Cultivating company culture through theatre and improv
Hailing from Vancouver, Skott Taylor is seat mates with #teamsassy at the Garage Society. You’ll never find him without a large grin on his face as his enthusiasm for everything makes him a welcome staple in our co-working space. Maybe it’s that Canadian charisma, or maybe it’s his passion for the performing arts or maybe it’s a bit of both. But we’re not surprised that Skott works in the field of creating culture amongst businesses through theatre and improvisation.
As a natural extension to himself, Skott and his business partner, Graham Becker (who was our previous That Papa!) host bi-weekly team building socials for all members of our co-working space, appropriately named The Gong Show. All of us at Sassy HQ have had a taste of what NewSeed has to offer through these socials and we’re completely sold! Find out more about Skott, his company and why he loves being a dad.
Can you tell us a bit about your background? What brought you to Hong Kong?
Where to start?! To go way back I was born and raised in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, Canada. I moved to Vancouver to pursue a career in acting and music but ended up working more in hospitality, so in 2003 decided to move to China (as one does) and ended up in Beijing right before SARS.
Deciding to stay through that was a big turning point for me as I met not only the majority of old school China friends then, but also my wife Alexandra shortly after. So my background is varied but theatre, acting, directing, producing, singing and making music has always been there for me and has really shaped my career to where it is today.
In 2013, we decided to move down to Hong Kong with Alexandra’s work and it didn’t hurt that she was born and raised here with her mum, dad and sister still living here now. It was definitely a homecoming of sorts. There’s more to it than that, with stints living in London and Montreal but you get the picture.
What inspired you to start your own company NewSeed? What does NewSeed do?
The inspiration to start NewSeed came from an opportunity to work with one of my best friends up in Beijing. He was starting a pizza company with another Kiwi mate of his and they really wanted to focus as equally around their people as their pizza. He knew my background in performing arts so asked me to come in and do some simple team building and improv games to start with. It was a great success and I just built it from there to what it is now. Now NewSeed specialises in company culture design and activation with our unique arts-based approach to engagement. It’s a mix of organisational design, and learning and development, with a heavy focus on creating intentional, purpose-driven rituals and celebrations.
Why is it important for a company to have a culture?
I always say culture, healthy culture, is a company’s secret sauce. Anyone can make a product or service to challenge marketshare. We see it everywhere. A good example is with the food delivery apps here in Hong Kong. Technically they’re all the same, though the one with the healthier, positive culture will attract and retain the best available talent, inspire and free them to do their best work, and in turn drive the most profits for their business. The old model of running a business is pretty antiquated I believe. Employees are looking for purpose as much as wages more and more. You can’t fake a healthy purpose driven culture.
How has using arts-based facilitation changed the way your clients work?
Well, considering it’s always been there since day one, the bigger challenge has been to keep it in there when engaging larger and larger organisations. Convincing a larger corporate client that playing improv games and creating images without words is the best option for their facilitation can be challenging. The ones that get it, get it. We’re pretty niche and work a lot with early adopters, which can be a challenge at times when developing in a market like Hong Kong. It’s a fun challenge though.
What has been the funniest or most memorable moment while leading a workshop in company culture?
Probably when we do the more physical activities. It’s amazing how differently adults and kids play. There are more barriers and insecurities with adults for sure. One of the funniest would have to be when we were playing a game that involves people lifting their teammate over an object safely. The team was lifting the boss over and hands were supporting, butts were in faces, and everyone was having a good laugh. With arts-based activation, people can get into some pretty interesting situations.
What was your reaction to the news of your wife’s pregnancy?
I was away on business actually. I came home and she handed me two pregnancy tests and asked me to take them into the bathroom and see what they said. They were both positive so I took a moment before coming out. I was a bit shellshocked to begin with. No life-flashing-before-my-eyes, but definitely a moment to soak it all in. I came out, told her the news and we took the rest of the night to take it all in. Looking back on it, it’s moments like that, which you just can’t prepare for, of how you’ll react. They’re the ones that you’ll never forget where you were and what you were doing. It was pretty special.
How did you choose your son’s name?
We decided to let the sex of the baby be a surprise, but it was weird, we both felt like it was going to be a boy. We had a couple of girl names picked out but really only had one for a boy: Sebastian. We liked that it was longer but could be shortened, like Alexandra. Short when he’s younger and longer and more distinguished when he’s older (if he wants). I liked for his name to start with an ’S’ like me. It just stuck. Sebby. His middle name was more of a surprise for me. After Seb was born, Alexandra came up to me and asked what I though of Luxton. Now Luxton is my mum’s maiden name but we both loved it as a first name as well. Strong and unique, with some heritage.
