By Egotist / /
The San Francisco Business Journal recently named Heat as one of the best places to work in the Bay Area. Since we wanted to know all the secrets to winning this award, we hit up co-founder and executive creative director Steve Stone and he gave us some great insights on what it takes.
Congrats on being one of the best places to work in San Francisco. So… you guys hiring?
Yes, we’re currently looking to fill several roles, including an Account Manager and Account Director, Content Producer, Senior Digital AD/ACD, a mid-level creative team, and a left-handed 3.5 or 4.0 tennis player with a great net game. Of course, we’re consistently filling positions, so it’s always a good idea to check out the jobs page on our site.
What kinds of things did the San Francisco Business Journal judge you on?
I think it’s obvious that they judged us on how handsome our President is, how cool our sign in the lobby is and the fact that we just happen to have a confetti cannon laying around. Actually, they judged us solely on responses from a survey sent out to all our employees, which were answered anonymously. Those responses were then tallied and we were compared with/against other businesses in the Bay Area. The questions in the survey addressed topics such as feeling valued, manager effectiveness, teamwork, trust in senior leaders, retention, benefits, and job satisfaction.
When you started Heat, did you make a conscious effort to build a great place for people to work, or has it evolved more organically than that?
Yes, it was a conscious effort. When you start a business, you always envision it to be a great place to work and you do whatever you can to build it up as one. I’ve always worked at great places – Goodby (both during and after Berlin), Ammirati & Puris, Riney and my personal favorite, Black Rocket. Taking the best cultural nuggets from those places and adding some of our own seems to be doing the trick.
We think every ad agency should be a great place to work, but that’s obviously not the case. What have you guys done differently to keep employees happy?
John (Elder, our President and my agency partner) and I continue to encourage creativity in all departments. Even in HR we instituted a program where everyone can and should call in “well” every once in a while. Work/life balance is something that is very important to us. We also have a no-freak-out policy. We are very calm and level headed, and that trickles down to everyone. This business can be nuts at times and it doesn’t help if the two guys running it scream and yell and make people cry. The two of us help shape all the work that comes out of this place but at the same, we give people a lot of space and let them do what they came here to do.
Is there one linchpin to it all? Is hiring the right people what makes the magic happen or something else?
Hiring the right people is certainly part of the magic. But the magic has to be there in the first place. Elder and I work hard to cultivate and protect the culture. We never take our eye off that part of the business.
One thing we’ve seen many times before that tears an agency apart is when you get creative versus account. Or when media feels marginalized. Or production thinks they get all the crap dumped on them. What do you do to create more of a team atmosphere that gets everyone pulling in the same direction?
We’ve never really had that. Even at 75 people, we’re still all on the same page. We meet often if there are issues and figure out stuff as a group. Even the hard stuff, like determining whether a client is actually a fit for us or not. We value everyone’s opinion.
Has it been more of a challenge to keep your culture as you’ve grown?
No. It’s actually the opposite. The more people you have who see things the way we see them, it’s easier to spread that ethos.
If you bring on the right clients and the right people, you’re just growing the family. And what’s better than a small happy family? A big happy family.
How do your clients factor into the happiness of your employees?
They benefit the most. Sure, spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends and pets feel it as well, but our clients get the lion’s share because happy employees find more surprising insights, tell better stories, make better content, design better UI and plan better media.
Got any good advice for all the Bay Area businesses that didn’t make the list?
Don’t be jerks, provide peanut butter-filled pretzels and get a confetti cannon.