Best Places to Work 2010

In the Church of Hiebing, Faithful Keep Coming Back

Madison, Wis., May Not Be a Draw Like New York, but the Collaborative, 'Purposeful' Culture of the State's Second-Biggest Agency Helps Retain Top Talent

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- With its creative, college-town vibe and lakeside setting, Madison, Wis., is often rated as one of the country's best places to live. For integrated marketing and advertising agency Hiebing, it's also one of the best places to do business.

The staff at Hiebing work in a former church with Corinthian columns and a green-domed roof in downtown Madison. As the second-biggest agency in the state, Hiebing attracts staff who value the chance to live and work in Madison rather than New York or Chicago. Employees describe a "Midwest work ethic" and emphasis on teamwork as hallmarks of the company.

Hiebing staffers say the shop attracts employees with a 'Midwest work ethic' who would value a job at the agency's headquarters.
Hiebing staffers say the shop attracts employees with a 'Midwest work ethic' who would value a job at the agency's headquarters.
HIEBING
LOCATION: Madison, Wis.

EMPLOYEES: 55

GIVING BACK: The integrated marketing and advertising agency's 2010 pro-bono efforts include work for charities such as the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, Big City Mountaineers and the United Way of Dane County. Hiebing's green practices include recycling, energy-saving campaigns and encouraging environmentally friendly bicycling as a way to commute to work.

As Director-Insight Ann Dencker, who joined Hiebing almost three years ago, put it, "It's collaborative and purposeful. I feel as though everyone here is focused on doing the best work and getting the best outcome for the brand."

The staff at Hiebing take the work seriously but not themselves. Jeane Kropp, partner-director of brand strategy, said she has always felt empowered to do what needed to be done, even when it might seem unconventional. "At the pre-meeting for a stressful conference call, I had everyone wear Mardi Gras masks," Ms. Kropp recalled. "It's hard to stay stressed out in a meeting if you look around and everyone is wearing Mardi Gras masks. It broke the tension and completely changed everyone's perspective."

Ms. Kropp can vouch for Hiebing's supportive policies on work-life balance from a personal perspective. "Six years ago, I was diagnosed with MS and so many people counselled me not to tell my employer," she said. "That didn't feel like the right thing to do to me so I went with my instinct and went against lots of advice and told the folks at Hiebing. It was one of the best things I ever did."

The agency's location is an advantage in many ways, but Ms. Kropp admitted it can also be a disadvantage when trying to attract senior staff from out of state. This is why Hiebing emphasizes training and retaining talented staff and promoting from within the agency. Both Jaimi Brown, a senior account executive and partner who joined Hiebing seven years ago, and Barry Kalpinski, senior art director-partner who joined nine years ago, came to the agency straight out of college. Both praise Hiebing's career-development and promotion opportunities.

"There's absolutely no ceiling here; you can go as high as your own expectations," Ms. Brown said.