November 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Executives at Omaha advertising-public relations firm Ervin & Smith say the company’s recent growth and recognition as a top place to work and prosper are by-products of its considered emphasis on staff development.

2012 has seen the firm named one of Omaha’s Best Places to Work by Baird Holm LLP and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, and as the Best Place for the Advancement of Women by Baird Holm and the Institute for Career Advancement Needs. Additionally, Ervin & Smith made this year’s Inc. magazine list of the nation’s fastest growing private companies after a 54 percent rise in revenue and significant staff increases from 2008 through 2011.

The agency, which employs more than 50 staffers, was founded in 1983 serving primarily financial services clients. While the financial services segment remains strong with clients like TD Ameritrade and Weitz Funds, the firm’s also made splashes with campaigns for such clients as Catholic Charities of Omaha, the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and Immanuel Senior Living. Ervin & Smith does business out of its own building at 16934 Frances Street.

“We encourage employees to get involved in community organizations and to serve on boards.” – Heidi Mausbach, vice president for Client Relations

Vice President for Client Relations Heidi Mausbach says one reason the company thrives is it hires people congruent with its mission.

“When we’re hiring, we’re very insistent on people meeting the core values of creativity, resourcefulness, accountability, passion, collaboration, inspiration, and loyalty. It’s resulted in a culture of very like-minded, smart professionals. Everyone here works really well together.”

She says core agency practices support professional advancement.

“We do a lot of leadership luncheons. Managers do one-on-one coaching to provide employees growth opportunities and immediate feedback. We encourage employees to get involved in community organizations and to serve on boards—We really believe that helps fuel not only your passion for work but for things you’re passionate about outside work.”

Heidi Musbach, Vice President, Client Relations, has been with the company for 12 years.

Heidi Mausbach, Vice President for Client Relations

Mausbach says the economic downturn led Ervin & Smith to hone in on itself.

“Rather than focusing on what our clients were doing and worrying about what was going on in the economy, we said, ‘Let’s focus on what we can control—ourselves.’”

Through this introspective process, she says, Ervin & Smith identified its greatest assets as “smart professionals always pushing to the next level and never settling,” adding, “As a result, we’re creating an environment where people love to come to work and enjoy what they do. By focusing on our people, we’re retaining and attracting top talent, and when you have the best talent, you attract like-minded clients.”

Co-founder and Executive Chairman Doug Smith has made the agency a haven for women moving into senior management. Sharon Carleton began as a copywriter there and today is President and CEO. Mausbach’s followed a similar career trajectory.

“I started as Doug and Sharon’s assistant,” Mausbach says, “and they gave me a lot of opportunities, they allowed me take some risks, and as a result, I was able to work my way up. Doug has always looked for people who are experts in what they do and can get results. That’s always been our philosophy. And that’s been my experience growing up in the agency. If you can prove and show performance, it doesn’t really matter your gender, your age, or any of that.”

“We’re creating an environment where people love to come to work and enjoy what they do.” – Mausbach

Carleton says, “We’ve never had a women’s initiative. Instead, we’ve always put in place programs we think will help all our employees. Employees have ideas for the company or a client, and we’re allowed to implement them. Over time, those individual ideas and opportunities have added up to a very supportive environment that both women and men appreciate.”

The firm’s Ms. Smith division has gained cachet as marketing-to-women specialists who consult with clients nationwide.

Carleton says Doug Smith nurtures this women-rising-to-the-top culture.

“Our culture has grown naturally from the foundation built by Doug Smith 30 years ago. I’ve been lucky to have him as my employer, mentor, and friend throughout my career. His generosity and encouragement keeps us positive and focused, pushing all of us to manage thoughtfully and strive for continuous improvement.”

For more information about the company, visit ervinandsmith.com.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.

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