A group of people pose together on an outdoor patio balcony

Building a People-Centric Culture

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!

1 Response

    Bri­an, I am again deeply impressed by the newslet­ter, but espe­cial­ly by your com­ments here and to the Nex­tUpTwinCi­ties. The growth of Bell­mont Part­ners in these past twelve years has been impres­sive, for sure, but the most remark­able thing is the zero turnover in those years of growth! Almost impos­si­ble, most observers would say. But know­ing you and Jen, and watch­ing your busi­ness grow, it is not that sur­pris­ing to me. That’s what hap­pens when you have–as you say–a peo­ple-cen­tric-orga­ni­za­tion. So, again, my con­grat­u­la­tions to you and your staff. And I look for­ward to our next lunch.

    Ron Hand­berg

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