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#1 Small Company on the 2008 Best Small & Medium Companies To Work for in America List
At Dixon Schwabl, an advertising, marketing and public relations agency based in Victor, N.Y., creativity forms the cornerstone of the business. As a result, its 77 employees are encouraged to share their imaginative ideas in various forums. Six years ago when the company moved to new offices, employees were asked what they wanted in the space and, true to the company’s extroverted culture, they didn’t hold back.
Among employees’ suggestions: windows that open, thermostat controls in each office, a giant slide, a fireplace in the conference room and a padded “primal scream” room. The final design incorporates every idea, Chief Executive Officer Lauren Dixon says proudly.
“We never make a decision without putting it on the table for everyone’s approval,” Dixon says. “You might think our clients are No. 1, but really it’s our employees. If we make our employees No. 1, they’ll make our clients No. 1.”
Now in its 21st year, Dixon Schwabl tops the 2008 list of the Best Small Companies to Work for in America. Leaders and employees of the privately held company, which has been on the list for four years, work hard to live its values of integrity, teamwork, fun, creativity and community.
Last year, employees went through a process to deepen their understanding of the company brand and personality. The work led to a new logo and a new tagline -- “We make it happen!” -- that conveys the company’s energetic spirit. In February, the company announced plans to expand its interactive services team and to create an emerging technologies and economic development group.
Among its clients: grocery chain Wegmans, wireless network Frontier Communications and storage solutions provider Document Security Systems Inc.
“The success of our business has led to growth,” says Chief Financial Officer and Human Resource Manager David Lyttle, who joined the company four years ago. “But one thing that hasn’t changed is our caring environment, and that starts at the top.”
Company leaders have earned a reputation for listening to and valuing employees’ opinions, offering the staff freedom and flexibility on the job, and providing benefits such as a generous health care package and nutrition programs, profit sharing and an array of training opportunities.
Each year, the company conducts a two-day all-staff team-building exercise led by an outside facilitator. It is also committed to preparing young people to enter the workforce. In 20 years, it has had more than 700 interns. It will have 22 this summer.
Leaders share information with employees through daily team meetings and weekly staff meetings held every Wednesday morning for 20 minutes -- no more.
“I’m into quick, impactful meetings,” says Dixon. “Every meeting should be less than an hour.”
It’s not unusual for employees to receive handwritten notes from Dixon, President Mike Schwabl or a manager, thanking them for a job well done.
And in everything they do, employees like to infuse a liberal dose of fun.
On Thursdays from May to Labor Day, employees go outdoors to enjoy ice cream and to socialize with co-workers. One day in May, the front desk of the company’s colorful offices was filled with pledge forms, shaped like sneakers, to raise funds for juvenile diabetes research.
“Our employees love the fact that we give back, and that we allow them to give back, too,” says Dixon.
In fact, Dixon Schwabl donates more than 3,000 hours and $375,000 in services annually to support charitable causes. Employees are encouraged to participate each year in a “Make It Happen Day” to benefit any local organization they choose.
Associate Creative Director Jim Tausch knew he was experiencing a different kind of workplace the moment he arrived for his first interview more than a year ago.
“What I noticed right away is how bright and colorful the office is,” he says. “And while I was sitting in the lobby, employees started coming and I noticed how warmly they greeted each other and asked about each other’s families. It’s such a positive environment -- positive without being Pollyanna.”
A bell hanging next to the front door bears a sign to visitors that says, “If you had a ‘wow’ experience, please ring the bell.”
“We want that bell to ring all day long,” says Dixon.
List of Best Small Companies to Work for in America, 2008
List of Best Medium Companies to Work for in America, 2008
50 Best Small & Medium Companies To Work for in America home page
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