Manager listening to employee

Listening to your People: Why Culture and Employee Empowerment Are the Secrets to a 99% Glassdoor Rating

You can tell a lot about a business from their rating on Glassdoor, a site that houses anonymous company reviews from current and former employees. Unlike thoroughly strategized marketing campaigns or curated social media accounts, a brand’s Glassdoor rating is based solely on these real-life experiences. As its name suggests, this platform is a transparent resource for anyone interested in working with or for a company, providing on-the-ground perspectives from those who have experienced their cultures from the inside.

So, how do you ensure a great online reputation without the power of the almighty edit? What makes employees sing a company’s praises? Our advertising agency, Fingerpaint, has an excellent company rating on Glassdoor, and truly listening to our employees is a big part of how we achieved that.

Ask for Feedback. Companies might have the façade of being receptive to feedback, but how often do they really welcome it? It’s one thing for leaders to be willing to hear ideas from their workforce. But it’s completely different to build a space for employee feedback into the very fiber of your company’s culture. Your employees need far more than just a general attitude of passive openness to feel as though they have a resounding voice within the company.

Critique Prompts Action. Once you incorporate a dependable way to collect employee feedback, you must act on the information you receive. Telling your employees that you’re listening without proving that you’re actually hearing them accomplishes nothing. Employees will only feel they have a voice when their ideas, opinions, and suggestions have weight with those in charge. If someone brings a great suggestion to the table, don’t just say you’ll look into it collaborate with them on a plan to put it in place!

Check Your Progress. Even when you take an employee suggestion and run with it, it’s possible to miss the mark. Once an idea comes to life, check back in with those who helped to create it in the first place. Is this the result they were envisioning? Does this new initiative benefit everyone involved? If the answer isn’t a resounding yes, then it’s time to revisit and revise. Truly great company culture is a constant work in progress, and employee feedback is one of the most valuable tools for refining it.

Reap the Benefits. Our agency, Fingerpaint, is built around the idea of prioritizing people, and that includes giving all employees an equal voice. While this may seem like a simple, straightforward value, the vast majority of advertising agencies are clearly not putting their employees first. This reality is apparent in far more than their Glassdoor ratings.

Your greatest asset is your people, and your employees should be your number one priority. When you treat all your employees (regardless of seniority) with the same respect, you end up with a team who will fight for you. If you consistently prove to your people that they are valuable, your company’s reputation will reflect that, attracting the best and brightest to your business in both clients and employees. It’s as simple as that.

success in the advertising world - coworkers collaborating

How to Cultivate Success in the Advertising World without Ever Making an Ad

If success in the advertising industry doesn’t begin and end with flawlessly executed ad campaigns (and the results to back them up), then what does it hinge on? Upon walking into an agency, you might think you need an open plan office with sleek interior design. Or perhaps the agency-wide happy hour on Friday is the key to success. Maybe it all depends on the number of outstanding people you have working for you. 

You’re getting closer. In my experience, building a successful, sustainable agency starts with the culture. You might be thinking, “Seriously, the weekly food trucks and the team outings﹘ that’s what’s gonna do it?” That’s not the side of corporate culture I’m talking about. I’m talking the way you treat every single human that works for, with, or alongside you. 

For your agency to succeed it needs a positive culture built on empathy. I promise you this is more important than landing huge accounts or having the latest tech. Because when it comes down to it, the most valuable and irreplaceable resource you can have is good talent. And without a positive culture good talent won’t stay on board long. 

Over the last two decades, I’ve built two successful agencies on the foundations of respect, empathy, friendships, and giving back. These companies have grossed over $500 million in combined revenue, but there’s something you don’t know about the man in charge﹘ I have no hand on the great work that we do.  

This is further proof that the secret to success isn’t solely dependent on outcomes. In many agencies around the world people are working hard to produce great work but feeling less fulfilled and appreciated than ever. Their discontent drives them to other agencies where this unfortunate cycle starts all over again. Turnover rates cause agencies to suffer. How can teams produce consistently great work with talent cycling out so often?

These agencies might claim to have great company culture, and, on the surface, it might seem like the truth. But without a truly human foundation, company-wide holiday gifts don’t do anyone a bit of good. Your people are the ones who collaborate and create truly show-stopping campaigns. Your number one priority as the leader of an agency should be making your staff happy.  

The same goes for your clients. Of course, agencies want to make sure they keep clients happy in order to continue partnerships. But if you treat both your employees and your clients in a way that leaves everyone feeling heard, respected, and appreciated, you’ll reap what you sow. 

Happy employees work harder and produce better campaigns. They might even give you a great review on Glassdoor. Happy clients continue to do business with you and also spread the word to others. As your reputation grows, talent and new business come to you. It truly is that simple.


