Best Places to Work 2021: XX Artists
For Los Angeles-based digital marketing agency XX Artists, Founder and CEO Kyle Kuhns says the company culture boils down to two simple principles: One, the customer comes first, and two, treat everyone how you would want to be treated. Kuhns put a personal note in the employee handbook asserting that the latter is a “golden rule,” and anyone who strays from that rule when it comes to co-workers or clients is in violation of their duties.
While the company has created campaigns and social efforts for Biossance, Robinhood as well as celebrities including Lilly Singh, Brie Larson and Jennifer Hudson, it says it places as much value on its D&I efforts as it does on its own clients.
Even before the social turmoil of this year, XX Artists had made diversity a priority, noting that it ensured superior content that attracted larger communities. The agency is LGBTQ-owned, with a team made up of 64% who identify as female or gender non-binary and 68% diverse by race and/or sexual orientation. The company has manager and director-level team members who identify as disabled physically or mentally. When it comes to hiring for full-time or contracted workers, the company continues to uphold at least 50% diversity. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, XX Artists fully funded its team members’ donations to racial justice organizations of their choice. It also instituted a day of action on Juneteenth that included a virtual “Lunch + Learn” with a local social justice activist and an open agency discussion.
XX Artists has worked hard to create a nurturing culture despite the limitations enforced by the pandemic. The team lost no members but grew more than 30% to 30 strong in 2020. After the company went fully remote in March, it gave a $500 stipend to all its full-timers to help “zhuzh up” their work-from-home spaces. Leadership has also sent monthly gifts to employees consisting of snack boxes, terrarium kits, laptop cleaning supplies and more.
“Everything for me about XX circulates back to the idea of people,” says Kuhns. “It’s not lost on me that my company and what I’ve built is purely due to the people that I surround myself with. So what that looks like in practice is an extreme attentiveness, in my opinion, to our personnel and hiring. I didn’t graduate college, so I tend to steer away from glitz and credentials and things that fluff a resume, and instead look for willingness to learn, adaptability, alignment around our mission and values.”