As a growing global independent communications network we regularly see our Members and Partners from across the world championing balance and equality within their agencies. So to mark International Women’s Day, we spoke to five of our Member and Partner agencies to showcase the actions they are taking and initiatives they are pushing to encourage equality and diversity in the workplace.
We sat down with Greetje (co-founder of comma, Belgium), Cristina (co-founder of DaGusto, Madrid), Claudia (CEO and Partner at Altermark, Miami), Nicky (Founder of Don’t Panic, Manchester) and Vania (CEO and Partner of Sing Comunicacao, Sao-Paolo) to ask them a few questions.
1.International Women’s Day is a way to celebrate women’s achievements and to call attention to the work still left to be done on a global scale.
What have been your biggest work achievements over the past year?
Launching our start-up ‘Peace for Talent’ was one of our biggest achievements. At comma, we are Brand Strategists and by launching Peace for Talent it gives us a focus on Human Strategy as well. As we were pioneers 15 years ago with comma, we are doing the same thing with Peace for Talent. With Peace for Talent we improve happiness & talent growth. This year is also our 15th anniversary for comma, which is a big achievement for us and reminds us to focus on our motto ‘Fly high & enjoy the ride’.
DAGUSTO was launched by 2 entrepreneurial women in 2006. We never received a subsidy for being women or being under 30. We always believed in ourselves and in our project!! After 12 years together, at the end of 2018, I decided to continue running the agency by myself and had to rebuild my client structure practically from scratch. So I’m proud to have found the correct path and strategy to keep the agency alive and healthy in this new era.
For sure, it was having a baby and getting back to work, more or less, rather quickly. I was working within the 1st month and back 100% by the 3rd month. I also had my 1st in charge resign, so the challenges were great. In the end, it worked out for the best, I built an awesome team and we had our best year ever in 2019.
Growing the agency turnover by 20%. The continued growth of the search awards series, a global series of events celebrating and rewarding excellent in SEO and PPC including the launch of Canadian Search Awards, https://canadiansearchawards.com/ APAC Search Awards https://apacsearchawards.com/ and Global Search Awards http://globalsearchawards.net/. And the planning and delivery of Digital City Festival https://digitalcityfestival.com/, a week-long celebration of all things digital including a large scale two day expo event.
2019 was a challenging year. Even more challenging for a small company based in Brazil, where politic and economic turmoil were usual news every day. That's why celebrating 16 years in business is a great achievement. Especially for a PR agency, led by women, 98% powered by a female team (there are two guys in the team) working for industries usually led by men: technology and eSports! While we strive for progress in this ‘always-changing&challenging-landscape’ of data driven communication, we never forget to keep improving the workplace. So, receiving the Great Place to Work certification was an amazing way to finish the year!
2. How are you driving balance and equality in your agency?
We invest a lot in our people so that they find the perfect flow and have balance. We are situated in a very green environment with a large garden, little horses, vegetable garden, outdoor office and lunch areas. Everyone has a focus desk and we use Luxafor to stimulate focus work and working in the zone. We plan together in co-creation using our Mindtrix planning board. We left the digital way behind us so do this in a scrum and agile way. We have a silence and meditation level where we have one ‘do not disturb’ desk. Each week we organise a 2 hours Pilates class, every Tuesday evening at the office in our silence room. People can work from home. And of course we have our offices cats & dog!
DAGUSTO has always encouraged equal working teams within the agency. Accounts’ is more a female department and Creative a more male based team, but we’ve always worked together in harmony. We believe in work at home policies, flexible hours and we’ve been helping our people to conciliate work and family life since our creation. The women in our teams who are mothers and have decided to work from home have always been supported by our associates. We try to set up meetings at reasonable times for people who have family or parents to care for and we always try to put our people first to balance work and family obligations. We also have a couple of ‘daddy’s’ who decided to stay at home with their babies so they became freelancers with us. It’s been a great economic model to survive the huge economic crisis that we’ve had in the past. This allows us to reduce costs, office expenditure and to provide our clients with a better estimate for what they really use.
