Firehouse Operates on the Belief 'Happy People Do Better Work'

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At Firehouse, the belief is “happy people do better work.”

That’s according to the Dallas ad agency’s partners, CEO Steve Smith and President and Chief Creative Officer Tripp Westbrook.

The belief drives Firehouse’s policies, culture and even decisions on which clients the agency works with. Employees can raise concerns with a business the agency is pitching or refuse to work on an existing account, either through a public forum or anonymously via a supervisor, Westbrook said.

“We have turned down opportunities because the team did not feel they were aligned with our values in some way,” Smith said, adding that some employees have opted not to work on Hooters, a restaurant chain known for its chicken wings and its servers’ revealing uniforms. Hooters hired Firehouse as its creative agency of record last April.

Firehouse continued to add benefits in 2023, including expanding its parental leave policy to 12 weeks of full pay for birth parents and six weeks for non-birth parents (including adoptive), with an additional four weeks of full pay while transitioning 50% back to work.
The agency introduced salary transparency last year and added detailed, actionable job descriptions for every position.

One way Firehouse recognizes employee contributions is through its monthly “Champagne Thursday,” where it toasts individuals’ successes. Loyalty is also rewarded. When employees hit their five-year anniversary, they get a Four Seasons getaway; the 10-year award is a $2,500 travel fund and the 15-year award is $5,000 and an engraved ice bucket.

The agency said its senior management team was 44% multicultural and 60% female in 2023. Among its diversity initiatives, the agency runs an employee educational series and in 2022 established a dedicated internal committee that most recently has been focused on how to adequately provide for people with invisible disabilities.

While policies are key in maintaining a good culture, Smith said, “the reality is, so much is intangible; the environment you foster, the communications you allow. Those are the things that make a company a best place to work."

What will set apart Firehouse as a Best Place toWork amid the challenges of 2024?
Steve Smith, CEO and partner: “One, we’re going to do everything we can to weather the storm with our team intact. Regardless of circumstances, an organization is a lot like an organism. It’s not static, it has to grow. We’ll be listening to the team; we’ll keep being progressive. You have to remember to not rest on your laurels.”

Firehouse studio manager Pedro Armstrong with the agency's "Make a Difference" logo in neon. Credit: Firehouse

President and Chief Creative Officer Tripp Westbrook. Dogs are allowed any day of the week at Firehouse. The agency keeps a "dogs in the office" calendar to ensure

only compatible canines are in the office at the same time.
Credit: Firehouse

By Lindsay Rittenhouse, Ad Age