Best Places to Work

Best Places to Work: No. 9 Archer Malmo

Employee Satisfaction, Smart Strategy Has Shop Winning 90% of Pitches

By Published on .

An agency that wins 90% of pitches once it makes the finals might seem as rare as an Elvis sighting. In Memphis, it's possible to find both.

As Russ Williams, CEO of Archer Malmo, sees it, that success rate during the past two years is both a product and a cause of its employees' satisfaction.

The Memphis-based diversified marketing-services agency has 100 employees and works in digital, PR, experiential and direct response with a 60/40 mix of consumer and business-to-business clients that include Palm Beach Tan salons, Grizzly smokeless tobacco, Hilton Hotels, Gold's Gym's Gold's Express unit, agricultural chemical marketer Valent U.S.A. and Norfolk Southern Railroad.

Archer Malmo
Location: Memphis
Employees: 100
Top Executives: Russ Williams, CEO
"We've gotten smarter and more selective about pitches," Mr. Williams said. That means avoiding pitches where he can't visualize the win, as well as spurning cattle calls and otherwise flawed RFP processes.

"A huge part of being respected by your employees is them respecting the management of the company," he said. "Good talent in our industry doesn't respect their time being wasted, agency resources being wasted on a poorly run agency review."

And, of course, "You're happier at a place that 's winning," he added.

Archer Malmo
Archer Malmo

Archer Malmo's revenue climbed 11% to $10.2 million last year and is expected to rise another 18% to $12 million this year. Most new business, he said, comes from existing clients and referrals rather than reviews.

The agency also has delivered some stability. Founded in 1952 as Ward Archer Associates, it's among the five oldest independent members of the 4A's, according to Mr. Williams.

Beyond that , he said, "We treat employees like adults." That means running an "open books" company that makes financial data available freely and holding "stairwell chats" monthly on the state of the business. "We always deliver news, good or bad, quickly and thoroughly," Mr. Williams said.

Culturally, he said, the agency is a "low-ego environment" that tries not to take itself or its business too seriously.

All that is backed verbatim by employees in Advertising Age's survey, which also included a comment from one employee that the agency had "the most reasonable workload of any agency I've ever worked for."

Mr. Williams said he doesn't want to make it seem like his charges are underworked, but he does support work-life balance. Having previously worked for such companies as Kraft Foods and DuPont, he said he discovered "the agency side can be emotionally draining compared to the corporate side."

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