May 16, 2019

Flex Work Rocks: Q&A With Kate Bouchard

Did you know? Women-owned businesses are more prevalent in Western Canada than the national average and are growing at a faster pace than enterprises owned by men. At the same time, advances in technology have impacted the way organizations work, with companies starting to embrace employees working remotely. Kate Bouchard's marketing company, Armature Collective, illustrates both of these trends. We chatted with Kate about these and other work-related trends, and discovered her new take on "work-life balance" (it's not what you think!). —Noa Nichol


Hi Kate! Tell us a bit about yourself to start!

I’m founder and principal of Armature Collective, where I lead a team of creative freelancers in delivering marketing, branding and graphic design for our clients. I’ve worked at advertising agencies and on internal marketing teams and, with over a decade of experience, have led strategies and campaigns for health, tech, non-profit and retail. To me, marketing is art as much as it is science and consumer behaviour. I especially love leading organizations and creative teams in the development of brands. Branding is about so much more than a logo and pretty colours. Strong brands stand for something, and filter through to every aspect of the culture of the company. I live in Vancouver, work from home, out of amazing co-working communities, or remotely while travelling. I’m all about aligning work and life through purpose, and recently began offering personal coaching services to select clients with a focus on living soulfully.

Let's talk about trend one: women-owned businesses are more prevalent in Western Canada than the national average and are growing at a faster pace than enterprises owned by men. Thoughts on why this could be?

One thing I’ve benefited from in living on the West Coast is being surrounded by a community of inspiring female entrepreneurs. There are so many networking groups, co-working spaces and clubs that offer women in business the opportunity to connect and collaborate. There is an abundance of resources for those looking for them. Having a supportive, inspiring group to connect with must have something to do with why women-owned businesses are more prevalent here.

Now for trend two: advances in technology have impacted the way organizations work, with companies starting to embrace employees working remotely. Why is this a positive change?

I think it’s a positive change for flexibility and employee satisfaction. When people are offered the opportunity to work from home, even one or two days a week, it reduces their commute, removes a stressor and allows for more integration of family and work life. There are also bottom-line reasons for organizations to support remote work. Fixed overhead costs can be reduced—think of how much less physical space is needed if desk space can be shared, for example. When employees get more focused time, productivity is higher, creativity and innovation is fostered. Less time is being wasted in meetings, there are fewer distractions and interruptions in a day. There are many reasons why embracing remote work is good business!

How does your company, Armature Collective, illustrate/address both these trends?

Armature Collective is a marketing, branding and graphic design company based in Vancouver, but with a global perspective. Our structure hasn’t just adapted to these trends, but truly embraced them. At Armature, I lead a team of creative freelancers who collaborate on projects based on their expertise and the scale and scope of client’s projects. Our business model is built to embrace the new way of work, with our team and clients based all over the world and meeting virtually, as well as in-person. As founder, we’re female-led, and many of our freelancers are also self-employed women.

What, to date, has been one of the most exciting projects you've worked on, and how did your business model benefit the completion of the project?

We’re working on two new clients project I’m very excited about. The first is a logo and brand development project for a company from San Fran that supports tech startups. The second is a new and innovative leadership coaching program based out of Europe launching later this year. Our most memorable project thus far was obtaining a large contract from the Health Data Coalition (HDC) within the first six months of launching Armature. Our business model benefited this client in particular because we were able to scale up to a team of eight at the busiest point, and scale down to one or two of us on an ongoing basis after the campaign launched. The concept we developed was Doctors Behind the Data, with the aim of humanizing health data. It included video, print, digital, content creation, writing, strategy and creative asset delivery. The HDC project helped get us off the ground, and we continue to have a wonderful working relationship as a part of the team there.

How does the Armature model—a team made up of freelancers who work remotely or meet up in co-working spaces—benefit the people who work for you?

Freelancing can be isolating at times, especially when you first go out on your own. Being part of Armature Collective allows creatives the flexibility and independence of being self-employed, while providing a framework of support and a sense of teamwork. They get the chance to work with others they may not have met otherwise and be a part of a larger community. Freelancers can build and expand their portfolio without worrying about the business development and sales side of things. It allows them to focus on what they do best—create!

And, in a more general sense, how does the model benefit the clients you do work for?

It’s a great way for a company to get diverse, high-calibre, experienced talent for what is often less that what they would have to pay one full time employee. When your team is made up of self-employed freelancers who are there because they have chosen to be, and are excited and motivated to be involved, I believe that the work and the client experience will be better for it. Working with Armature, all of the project and team management is done for our clients, and we ensure that the work is strategically and creativity aligned. Plus, our structure allows us to be efficient, lean, and cost effective.

Finally, how does the model benefit you, in terms of how you've seen your personal work-life balance impacted?

In all honesty, I don’t love the notion of “work-life balance”. I think it’s a concept that puts a lot of pressure on us to perfectly segment each and every minute of our days. It’s too much to expect. Life is messier than that. To me it’s more about integration and alignment of work and life. I’ll gladly work in the evening if it means getting a fitness class in mid-day, or watch my nephew during regular business hours and work on my Sunday afternoon. Armature’s model supports that. It’s so much more flexible than 9-5. I can work while travelling from a beach in Mexico, or a hotel room in Japan, and easily meet all of my client obligations and commitments to my team. Technology allows for this integration, and perceptions about not blending these aspects of our life are changing. It’s the same with the clients we work with - many are working remotely even if based locally, kids make an appearance in the background while on a video call to say a quick hello, someone provides feedback on proofs from the Caribbean. This cultural shift is really exciting to me and I love the flexibility in my day-to-day.

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