Living our values means trusting our people

At 4:00 on a Tuesday, we gather in the only conference room that will hold us all. After a few minutes of banter, the partners get down to business—literally. We’re gathered for our State of the Agency meeting, one of two that we will host this year. The purpose is simple: transparency.

We’re here to pull back the curtain. To talk openly about the agency’s performance, about how we are tracking verus our goals, and to preview what comes next. All in an un-stuffy environment that invites questions and challenges. You see, transparency is one of our core values, and we take it seriously. It’s not just a bullet point in the new business deck—it’s how we operate. 

Transparency gives us the platform to boldly state our goals, vulnerably share our failures, and earnestly ask to be held accountable. 

Leaning further into this idea, in 2023, we introduced salary transparency. While pay transparency is gaining steam in other industries, and even being written into law in some states, we wanted to be on the forefront of this in advertising—an industry that has historically rewarded squeaky wheels and agency hoppers. In contrast, we established salary ranges for each position, with parity across departments, and shared those with our employees. They deserve to know the range for their position and what they can expect as they grow in their role here. Again, our cards are on the table in plain view. 

Our longest standing example of transparency is in our open door policy. It’s not fancy, but it is effective. Employees are invited to share feedback with our C-suite anytime. And they do. But CEO Steve Smith also has lunch with every new employee after they’ve been here for 30 days. The point of that lunch? Asking: Now that you’ve seen it all, what could we be doing better? We’re being transparent about the fact we don’t have all the answers but do have an earnest desire to improve. 

Transparency requires vulnerability. It is not always easy and it is something we learn to be better at each day. But, here at Firehouse, agency leadership sets the example. They are willing to be vulnerable, even a little uncomfortable, if it makes this place better for our employees. So far, it seems to be working.