How was your experience of changing the first diaper?
Wow, that’s so many months ago now that it’s either a distant memory or purged by my thoughts. Just kidding! I just remember it being a bit awkward with limbs moving around and Sebby making it difficult for dad. It doesn’t take much to master though, you get the hang of it pretty quick.
How hands-on were you during the birth process?
I was as hands on as I could be. It was a really long process though so more moral support than anything as you’re somewhat of a bystander to the whole process. More than anything I was just so impressed by the strength and beauty all mothers posses through the birthing process. It’s a powerful thing.
How did you avoid the dad-bod?
Ha! I don’t know if I have. Finding time for anything, let alone exercise, is a challenge after a kid. I like to run as much as I can, sea kayak and I’ve pretty much cut meat from my diet. I think if you can’t find time to exercise you can always find time to eat healthy(er!).
What do you hope your son gets from you and what do you hope he doesn’t get?
I hope he gets my love for the outdoors and sport. I think that dad-bod question starts from a young age. The more active the better – playing out in the dirt! I hope that he doesn’t get my addiction to chips. It’s my one habit I just can’t kick. I also hope he’s much better at numbers than I am.
What’s your favourite part of your parenting routine?
I’ve never been a morning person but that’s something else that goes out the window when you have kids. Now I love the mornings with Seb. If he’s had a good sleep and isn’t ill then he’s a bucket of laughs and loves to wrestle.
Who plays good cop and bad cop between you and your wife?
Oh, that’s a tough one. We’re pretty blessed that Seb’s been pretty chill so far so no need for any serious bad cop. Look me up in a year and I’m sure I’ll have a better answer for this question.
Favourite baby-friendly place and activities in Hong Kong?
Living in Discovery Bay, I love the pools at the DBRC. Seb loves the water and with the heat here, it’s the perfect spot. Playgrounds like FunZone, Baumhaus or Epic Land are pretty good although right now Seb’s still a bit too small to utilise all that awesomeness.
How do you keep the romance alive after having a kid?
Staycations, vacations, date nights. I think expats have it pretty good here with the level of help we have to get out on a regular basis and keep a bit of the old night life still alive. Also, having family here to look after Seb has been huge as we got to sneak away to Napa Valley for a wedding last month which was a treat.
What’s the hardest part of being a dad?
Going to work. Running my own business, I’m lucky to see Seb for more than two hours a day, and that’s a good day. They say parenthood is a series of sacrifices and being away from Seb is definitely the hardest.
What’s the best part of being a dad?
Beyond just seeing his smiling face when I get home, I’d have to say it’s the little stolen moments (snuggling in bed on a sunny Sunday morning, reading a book before bedtime) and big life moments (crawling, first steps, learning to wave bye and high-five).
Who does your son look like, you or your wife?
Oh, he’s a mama’s boy for sure. Loves mum, but that being said, what’s not to love? She’s amazing. I love her too.
What’s your favourite characteristic of your baby?
He’s a pretty smiley kid which is fun so I’d have to say his smiling face.
If there was one trait your son could take from you and your wife, what would it be?
From me: Rhythm and confidence to express himself. From Mum: How to cook and take care of his health and fitness.
What do you know now that you wish you knew before becoming a dad? Biggest lesson learned?
As much as you think a routine won’t help… it does.
What’s the funniest parenting story you can share?
Maybe not the funniest but we travelled a lot in the first year and took the Baby Bjorn bouncer everywhere. At dinner we would put Sebby under the table in the bouncer and he would just chill while we enjoyed several date nights in Vancouver.
How has having kids changed the way you define work?
Staying local. Before it was fun to travel with work but now it’s more of a chore. I love the ferry home to DB as well as it’s a great place to leave work and show up home ready to be a dad.
Do you have any tips for soon-to-be dads?
Help and support wherever you can as at the beginning you feel pretty useless. It gets better by the week though so just enjoy those first few months. That old cliche is true – ‘they grow up so fast’.
Favourite date night spots with just your wife?
Carbone. Anywhere with some nice Pinot Noir.
Thanks to Kim Bacon Photography for the wonderful photos of Skott and his handsome l’il guy, Seb!