RP3 was honored by Smart CEO as one of the DC area’s best-run companies for instituting policies and practices that support our aggressive growth goals and build a culture of creativity.
Here’s our full interview as it appeared in Smart CEO’s Best-Run Washington edition.
As RP3 Agency has grown from a small team of 3 to 40 employees in seven years, it has grappled with growing pains at times. So, over the past two years, founders Beth Johnson, CEO, and Jim Lansbury, Chief Creative Officer, have worked to maintain a culture that blends an atmosphere of continuous learning with fun activities that bring people from different disciplines together.
“Growth is a big part of what we have had to tackle,” says Johnson. “We’ve really been focused on building operational practices that will support our continued growth and scale.” “Our culture grew organically and now we are getting more buttoned-up about it,” adds Lansbury. “Our processes didn’t grow as fast as our workload grew [in the early years]. We had a lot of really willing, talented, hard-working people who didn’t necessarily know how to push something across the finish line. So we have gotten really serious about using best-in-class processes, and we have brought in a Director of Operations.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that RP3 has scaled back on the fun. In fact, “we actually have a director of fun who works to create the kind of things that build that culture,” Johnson says.
Lansbury notes that the company not only employs 40 people, but also works with a network of partners. “With a lot more people involved, we had to make sure we wrote down a set of procedures we wanted. We now make sure all of our programs and policies are followed consistently,” he says.
Bethesda-based RP3 helps brands build their businesses with everything from strategy through the implementation of advertising creative, media planning and buying, web and mobile site design and development, analytics and optimization, and cloud services. RP3 works with clients in the DC area, as well as top-tier national brands such as Norfolk Southern and The Coca-Cola Company.
In the past three years, RP3 has doubled in size, Johnson notes. “We had a vision to create a nationally recognized creative powerhouse, but developing the operational plan to support our growth was not something that was in our wheelhouse or our background,” she says. “We were really good at the jobs we do every day, but we were not operational experts. If you don’t have a cultural or hiring strategy in place, it makes it that much more difficult to support growth. That’s what we were up against.”
After experiencing some growing pains, “we had to step back and bring people who could help support this growth. Fortunately, because we laid the foundation over the past seven years, we have been able to invest in the resources we need to continue to scale the business. In this next phase of growth, we are going to be much more purposeful and thoughtful about our business development plan,” she says.
Lansbury points out that the RP3 leadership team has become more deliberate in terms of how it is going to grow the business. “In the beginning, we were looking for huge growth—to make a big quantum leap—but we realized that growth can be a more incremental process and we have gotten more systematic about it,” he explains. “The incremental approach not only increases your win ratio, but it also makes it easier to digest the work when you get it.”
Part of RP3’s more systematic approach to growth is in its process of pre-recruiting—identifying potential candidates and partners before they are needed.
“We have a dedicated resource whose job is to always be out there really looking for best-in-class talent across the whole country, to be mining blogs, and social media for leadership pieces that fire people up and really reflect our values and fit with our culture,” Johnson says. We try to stay connected with those people and over time, build a relationship with them.”
RP3 has also developed relationships with schools who are training the new generation of marketers, creators, and programmers. “Our internship program is becoming more robust and more structured so that we have a pipeline of people,” says Lansbury. When RP3 needs collaborators on various projects “we look for hybrid thinkers, people who are not just experienced in advertising or marketing, but who have psychology chops or other things,” says Lansbury. “We find ways to bring those types of people in on assignments, and that has often led to full-time hires.”