Saban & Strong: A Force that Drives

By Luke Thomas

If there’s one voice that is unmistakable in the state of Alabama, it’s that of University of Alabama Football Head Coach Nick Saban.

When you hear that cadence and Southern-soaked accent, it’s hard not to give it your full attention. For Strong, Christmas weekend was the first time the famed coach would enter Midtown Studio. And while this was the third shoot that Saban has done with our Production team, having him in-house was no small deal.

The saga began in October with a plan to promote the coach’s latest endeavor.

Saban is co-owner of a new, ultra-luxury Mercedes-Benz dealership being built off of Grants Mill Road in Birmingham. This dealership will serve as the state’s first true, state-of-the-art high-line dealership, elevating the surrounding area to a new level of luxury. To promote its opening, the owners, as well as the team at Strong, knew there was only one man for the job.

“The owners knew they wanted Saban to be heavily associated with the dealership,” Reid said. “The challenge was convincing them that we could do this shoot quickly and professionally, as the coach is a very busy man. We also had to show that we could provide creative that matched the luxury theme of the store. This type of advertising is totally different than the majority of tier-three.”

After several rounds of script revisions and spec spots, the team found the winning words.

“To do these spec spots, we had to find a Saban impersonator,” Reid said. “Which, as you can imagine, are basically nonexistent. But, we eventually found a guy with a deep enough voice.”

Reid and the team developed a TV and radio campaign that would use Saban’s voice to form a series of ads leading up to the grand opening in February. Each ad built upon the last and hammered in concepts like customer priority, attention to quality, and guaranteed excellence.

“We really wanted to emphasize that this is Saban’s store,” Reid said. “He only puts his name on the best.”

The shoot resulted in four TV spots and one radio spot for January, with another round building into February. Keep your ears open, and you might just catch one.

What We Learned From Zappos

By Luke Thomas

Ending up in a Las Vegas jail cell will inevitably change your way of thinking.

That was certainly the case for Strong’s executive team. But this visit to jail wasn’t the result of your typical Vegas shenanigans. Instead, the team went to better understand the workings behind one of the greatest company cultures in the US.

In June of 2017, Robin Smith, Sheila Grandy, and Gayle Rogers set out to discover what makes Zappos so different. The campus, located in an old municipal building and jail, offers tours as well as education packages for companies seeking to learn from the Zappos culture model. The Strong team opted for the Q&A package, allowing them to meet with representatives from three different departments. They chose to study culture, employee relations, and employee engagement.

Learning the Zappos Way

Before the questioning began, the group was treated to a tour of the facility. They described perks like ever-changing wall art, on-campus bicycles, and a ball pit that Rogers dove into.

“While we didn’t tour the call center, we learned that it is the largest employee area on the campus,” Smith said. “Most employees start out there, and everyone works in the center at some point during the holidays – even the owner.”

During the tour, the team took note of the Core Values signs posted around the office. When they asked about them, the Zappos guide explained that they are to hold everyone accountable. This way, employees can encourage each other and refer back to the values if their team starts to misalign.

This was the beginning of a long and thorough process that brought about the We Are Strong items that were presented at Strong’s year-launch meeting.

“We spent hours working on these values,” Smith said. “We needed them to fit Strong’s culture, not just transpose Zappos’. These are all basic and apparent values, but the more they are put in front of us, the more they will be at the forefront of our minds.”

Bringing it Back Home

Defining SAM’s culture is one of the most recent implementations from the trip. The Strong Shout Outs and SAM 60 flex hours were also inspired by Zappos. Strong has been committed to providing many extra perks to employees, some of which Zappos may actually steal from us!

When asked about the future, Grandy hinted that there are more things to come that will further emphasize We Are Strong. She also stated that the company is putting a strong focus on developing even better relationships between teams and departments.

“Cultivating a positive employee experience is always an ongoing process,” Grandy said. “John Paul and Mike are committed to changing the company culture as the agency continues to grow.”

But First, Vegas

This trip wasn’t all work and no play. It is Vegas, after all. The team enjoyed a roller coaster ride and dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant.

“It was fun to do something outside of work together,” Grandy said. “Even though we work side-by-side a lot, it helped our dynamic to go on this adventure.”


Overall, the team had a blast and brought back some valuable new strategies that are starting to show here at Strong. Luckily for us, what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas!

