Best Places to Work 2012

Richards Group Is No. 37 on Ad Age's Best Places to Work List

No Titles, No Hierarchy, and Anyone Can Get on the Private Plane

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In an industry obsessed with titles, Richards Group chooses to reward employees not by changing their business cards but by demonstrating how much the agency values loyalty.

At its high-rise headquarters in Dallas, the choicest parking spots belong to those who have worked there the longest. Inside, the more years, the closer you are to a window. On their 20th anniversary, employees get a free trip anywhere in the world with their families. Destinations have included the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica.

Not surprisingly, the average age of Richards Group's 29 creative group heads is 47, with an average tenure of 17 years.

The perks are based on what founder Stan Richards said is the agency's credo: "The way you treat your people is exactly how they treat clients."

In its response to the Ad Age survey, the agency wrote: "The philosophy and culture of the Richards Group are based on a painting, "The Peaceable Kingdom,' in which the lion and the lamb, bear and ox, leopard and child coexist in perfect harmony. Our culture fosters creativity, sparks curiosity and limits bureaucracy. ... No one is confined to the role defined by his or her title, because we don't have any, which encourages every employee to be a leader in every situation."

Staffers agree that the firm's private plane, used by employees at every level to get to meetings, is an invaluable tool.

These are unusual benefits for agencies, which have largely been forced to cut expenses. But at Richards Group, being independent means not having to answer to shareholders. Mr. Richards has even legally prohibited the agency's sale after his death by granting his ownership to a nonprofit organization.

Staff recommendations "always get implemented, and implemented quickly," said Mr. Richards. "It doesn't take long to get things done around here."

A recent request led to a new audio studio, but there was space left, so Mr. Richards put in four nap rooms, each about three times the size of a phone booth. "When people hit that slump after lunch, they can go take a 15-to-20-minute nap," he said. "Our people are taking full advantage and getting back to work more productive."

Richards Group also encourages philanthropy. Each year about 60 staffers renovate the home of a local family, and every winter Richards Group sponsors a Salvation Army Angel Tree. And agency Brand Manager Tanya Pinto started Baal Dan, which supports impoverished children in India. She raised funds from friends and colleagues, and spent vacations in India working on the effort.

Baal Dan is now an internationally recognized charity that feeds 1,000 kids every day. And Richards Group is happy to grant leaves of absence for overseas travel in service of a worthy cause.