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The Care & Feeding of Creatives

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I decided a long time ago that if I were ever in charge of a group of people, I would not treat them the way that many of my bosses treated me. The early days of my career as a graphic artist were spent chained to an art table cranking out production work-as fast as my fingers could cut and paste it together. My bosses were notorious for over promising delivery dates so they could get the project. “Sure, we can have that four-color brochure for you by week’s end” and it was Monday and it had to be designed, written, type spec’d and pasted together. Then proofed and corrections made before it could go to a printer. It made for some very long days and even longer nights. I would go home at 11pm and be back at 7am, pizza for lunch and dinner and no exercise or life outside of my job. I was lucky to have a 2-day weekend. And I was rarely thanked or told that I was doing a good job. The 2am press approvals didn’t buy me any “trade” time either. I was expected to suck it up and come in no matter how long I had worked the day and night before. It resembled what it must have felt like to work in a sweat factory, without the heat.

Today, I get to care for the creative team here at Current and I know the time I make to say “thank you” and “great work” goes a long way. You see in the ad business, people tend to move from shop to shop. They often live in a combative environment and get fed up and move on. There’s an enormous cost associated with turnover and as a business owner it is much easier to retain a great employee than train a new one. And each creative is assigned a book of business so they gather and retain quite a bit of knowledge for the clients and industries they work on. It takes a long time to get a newbie up to speed and producing work that’s on target and consistent with the brand strategy.

And it’s more than just expressing our appreciation. We have company lunches a few times per month, we play volleyball together, we have fun employee meetings where we play games and openly share our operating numbers so that everyone in our company knows how we are doing. We send people to seminars and classes, we pay for them to be members of clubs and networks. We participate in several Kentucky Derby Festival events like the Run for the Rosé and The Bed Races. We have “partner days” every summer where everyone is given every other Friday off so they can enjoy some 3-day weekends with their friends and families. We have fabulous prizes at our kickass Christmas party each year. We play hard– when time allows — because we work hard.

And how do we manage all of this and have fun too? We have a full-time traffic person and the best ad agency software system, CurrentTrack, that allows us to plan our work so people can go home at a decent hour every night and have a life balance that keeps them and their families very happy.

And when you have happy, healthy employees, the work they produce is better.

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