Dealing with Desk Pain

by Luke Thomas

A desk job can be deceiving. On the surface, sitting in an adjustable, ergonomic chair for most of the day seems good for the body. But as many of us have discovered, it can often cause pain, tightness, and even fatigue if done improperly. In fact, Chicago-based sports chiropractor Dr. Krystal Drwencke revealed that desk work can be as hard as manual labor on some areas of the body.

In the office, we know it’s important to walk with purpose, but it’s also important to sit with purpose. – Casey Quattlebaum

The good news is that pain from deskwork is easily prevented. Read on to discover the causes of this discomfort, and what other Strong employees have been doing to avoid it.

What Causes the Pain?

Here are some of the most common problem areas and the behaviors associated with them.

  • Neck/Spinal Pain – Usually, neck pain is caused by not holding your head in line with your spine. You can see in the photo above that the relative weight of your head increases from 11 lbs to a whopping 60 lbs when looking all the way down. While you may not be at a full 60-degree angle, you could still be looking down at your computer screen, causing the relative weight of your skull to double or even triple.
  • Lower Back Pain – If your lower back is giving you trouble, it’s likely not getting the support it needs. While Strong’s office chairs are designed to provide ergonomic lumbar support, this may not be enough depending on your height and build. Having weak core muscles and crossing your legs while sitting can also lead to lower back strain.
  • Shoulder/Upper Back Pain – The trapezius and rhomboid muscles are the culprits here. Not having your monitor directly in front of you, positioning your keyboard too far away, and hunching your shoulders forward can cause pain and knots in between the shoulders and all along the upper portion of the body. Tight pectoral muscles are caused by and exacerbate the issue, too.

How to Relieve the Pain

There are a few quick fixes that you can use to relieve deskwork pain.

In the Graphics department, both Emily Johnson and Sheryl Jones are fans of self-myofascial release.

“I use a foam roller to work out tight muscles all down the back and front of my legs, side of my hips, and even my stomach and hip flexors,” Jones said.

Johnson mentioned using a tennis ball for a more concentrated form of self-massage, which is particularly useful for targeting pain and tightness between the shoulder blades. This is a technique also recommended by Strong’s monthly massage therapists. They recommend placing the ball in a long tube sock to make it easier to reach the back area. By placing the ball between your back and a wall, you can apply steady, targeted pressure to problem areas. The key to finding relief is to linger when you find a knot or trigger point, then breathe through the hold and try to relax into the ball. This will allow the ball to massage deeper into the muscle and relieve the tension that’s causing the pain.

Jones also does a lot of stretch work to help relieve and prevent her lower back pain. She recommends the Cat Pose from yoga, leg raises with resistance bands, and taking a brief stretch break once or twice a day to break up your sitting. Another way to relieve lower back pain without even leaving your desk is to gently rock your pelvis front-to-back a few times. This will loosen up tight back muscles and increase blood flow to the area.

To relieve neck pain, try releasing your neck down and looking to one side. Make sure to leave the opposite arm loose by your side, and you should feel a stretch in your neck and trapezius muscles.

Casey’s Pain Prevention Method

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Casey Quattlebaum offered some advice for maintaining a healthy desk posture. After recovering from a ruptured spinal disk eight years ago, she places a lot of importance on proper alignment.

“A big tip is to keep your core engaged at all times,” Quattlebaum said. “If you keep everything sucked in, your posture will naturally straighten up. Also, keep your feet flat on the floor, and don’t slump into the phone if you don’t have a headset. Another trick I use is to swap my mouse position every month. This keeps me from leaning too much on one arm over time. I also placed filing trays underneath my monitors so that they’re raised to eye-level. This keeps me from looking down and putting a strain on my neck.”

One of the best pieces of advice Quattlebaum gave was to sit with purpose.

“In the office, we know it’s important to walk with purpose, but it’s also important to sit with purpose,” Quattlebaum said. “Being aware of your posture and letting it reflect your determination will help you avoid slouching or reclining too hard.”

A Few More Tips

In addition to Quattlebaum’s posture suggestions, there are a couple of more techniques you can use for correcting bad posture and the discomfort that it produces. For lower back pain, try placing a small pillow behind your back for additional lumbar support. Jones also found that a slightly elevated footrest helps with this.

For shoulder and upper back pain, consider doing a few minutes of pectoral stretches every day. This video explains how to do so using only a doorframe. Slouchy shoulders cause the pectoral muscles to become tight and pull on the rhomboid (back) muscles, so by stretching the pecs out, you’ll lessen the related tightness in your back.


If you have any tips of your own for staying comfortable at your desk, share them in the comments below!