Tag Archives: Doug Smith

Going to the Dogs

November 3, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Want to know how much fun it is to work at Omaha digital marketing firm Ervin & Smith? Just ask Peanut, Gwen, Duke, or Daphne Jane.

They won’t talk to you…but you’ll probably see their tails wagging.

“Any week we have probably a couple dogs in the office,” says Heidi Mausbach, Ervin & Smith president and CEO. “You find them at your desk begging for a little treat. They follow their owners around the agency.”

Erivin-&-Smith2The furry friends are there as one of many workplace benefits garnering Ervin & Smith attention here and nationally. In February the agency founded 31 years ago by Executive Chairman Doug Smith made the 2015 Best Places to Work in Omaha list sponsored by Baird Holm and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. That came three months after Advertising Age ranked Ervin & Smith number 13 on its list of 40 Best Places to Work in Advertising & Media based on hiring practices, benefits packages, salaries, office perks, and more.

“You spend…a good percentage of your life at work,” Mausbach says. “You want to be at a place you love to come to. People do love it here. You don’t dread Monday morning.”

Even if you’re on vacation—which is unlimited at Ervin & Smith, as are sick and personal days. The new leave policy, established in January 2014, is among the most intriguing initiatives at the agency.

“People are free to come and go as long as they are fulfilling their client commitments and meeting their other goals,” Mausbach says.

So have employees been abusing the policy with copious vacation days? Mausbach can’t say—Ervin & Smith isn’t tracking days. If there’s any challenge to the time-off policy it’s been with employees not taking enough personal time. Mausbach, who joined the agency 15 years ago, was among those who took “a lot less” vacation than she typically would.

“People need vacation to recharge and get inspired to continue to love what they do,” she says. “A lot of times when you give people that break they come back more energized and with great ideas. It makes them happier, it makes us a better company.”

While employees appreciate the flexibility the policy allows them to get away from work, Ervin & Smith has seen benefits in the office—less idle activity, greater communication and collaboration, and, perhaps best of all,  fewer and shorter meetings as employees focus on goals and commitments.

Ervin-&-Smith3

The company also allows employees to work from home as needed or even full-time from cities across the country (one Ervin & Smith employee lives in Oregon, another in Colorado). The company also established an annual “Slush FUNd,” giving each employee $100 to spend on something that will enhance company culture, such as a popcorn machine. Some pooled their money to buy meditation classes open to everyone. Others adopted a family at Christmas.

Workplace enhancements can be simple. A couple of years of ago the agency added a ping pong table. Sometimes, that’s where the best work happens. “It’s interesting how their minds work,” Mausbach says. “A lot of times they’re playing and brainstorming. There are amazing ideas that come out of work and play at the same time.”

Other initiatives to enhance the Ervin & Smith environment include redesigned offices, an expanded client conference room, a per-person training budget more than twice the industry average, catered lunches and happy hours, and a monthly wellness stipend reimbursing employees up to $25 a month.

The most popular benefit is Flame Schoeder—a professional certified life coach made available for monthly development sessions.

“Of all the benefits, they feel this is the one definitely helping them the most professionally and personally,” Mausbach says.

The initiatives seem to work. Ervin & Smith promoted 12 employees and hired 15 others last year. Its retention rate in 2014 was 84 percent, better than the typical industry rate of 70 percent or worse, Mausbach cites.

Ervin & Smith is building employee relationships. Perks are great. People are better.

Making Ervin & Smith a doggone great place to work.

Ervin-&-Smith

Ervin & Smith

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.