Letters From Stan

A Focus on Longevity, Not Seniority

Stan Richards

Dear Dan,

You’ve heard me talk about our tenure here at the agency – in terms of both clients and the people who work here. The duration of our client relationships is often more visible to you, because we cite it in case studies or cover letters or simply in answer to a question in an RFP.

And we talk about the average tenure for agency leadership across disciplines, but we’ve never really talked specifics. Well, I saw a number the other day that shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. Here it is:


First, a little background. As evidenced by the naming convention of our conference rooms (they bear the names of the people who have worked here the longest, regardless of what job they do), we value longevity, not seniority. It certainly bucks the system of a hierarchical organization, but since we’re intentionally flat, there’s no system to buck.

And when you consider what longevity means to a client – without constant turnover, the people who learn your business stay on your business – it’s well worth the value we place on it.

So it follows that if we value longevity, we should reward longevity. And we do.

When someone reaches their 20th year here, they get three things: a new patch for their agency jacket, a stairwell meeting with the entire agency held in their honor (family members have been known to fly in for it), and $10,000 toward a trip of their choosing.

There have been cruises to Alaska, expeditions to Antarctica, walking tours of Jerusalem, elephant rides in Thailand, an entire week sampling beers on a tour of Trappist monk breweries in Belgium, and – perhaps my favorite – two people who started here on the same day 20 years ago and became best friends recently took their spouses to Italy, so all four of them could celebrate their milestone together.

So, back to the number.

127. That’s the number of 20th anniversaries we’ve celebrated since I began this tradition. And as you can imagine, every year brings more anniversaries to mark.

Last year, there were eight. (1996 must have been a light year for hiring.) This year, there will be 16. And next year? 18.

While I love welcoming current and potential clients at the stairwell and giving them a sense of what it is we’re all about, nothing makes me prouder than gathering everyone together to honor these people – in front of their peers, their friends, their families – who have helped shape who we are and the work we do.

Admittedly, it’s a more expensive proposition than I ever envisioned. But the benefits of stability, for both the agency and our clients, in an environment where people feel challenged and fulfilled every day for decades? I don’t think you can put a price on that.