Recently, I read an article on Forbes.com, titled “Why Richard Branson Says You Should Never See Yourself as ‘Big Business,’” which focused on how to retain culture as businesses expand. The author, Allison Coleman, used input from multiple well-known entrepreneurs for the article, which gave tips such as always thinking of yourself as the underdog; keeping your teams small (no matter how large your company is); and being purposeful with your culture. These are ideals mirrored at Obsidian, and we’ve seen a multitude of big benefits that come from being a small firm – benefits enjoyed by both our team and our clients.
A purposeful culture
The No. 1 benefit to being a small firm for us is that it is much easier to be purposeful with our culture. This isn’t about having fewer people; rather, it’s about having the best people. Because of the strategic structure of our team framework, we have a limited number of spaces to fill on our team, and when it’s time to bring on someone new, we are very cautious in our hiring process – ensuring we not only bring on amazing talent but also affable personalities. All full-time employees are involved in the hiring process, which means they have the opportunity to shape our team and choose who they want to work with. We are also very purposeful in ensuring that our teams spend time together outside of the office and get to know (and respect) each other, which is much easier in a smaller team environment.
Whether they realize it or not – and most of them would probably say they do – our clients also directly benefit from our healthy culture. Our teams work well together and lose no time to contention, meaning they are more efficient and get the work done quickly. And, when people enjoy those they work with and what they do, it carries over into their dealings with clients. If you haven’t noticed, clients like working with happy, efficient people.
Small teams, big opportunities
Other benefits to working for our small firm are small teams and big opportunities for growth and professional development. Rather than being one in a handful or more people on a team, our teams are made up of two or three people who get hands-on experience in both strategy and tactical execution, as well as direct client relations experience. Even our interns are offered opportunities to work directly on client projects and earn real-world experience they can take to their next internship or full-time job.
This high level of on-the-job training provides the opportunity to sharpen our team’s skill sets under the close supervision of our director of client services. While the career ladder at Obsidian still requires tenacity and evident professional development, younger professionals have the opportunity to test the waters of advancement early in their career and are placed on major accounts – gaining valuable experience they most likely wouldn’t even be considered for at a larger agency.
Our clients also reap the benefits of this scenario – being able to tap into the enthusiasm and ideas of the eager young professionals while relying on the guidance of the senior rep to lead the way. Additionally, smaller teams allow for more intimate connections between clients and their assigned account reps. And, while their assigned account team is kept small, clients often receive access to our entire team of PR professionals through regular team-wide brainstorms.
Small firm, big benefits – literally
Finally, because our firm is small, owner Courtney Ellett is able to offer some amazing benefits to our team, such as 100 percent paid employee health, dental and vision insurance, as well as disability insurance; year-end bonuses; retirement fund contributions; and a significant amount of paid vacation time, on top of several paid holidays including full weeks off at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Because of this commitment to securing great people, Obsidian offers its clients outstanding, talented team members who love what they do, enjoy working at Obsidian and bring their best game to work every day. This small but purposeful firm provides a big bang for clients, which is why so many remain on retainer year after year.
People say “bigger is better,” and we completely agree – which is why our small firm is dedicated to making a big impact for our clients!