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Nice People but Mismanaged
I really debated writing this review since I genuinely like and respect the people here and don't want to hurt them by crippling their ability to recruit fantastic talent, but I realized this will be more helpful than hurtful as they'll recruit the talent they need rather than recruiting what they want. People like me won't land up in these roles just to quit after 2 months which is far more hurtful. They need to cut the title of this role down by several notches. For the salary and scope, this job is more for a marketing manager. I was hired to help define this place as a contender in the world of agencies but was relegated to doing account management, copywriting, and other functions that were not vital to my job description or strategic. While yes this is a startup and people have to "wear many hats", it seemed I was busy wearing the hat of things I had done much earlier in my career. I could afford to take this job because they let me keep a client and that client basically bankrolled IHC's desire to hire me when you think about it. I took the role for various personal reasons and money is not an issue for me. Given how low that salary was, though, it really should have been the first question he asked during the interview. I was shocked when I first heard it and it was after interviewing for a solid month. Since there is very little interest in working outside of entertainment, the contracts are not that great. Anybody with agency experience knows entertainment doesn't pay much and we use it as a showpiece to get the real contracts like government, CPGs, and medical. Clients often express that IHC would not be interested in marketing them because they aren't what IHC wants. One client went so far as to tell me he was told by the founder that his project was not "within the ethos" of IHC. When you're growing, you can't be choosy (outside of moral or ethical reasons of course). If you want to pay your team more, you have to take what you can get and you need to go after "boring" contracts. The founder was becoming more open to taking contracts he didn't find sexy, but based on how he would speak to me about my own background working on high-paying contracts in health and wellness, he looked down on it and would take them begrudgingly. I felt insulted a lot by how he would talk about my contracts (frequently calling them "medical supplies" -- never worked in medical supplies in my life, but I bet it would be lucrative so sign me up) and acting like people who charge hourly are not worth his time (I've charged hourly my entire career and he knew that when he said it in front of the whole office). A good share of quality freelancers charge hourly. Let's talk about the team. They are amazing people and have a lot of talent and smarts, but are mismanaged insofar as what I complained about earlier: they aren't doing a lot of the work they want to do. I have never had a job where I 100% liked what I was doing, there will always be a part of any job that is boring, tedious, or frustrating, but here people are doing a lot of what they don't want to do and very little of what they do. When I would try and shift people into something they wanted to do I would get pushback from the founder. When you can't afford your team quality of life through a salary and benefits (there are no benefits at this company yet), you need to afford them quality of life through job function and horizontal movement, work/life balance, and a lot of gratitude. None of that occurred here though people would really like to work from home and are capable of doing so and would like to work more within their career interests. Since nobody here has ever worked for an agency or in an environment where they are learning from actual marketers they lack basic expertise. In one case this lead to an issue and the founder was upset with the team member in front of the whole office. Again, phenomenally bright team, but nobody has taught them the basics. We would also have to have uncomfortable conversations in front of the whole staff. Most places have an HR department that would quickly stop that sort of thing, but the founder has never worked for anyone before and doesn't know any better I'm guessing. Everybody's business is on full display. As the team here is primarily young, and I'm guessing most of them don't know much about proper business practices outside of this job since this is likely their first or second professional job, I saw very little push back on this. The founder has never worked at a marketing agency before but is trying to be one. Agencies follow certain protocols in an effort to streamline and create efficiency. Yet anytime I would try to get him in line with these practices he would make a face. It was like trying to get a child to eat their vegetables. For example, somehow IHC been functioning for a little over a year without writing internal creative briefs for projects. I did change that and it seems to have worked wonders. There is no value placed on strategy here and we all know strategy is the heart of an agency. Nobody here is a strategist. I come from a solid career in strategy so I'm glad I got that going, but the founder seemed disgusted that I was studying so much. Strategy involves a lot of research, but again he's never worked at an agency and doesn't know what roles have to exist and what those roles and departments are called. When I first started, with such a small team, there was a desire for them to get to know me and vice versa. We would joke around a lot which is normal. We were frequently told "joke time is over". Teammates were scared to have fun. Teammates were told while taking a lunch break in the office that they had to work (I witnessed this once and was told weeks later by a teammate I should probably take my lunch breaks outside if I don't want to be forced to work). They are afraid to complain about other team members at the risk of sounding like they are "talking crap" though bottled up emotion is terribly poisonous. Also, nobody takes out the trash, the founder once told me "nobody is above answering the phone or taking out the trash", but I have never seen him take the initiative to take out the trash (even I have) and the one time he answered the phone that's when he said that line, so... yeah. I have so much more I could say but this is already lengthy so I'll stop. At the end of the day, the way this place is currently setup would not be suitable for anyone with actual marketing agency experience. You will feel frustrated frequently.
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