How empathy and culture should influence your agency decision

There is a lot to think about when you are considering working with an agency. The price tag and hard numbers are probably top of mind, but there are a few “softer” qualities that you should be evaluated as well. Empathy and company culture should actually be a major part of your decision to work with an agency or not.

The role of empathy

I feel empathy is a powerful trait in business in general.  Having empathy for your employees gives them a sense that you care…that you value them above profits and you care about them as human beings.  At Fingerpaint, I try every day to ensure my employees feel valued. This helps create an environment of loyalty. It also shows them how I want them to treat our clients.

Corporate empathy has been repeatedly proven to yield success for the companies that prioritize it. As stated in an article from Harvard Business Review, “empathy pays, and it pays best when it comes from the top.” Empathy can, in fact, be measured and a higher empathy quotient correlates with a strong culture and successful business, as displayed by companies topping the list of empathetic companies, including LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Audi.

Our clients should care about empathy from their agencies. Does the agency care about our success, our brand, our people? Will they go the extra mile to ensure we are successful? Will they be there for us when the chips are down? What about when there is a tight deadline?  Will they go above and beyond even if we don’t have anything remaining in the budget? The best agencies combine great strategy and creativity with a true sense of empathy and caring for their customers.

Company culture as a competitive advantage

The culture of an agency says a lot about them. If you view company culture strictly as an internal factor in business, I challenge you to rethink this. I believe that your company’s culture is an asset and can give you a competitive edge if it’s carried out the right way.

I hear a few common complaints about agencies, and they can all be tied back to the quality of the culture. High turnover, a team that isn’t engaged and is saturated with junior-levels, and not being treated like a priority are all results of something being amiss within the culture.

Employees who feel valued, motivated, and truly love what they do and where they work will treat clients with the same respect, dedication, and enthusiasm.

My advice

Teach your people how to treat your clients through leading by example. Practice empathy, make them feel like a priority and encourage creativity. The effort you put into cultivating a first-class culture will result in higher quality work and more satisfied clients. On the other hand, if you are preparing to enter a relationship with an agency, take a hard look at their company culture, how their leadership functions, and how their employees are treated before signing on.

I teach my philosophy to others in the business world so that they can learn how to use empathy and company culture to better serve their clients…and therefore become more successful. If you are looking for solutions, give me a call to set up a time for me to come share my expertise with you and your team. Want to request an RFP? Even better. Visit my company website to get in touch.

What to Look for When Selecting an Agency: Red Flags and Key Indicators

Choosing an agency can be a difficult decision and it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement and energy of a pitch. Having an agency that is going to perform how you need it to is incredibly important, especially when you are relying on them for your marketing efforts.

There is endless literature written about carefully choosing your agency in almost every industry because it’s that important. What to seek out, what to avoid, and how to choose from the vast pool of agencies are popular topics of discussion as agencies continue to evolve and companies grow increasingly dissatisfied with them. Even the members of the Forbes Agency Council have input on the matter. Based on my experience and years in the field, I’m sharing what I consider to be the most common red flags that might indicate your agency isn’t a good fit.

A junior team.

We love our junior team members, but a good agency will sprinkle them in with seasoned experts to ensure that the work being produced is nothing short of exceptional. When you hire an agency, you are relying on their expertise and looking to them for guidance. If you have a team full of junior level people, they are learning, too. A junior team can also be an indicator of high turnover in a company, which brings us to the next red flag.


If your team is always changing because of people switching positions or leaving the company, that should be a huge red flag. First of all, if you don’t have a consistent team, you are constantly going to be dealing with people trying to play catch up on your account. Additionally, a high turnover rate in a company points to bigger internal problems (such as company culture), which is more bad news.

They aren’t outthinking you.

You hired an agency to bring expertise and creative minds to your business that could up your marketing efforts. If they are delivering work, concepts, and ideas that your team could have (or maybe already has) thought of, that agency isn’t of much value to your company. Also, you shouldn’t be receiving generic, cookie-cutter deliverables. A good agency delivers high-caliber, personalized content.

You don’t feel like a priority.

This can be a result of turnover with your team, not getting customized deliverables, or not having an engaged team…but whatever the cause, you don’t feel like you are being treated like a priority. The best agencies know how to do good work while also staying attentive and nurturing their relationships with their clients. If you don’t feel like a priority, it’s time to re-evaluate your choice of agency.

Your agency should work for you and perform how you need it to. It is important to go into a pitch with your eyes wide open, and recognize the signs that an agency isn’t a good fit for your company. The right agency can do wonders for your brand and business, so make sure you know what to expect and when to call it quits with an agency that isn’t working.