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Small Agency of the Year, Culture, Gold: Elite SEM

Agency's Secret to Growth Is 'Creating Great Lives for Employees, Making Sure They're Happy'

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Elite SEM's CEO Ben Kirshner
Elite SEM's CEO Ben Kirshner

Founded in 2004, Elite SEM is growing in size and revenue. Clients include Pandora, Hugo Boss and Etsy. But one metric stands out: 97% employee- and client-retention rates. What's the secret? "When we create great lives for our people, they create great lives for customers," said Elite SEM CEO Ben Kirshner, noting he hires for personality first and skills second.

Mr. Kirshner said people stay with a job if they like the work they're doing, they like their coworkers and they trust and believe in management. And perks don't hurt. Unlimited vacation time, free office lunch and dinner, cabinets of healthy snacks, professional development and four months of paid maternity leave are a few. "My job is to make sure the culture is humming, that people are happy," he said. "And it will come back to me in spades."

Its headquarters are in New York, with locations in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with plans for more.

Elite SEM takes a company retreat every year.
Elite SEM takes a company retreat every year. Credit: Elite SEM
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