Best Places to Work: cj Advertising

Angel Putman started out as a part-time employee at CJ Advertising because she wanted to be with her little girl before she started grade school. Now, 11 years later, Putman is the full-time director of media services and oversees the agency’s ad placements in television and radio.

Putman said she’s a good example of the flexibility and professional growth encouraged at CJ Advertising, an 18-year-old ad agency in downtown Nashville that specializes in law firm advertising.

“It’s always been family first at CJ Advertising,” Putman said. “At the same time I always (feel) empowered to succeed and encouraged to really advance my individual capabilities.”

The company’s fundraising initiative, Camels with a Cause, is another reason Putman values her job.

Here’s how it works: Staffers nominate a favorite charity. If it’s chosen, and if the employee commits to leading the effort, CJ pulls out the stops to generate fundraising and creative support. A selected charity gets more than financial contributions: The agency jumps in with in-kind donations such as Web site creation and advertising.

“We like to put all our energies behind one cause at a time,” said Mark Scrivner, director of operations. “It engages the heart and mind into something bigger. Rather than give $100, we’d rather raise $10,000 or more.”

Previous efforts include raising more than $23,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, helping a CJ employee launch a five-year dream of creating a nonprofit dedicated to aiding Jamaicans and promoting the annual 5-K run done in conjunction with East Nashville’s Tomato Festival.

The company has received national accolades for its fundraising power and was named the No. 1 fundraiser in the country by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Keeping morale up is a prime focus at CJ. The company conducts monthly surveys to gauge how employees are feeling.

“We have an open and transparent environment,” Scrivner said. “Everyone is kept in the loop and given various forums to express their views and provide suggestions for an even better workplace.”

Putman said the morale surveys are effective.

“I have never worked anywhere where they really cared what your morale is,” she added. “The company listens to employees.”

Some employee concerns are major, others are small, but there is a response to every single one, Scrivner said. For example, because of feedback, the company expanded paid vacation and personal time. It also installed a better icemaker.

Although the atmosphere is friendly and casual, the company works to find employees that are motivated.

“We believe we can have a very dynamic and fun environment and be very driven and successful at the same time,” Scrivner said.

There’s an extensive interview process that goes beyond the management. Employees interview potential hires, too.

In 2010, CJ will roll out Dream Manager, a motivational and goal-setting program modeled after a book by Matthew Kelly. The concept is that employees who set and achieve personal dreams will bring newfound skills and excitements into the workplace.

Run by employees rather than management, participants identify personal dreams and goals, target a few of them, and work on goal-setting skills.

“It has the potential to be incredibly powerful,” said Content Manager Marci Kacsir. “We’ll help everyone get all their dreams and goals down on paper and then help them take action steps that are measurable, simple and well-articulated.”

CJ Advertising sets high benchmarks and expects high performance from employees. There’s always at least one “BHAG,” which stands for big, hairy, audacious goal.

The current BHAG is to be the agency of choice for the Top 50 personal injury attorneys in the country. The lofty goal motivates an already fired up work force, Scrivner said.

“High performance employees hate having no standards,” he added. “They like getting things done and constantly improving. We have structured our work environment so that can happen.”

The Right Stuff
Arnie Malham, president of CJ Advertising, looks at the company’s core values to define the three most important characteristics of a great employee.
From every CJ employee, the firm expects and encourages:
1. Integrity
2. Creative enthusiasm
3. Team-driven personality
The ability to understand and deliver uncompromising service to both external and internal customers is also important to us.

Bring out your best
You’d have to work hard to be miserable at CJ Advertising.
Culture and satisfaction are king at the agency, suggesting a core belief in the inherent value of each employee. I find this belief consistently among high-performing organizations.
“I have never worked anywhere [else] where they really cared what your morale is,” said CJ exec Angel Putman.
Management empowers and engages staffers by inviting them to interview potential new hires, drive the firm’s massive charity efforts and run the employee goal-setting program. It asks for workplace-improvement suggestions and then actually implements them.
When you allow employees to play meaningful roles in how your organization operates, you acknowledge their worth as human beings, and they will repay you by bringing their very best to the table.
Charlie Palmgren is a Nashville-based consultant and founder of Innovative InterChange Associates. He can be reached at [email protected]

CJ Advertising
Company description: CJ Advertising is the largest full-service advertising agency in the country catering exclusively to personal injury lawyers.
Address: 209 10th Ave. S., Suite 500, Nashville 37203
Phone: (615) 254-6634
Number of full-time employees in Middle Tennessee: 65
Top executive: Arnie Malham, president

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