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VOL. 127 | NO. 154 | Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Archer-Malmo Grows as Business Surges

By Sarah Baker

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Archer-malmo has added more than 20 people to its professional staff this year, and the growth outlook is positive.

Archer-malmo has hired more than 20 people this year, bringing its total employee count to about 120, marking the agency’s peak in the number of professional staffers.

(Photo Courtesy of archer-malmo)

By the end of this year, the city’s largest advertising agency’s total employee roster will have expanded to about 120, marking its peak in professional staff. Archer-malmo had that high of a headcount briefly in late 2006 and early 2007, but this growth is distinct, said CEO Russ Williams.

“This business has sort of surges of growth like that,” Williams said. “It plateaus and surges of growth and plateaus and sometimes downturns, but we’ve never seen one like this. It’s exciting to be offering great jobs to people in this kind of economy.”

Fueling the agency’s personnel increase is organic growth among existing clients.

“A lot of it is clients saying, ‘You guys have done a great job with this service or this brand and we want to move some more responsibilities your way,’” Williams said. “It’s happening with almost every single one of our clients, all at the same time.”

About one-third of archer-malmo’s new employees are from outside of Memphis, while two-thirds are local. In its last surge of hiring, the agency attracted people from Chicago, Dallas and Salt Lake City.

And the economic impact of attracting talent to Downtown Memphis is substantial. The average salary of an archer-malmo employee is $70,000.

At the core of the company’s operating principals is its ability to attract, retain and motivate top talent. It’s an employee-centric philosophy that stems back to archer-malmo’s 1952 founder, Ward Archer Sr.

“I just don’t know if everybody realizes the enormous business value of having a great corporate culture,” Williams said. “It starts with great people, you can’t do great work without great people. But if you have great people, then they’re going to do great work, and if you do great work, you’re going to win and keep great clients. And it goes around and around.”

One of archer-malmo’s newest hires is Ed Bryson, senior vice president and chief public relations officer. He heads the 11-person PR team, a position that was previously held by long-time agency executive, Cynthia Ham, before she left in February to lead BRIDGES.

Bryson joins archer-malmo from Fleishman-Hillard Inc., a publicly traded PR agency and communications firm based in Dallas.

“I think for some businesses, this idea of culture is kind of almost a trend,” Bryson said. “What’s fun to me about archer-malmo is they’ve been thinking about that for a long time. It’s not the flavor of the day, it’s the essence of what this place is all about and has been for a really long time.”

It’s also the concept of specialists that have kept archer-malmo thriving, said principal and chief creative officer Gary Backaus.

“A bunch of PR specialists, a bunch of media specialists, creative people, interactive people, experiential marketing, etc.,” Backaus said. “It’s not just about finding somebody who can do a particular job, it’s how well can you do that particular job. It’s important for us to be the kind of place that attracts the best talent.”

An important part of archer-malmo’s culture is the fact that every employee has a stake in the company.

“It’s an open books company,” Williams said. “We have a very generous bonus program where we share the profits of the agency every year with all employees. It’s not formally organized as an ESOP or something, but everybody benefits when we do well. It’s shared across the board.”

About two-thirds of archer-malmo’s revenue comes from companies based outside of Memphis, with the remainder deriving from local businesses. This formula is a reverse ratio of where it was just 10 years ago.

Many of archer-malmo’s clients have had accounts with the firm for longer than a decade, supported by a workforce that shares in that longevity. Backaus said the impact on employee turnover is yet another benefit of agency’s values.

“We have more continuity, more people have long experience with clients and understand their business really well,” Backaus said. “It’s not a revolving door where it’s like you’ve always got to educate people about what we’re doing. If you treat your employees right, they take care of your customers, then the business takes care of itself.”

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