As Bellmont Partners has been navigating record-breaking growth — we’ve grown more than 60 percent over the past three years — one of the priorities we’ve been focusing on is ensuring our agency’s priorities and needs align with our team members’.
As if on cue, a few weeks ago the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal (MSPBJ) ran a roundup of insights from leaders of Twin Cities advertising and PR agencies, including me, on how we’re making sure we have the right people in the right seats.
My response? Intentional communication. It’s been really important to check in with each person on our team regularly, evaluate the role they’re playing and adjust accordingly. “We do our best to align what our individual employees are most passionate about with our agency’s broader needs,” I said, “Whether that means shifting client team roles, moving someone from one practice group to another, or adding an agencywide responsibility (like leading our data and insights work) to their plate.”
But that’s just one part of the puzzle. For us, prioritizing putting the right people in the right seats is an authentic part of a broader philosophy we embraced when we began building a team back in 2011: create and maintain a people-centric organization.
We’re obviously not perfect, but we have been making decisions aligned with that strategy for the past 12 years, and our hands-on approach to aligning individual and agency needs is one of the primary reasons behind our agency’s success.
Last summer, I gave the keynote at NextUp Twin Cities’ “Men Who Get It” event and outlined three approaches I believe any-sized organization should prioritize. They continue to hold true today, especially as we continue to assess and improve our processes in order to support our people-first philosophy:
Flexibility: Our leadership works hard to practice servant leadership, and one of the key elements in making that work is by embracing flexibility. We had a flexible, work-from-wherever-and-whenever policy for years before COVID, for instance, which made it much easier for us to transition to virtual, and now to hybrid. And because we are a smaller independent agency, we’re more likely to try new things to problem-solve – because we can.
Collaboration: This is the most common word that keeps coming up when people describe our agency and people. I strongly believe that the fact that we have multiple voices is a key to our success. Our leadership is genuinely interested in hearing people’s perspectives. What should we do or not do, how should we do it? That was true when we were five people. That’s true today when we’re 25. And it will be true tomorrow.
Investment: Aligning work and life – including our mental health – is a major priority. We make decisions based on what’s best for our team, and not the bottom line. We’ve sacrificed profit for our people over the years, but it’s paid us back again and again. One of the ways we put that approach into action is with our Bellmont Gives Back program, where we provide hours during the work week to volunteer for organizations that have particular relevance for our team members. Last year we spent about $250,000 worth of time in the program, which averages to more than a week and a half of volunteer or pro bono time per person.
And I would add one more important element that both supports and is the underlying reason behind the flexibility, collaboration and investment we’ve embraced: empathy. Leading with empathy and a mindset of gratitude build the foundation for everything else.
So how do we know we’re on the right path? There are a few metrics that tell us we’re heading in a positive direction: Our agency has been named a Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal (MSPBJ) Best Place to Work for the past four years, and an Inc. Magazine Best Workplace for three, all based on employee feedback.
And perhaps most telling is the fact that in four years, our turnover rate has been zero. Over that period, not a single person has left the agency – for any reason. I’m exceptionally proud of that, and of what we’ve built together.
I’m fortunate to be part of this amazing team. Here’s to 2023!