Everyone is open to focus on the objectives and challenges that they are up to. We really don't have a hierarchy in terms of positions or responsibilities. We allow the people that are most prepared and responsive to tackle the issues at hand. I will allow new hires to head client meetings if I feel they can handle it. I always preface with new employees that they can be a partner at Altermark if they want to. I believe in allowing people to tell me what they want and where they need to be.
Unusually we currently have an all-female senior leadership team. There are definitely no glass ceilings at Don't Panic!
A service company is nothing without people, so we are totally driven to provide the best workplace in all senses: bias free and with opportunities for everyone regardless of gender.
To turn this philosophy into reality, we put in place some initiatives such as: job descriptions tied-in with a career and salary plans to secure equal conditions and salaries regardless of gender; we offer opportunities for interns, as a way of helping to create more talent for the market; and we employ more women as PR is a female market in Brazil.
3. What can we look forward to seeing from your agency in 2020?
On the business side of things, we will continue to keep our client satisfaction score at 97%. We will focus on growing the Brand Strategy side of the business. We will strive to reach our agency targets, which once reached, will be celebrated with a team ski trip for the whole agency! We will work on the growth of our start-up Peace for Talent. And we will also continue to work hard on our own brands; Fastbranding (cash and carry brands), Tiyi (our joint venture with a fair trade tea plantation in Malawi), Mindtrix (a platform for effective planning), Barbelge (our luxury Belgian beer brand) and Fietsvedetjes (our team of 44 power-cycling ladies).
We want to continue strengthening our relationships with our new clients, and to continue incorporating technology that allows us to be more efficient with tools to work from home. Flexibility is in our DNA. Our objective for this year is +15% Revenue by incorporating new specialists in digital and online services both male & female in equal parts.
Growth, we are hiring!
Don't Panic is an awards specialist. We are no longer focussing efforts on client wins / new business. We are instead focussing on building our owned assets, Don't Panic currently own 21 award schemes for the digital industries. We are planning to launch 6 new assets each year in locations around the globe, 2020 launches include EU Agency Awards, EU eCommerce Awards and the US Social Media Awards.
More than ever, Sing will be a strategic partner in helping business to succeed in Brazil.
As a PR agency we've developed in-depth industry knowledge in different segments, and by using it aligned with creativity, expertise in storytelling and engagement, we can help brands to overcome their KPIs. Nowadays, PR means much more than traditional media. We can build trust, reputation, increase engagement and drive sales.
4. If you could give one piece of advice to people all over the world starting their own agencies or businesses, what would it be?
Go for your dream, focus on strategy, stay sharp & healthy and don’t go the ‘adrenaline way’ but keep your natural flow!
To start humble. There’s no need to impact with great offices or equipment. The best asset in an agency is the people. Try to build a great talented team where people are happy to work in the agency every morning. Build strong relationships of confidence with clients and enjoy your work!!
(1.)Create a unique offering even if you are in an over-populated industry. (2.) Treat every client the same, regardless of their budget, $5k or $5m. (3.) Build strong relationships with all the vendors - they are an extension of your company.
I have been working in advertising since 2001 and I have many times been the only female at the table. I have been asked by previous male bosses, "How do you do it, being around so many men and still maintaining such a professional profile?" The answer is easy. I am working and focused on what I do. Being the only woman, is a great challenge and as more and more women strive to gain this position, it will become the norm and these "tables" will start to look a bit more balanced.
Hire good people and reward them well, build a solid team around you, delegate and empower them, talent is the biggest challenge in running any agency, surround yourself with people who support and inspire you.
Never forget why you started and what keeps you alive in this path. When the purpose is genuine it becomes true and contagious to everyone: employees, partners, clients and the market. As I usually say: every company looks like its president or CEO! A company culture always comes from the top down, not the other way around.
To find about more about comma, DaGusto, Altermark, Don’t Panic and Sing, follow the links below or get in touch with Elaine Miller, Global Operations Manager at Tribe Global at firstname.lastname@example.org