brian and his leadership team received a comprehensive analytics report with full audience metrics which helped them, “see how many people watched, what they liked, what they didn’t, and get feedback on how we delivered our message.”

All in all, the experience was considered a complete and rousing success for the Hunt Military Communities teams across the United States. And when it comes to their next all-hands meetings, it’s pretty safe to say… they won’t be turning to pre-recorded iPad videos anymore.

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