Inc.'s Best 50 Workplaces of 2017
Jacksonville Beach-Based Ad Agency Wins Inc. Magazine's 50 Best Workplaces in U.S.
Adjective & Co.’s award-winning culture creates award-winning work
Jacksonville Beach, Florida-based Adjective & Co. is building a strong case for being known as one of the best boutique branding agencies in the country. Almost four years ago, Adjective's founders, Taylor Harkey and Autumn Berrang, set out to build the “un-agency” — a company that does things much differently than agencies they’d worked for in the past. They believed that if you hire amazing people, and truly put them first, everything else will fall into place. And it did.
On June 1, the forward-thinking branding agency was recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the top 50 companies to work for in the entire nation, regardless of size or industry.
Making Adjective a “best place to work” has been a result of a strong internal culture, giving back to the community, and working with clients who “don't suck. ” This philosophy has been their recipe for attracting incredible talent, creating award-winning brands, and yielding amazing business results. They sought to put Jacksonville on the map creatively, and it seems their plan has worked.
Harkey, Adjective's co-founder and executive creative director said, "Advertising agencies are notorious for overworking staff, resulting in a poor work/life balance—even the best agencies. That’s just the nature of the industry. But we’ve found that what you give your employees is directly given back in their work. Talented people can create amazing results, but talented and fulfilled people can create work that pushes boundaries and challenges the average. To be recognized by a prestigious publication like Inc. Magazine for encouraging that kind of work environment is truly amazing.”
The agency’s formula has been successful, which is evident through their consistent wins and sheer volume of local, regional, and national accolades. In addition to the recognition by Inc. Magazine, Adjective has been named “Best Places to Work” by the Jacksonville Business Journal three years in a row. And their branding and design work reflected their employee satisfaction by winning 47 ADDY Awards—the advertising industry's largest and most representative competition—including “Best of Show,” 35 golds, and four national gold ADDYs, the industry's top advertising honor.
The boutique agency’s success seems to be fueling the entire creative community in Jacksonville. Eric Baskauskas, American Advertising Federation (AAF) Jacksonville’s president, said “Five years ago, Jacksonville was averaging about 15 ADDY Awards and now we've almost doubled that—in 2017 we took home 28 awards. That's huge considering our mid-size market is competing against larger markets such as Miami, Orlando, Tampa and the Caribbean. Jacksonville is not only bringing home more awards, we are bringing home the top awards. Four of the eight top awards this year were from Jacksonville, the most we’ve had in many years. Adjective & Co. has been a prominent supporter of the AAF from their inception and has been pushing the advancement of advertising in the region and inspiring Jacksonville's creative industry. We can compete with larger markets—Adjective has proven that.”
The current size of the company is 15 team members, with a majority of them being full-time employees in their Jacksonville Beach office, and a few in their satellite office in Montauk, New York. Some of their more unusual employee perks include: unlimited vacation, monthly allowance for anything that “makes them happy,” a company credit card, flexible work hours, no timesheets (very atypical in advertising) and full transparency in business goals and financials. The company also takes annual team trips, offers a free group fitness membership, summer Fridays, and traditional benefits such as retirement-plan matching and healthcare. Their open-concept office overlooks the beach, and one of only four walls is a giant collage of inspiring visuals that were chosen by individual team members.
"There are tons of good places to work out there," says Berrang, Adjective's president and co-founder, "but a business that truly trusts its team members is very hard to find. When you have a team of employees you can trust, you can offer things other companies can’t. People thought we were a little crazy when we told them our plan for success. Our culture is built on transparency with our team, and trusting them to do what's right for us and our clients, and that’s what makes us so great."
Harkey says, "It’s easy to forget this approach is not ‘the norm.’ It’s only when I hear a friend excited about ‘Jeans Friday’ that I realize what a unique place we have and how lucky we really are. Having complete freedom allows us to focus on the big picture, because that’s what really matters. We give a lot, but we also expect a lot. We never set out to be the best in Jacksonville, or even the best in the country. We just wanted to push the boundaries of how brands engage with the next generation of consumers. We’ve been very selective about who we let into the Adjective family, be it clients or team members, and all of them must subscribe to the fact that ‘good enough’ is never good enough."
Community-based efforts are also a large part of Adjective’s culture and what many team members get most excited about. "Each year, we do a large pro-bono project for a non-profit," said Danielle Bergh, VP, Account Director. "It feels great for our team to use our talents for good causes. Our commitment is to always give, even when we don't have time. That's part of who we are as a company and we will continue to do great things for the community we love." Past non-profit organizations that Adjective has helped include HabiJax, Okoa Refuge and GastroFest.
Adjective & Co. is committed to being on the leading edge of pioneering new ways in which branding agencies attract and work with clients and internal teams, a practice they hope will continue to put the region on the map. “We constantly strive to shine a spotlight on the creativity and talent in Jacksonville, to contribute to the city becoming a creative hub for the advertising industry.” said Berrang. “The agency model has changed. We've been fortunate enough to start from scratch and be ahead of the curve in our practices such as flat, value-based pricing and honor-system work hours. Jacksonville is a market that was ripe for something new and fresh and we're excited to continue to fill that need and bring forward-thinking practices to our clients based here and throughout the country. We always remember that our success comes down to our people - our team and the clients alike - who trust us to push them out of their comfort zones. They are the key to all of our achievements."