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April 1, 2023

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New GTMA CEO focuses on culture in virtual setting

Vancouver marketing firm goes completely digital, sells office

By , Columbian staff writer
2 Photos
Barrie Buckner wants "to try and understand how to build culture in a virtual setting." The company went entirely virtual last year.
Barrie Buckner wants "to try and understand how to build culture in a virtual setting." The company went entirely virtual last year. (Photo contributed by GTMA) Photo Gallery

While many companies around the country are bringing employees back to offices at least part time, Vancouver’s GTMA marketing firm made the decision to become completely virtual.

The company’s office — gone. And now GTMA employs about 40 people all over the country. There’s no going back.

Ushering in this new era is the company’s new chief executive officer, Barrie Buckner.

Buckner isn’t new to GTMA. He’s been with the company as an executive since the beginning, helping to make it into what it is today. In some sense, his job may not have changed much.

“I know I’m CEO now, but … it doesn’t feel like I’m doing much different,” he said with a laugh.

Many of the things Buckner would have wanted to build out as CEO, the company was already able to build out before he took over.

“For me this year, the thing that I’m mainly focused on is culture,” said Buckner. He wants “to try and understand how to build culture in a virtual setting.”

When they had an office, GTMA had a sunroom with lots of natural light. It had a bar area and stand-up desks. It had a production studio. It had a fun atmosphere.

“You want people to come in and feel comfortable and happy,” he said. “Because when the stress is away and you’re just in a good mood, some of the most creative ideas come about.”

Now Buckner, who himself likes to have fun, says his strategy is to communicate with his team and have a good time with them.

“What I want to do is build a culture of laughter and build a culture of fun that even in our meetings, whether internal or client facing, that we have fun,” Buckner said.

This is important not just for creativity but because it’s central to the business.

The company’s mission statement mentions breathing life into the team and the community … and laughing a lot.

“I want us to really live up to that last portion,” he said.

His second mission is to continue growing the company, which now has a national presence, at a healthy pace. Buckner compares it to driving a manual car.

“You’re just trying to find that sweet spot,” he said.

Buckner has built other businesses. He’s found success in other endeavors. But it’s his work helping to build GTMA that he’s most proud of.

“I never imaged I would be at an organization because I’ve been an entrepreneur prior to coming here,” Buckner told The Columbian. “But the opportunity seemed right, and it absolutely was.”

Buckner pointed to one early success for the agency in which the company did all of the online marketing and video production for a building built to be leased and then sold in downtown Los Angeles — a building that just so happened to be sold in the largest real estate transaction in the history of downtown Los Angeles.

Despite securing company wins, Buckner wants GTMA to be the kind of organization that generally pours into its staff.

“I want to see people evolve and grow,” he said. “I want the best for them professionally and personally.”