Long before he became CEO of iProspect, back as an analyst at Bain Capital and KPMG, Robert J. Murray had an idea on how you should run a services business. "One thing that always surprised me in prior work experiences is when your assets walk out the door each day, why aren't companies doing more to value the people doing the business?"
Mr. Murray thinks he's found the answer to that , and quite a large number of his employees happen to agree. IProspect may be the third-largest search-marketing company in the country with an estimated $52 million in revenue in 2010, but it was judged a Best Place to Work because its employees laud the place for its people, its culture and the recognition they feel for their hard work. IProspect is part of a generation of digital agencies built on search but now doing a lot more such as performance display and social. The company, founded way back in 1996, was acquired by Aegis in 2004 and now has 850 employees around the world. Mr. Murray has been CEO for 12 years.
Like a lot of digital shops, the employees are young (average age: 26-27) and include a mix of sales-y extroverts and serious nerds. "Most people would look at us and say we are nerdy," Mr. Murray said. "We are nerds in that we are comfortable with technology, and technology is our friend. It is ubiquitous in everything we do."
The employee comments collected by Advertising Age all follow a general theme expressed well by brand manager Amanda DuBoise. "There is no question that the culture is what allows our company to strive," she wrote. "It was founded on strong beliefs with a family approach to nurturing and encouraging one another. We have a lot of fun while getting the job done well."
On paper, iProspect's perks aren't unusual. There are the days off in summer, telecommuting, quarterly performance bonuses, dogs in the office, random massage chairs and foosball tables at various locations. The key to making employees happy and productive is understanding what motivates them.
Mr. Murray's formula: hire competitive people; promote early and often; give constant feedback, including "iProps" -- notes of encouragement. "We are a meritocracy. When positions come open, we don't care if you've been here six months or six years -- we will promote the best person into that position," he said.