PRWeek Asia's Best Places to Work Winners in their own words: Sling & Stone

The Sydney agency renowned for advising challenger brands was named one of PRWeek Asia's Best Places to Work in the small agency category.

Answers from Vuki Vujasinovic, founder and CEO, pictured below.

Number of APAC employees: 22

Number and location of APAC offices: 1 office - Australia

How do you ensure your company is competitive in terms of salary and other financial benefits?

We are a meritocracy. Promotions and payrises at our agency are not dependent on length of tenure or annual review periods, but on skills, passion, and contribution. There is nothing stopping an employee getting a promotion and payrise in consecutive quarters, which has happened multiple times.

We prefer to promote from within rather than hire above. As a result, we offer potential for much faster progression than most agencies. We also regularly survey the market to ensure salaries and other benefits at Sling & Stone are competitive and top-of-market.

How do you ensure your teams receive the required training?

We design and run internal workshops led by our own team members who have specific expertise to ensure that any internal knowledge we have is shared among everyone. Where we don’t have that experience, we bring it in from external sources who present to us, and in other cases pay for our staff to attend external courses. We know it’s important, for individuals and the entire agency, to constantly stretch ourselves.

How do you ensure your staff have a clear career path and help them achieve their personal goals?

We set quarterly, measurable, challenging goals for individuals that are also in line with agency growth objectives. We have weekly check-ins to track these goals using online software, as well as frequent assessments with line managers, and we celebrate their success.

We ensure these objectives are designed to help individuals develop in both the short and long-term. Small Improvements and 15Five are great tools we use that help track reviews and goal setting. Most importantly though, we ensure people’s time at Sling & Stone is all about maximising master, autonomy, and purpose in their working lives.

How does your company maintain a good work/life balance?

Maintaining a healthy work/life balance has been a core part of our culture and growth since day one. We have invested in cloud-based systems for virtually our entire technology stack. Since everyone has a Macbook Air, it means anyone at Sling & Stone can pick up their computer and work from a cafe, a client’s office, or home if needed.

We set clear expectations and guidelines that ensure staff don’t work excessively outside of hours, and we openly discuss and quickly deal with situations where any individual is overworked. We’re particularly health-conscious and we do a range of team-based fitness activities, with the agency providing weekly in-office yoga sessions, indoor soccer and netball, team runs, rock climbing, and more.

How do you ensure your physical workplace environment and atmosphere is an attractive place to work?

We’ve invested heavily in the design and feel of our new headquarters — a beautiful converted warehouse in the heart of Surry Hills, Sydney. We designed the space ourselves, and decked it out with electronic sit-stand desks, ergonomic Herman Miller chairs, Cinema Displays for all, a projector wall for movie nights, quiet seating pods, and more.

We have a huge area for team lunches, a custom-made bar, a cold drip coffee machine, and we’re dog friendly for our four-legged counterparts. It’s a thoughtful, spacious design that takes into account that everyone has a different working style.

How does your company effectively communicate with employees?

From day one to our current period of growth, transparent, and rapid communication has been central to our success as a team. We have great systems and tools like Slack to facilitate this, coupled with a culture of open communication from top to bottom, meaning we effectively communicate with everyone in our agency.

Anyone can easily reach out to any other member of the agency, and company updates for important developments are shared and discussed regularly via email and weekly team meetings that are held over drinks on a Friday afternoon.

How do you ensure diversity at all levels of the organisation?

We have a deliberate growth strategy that fosters and nurtures our culture as we grow, rather than transforming it for the worse. I’ve seen agencies grow, become overly stifled, and lose the edge they had in their early days — killing diversity and creativity along the way. We don’t just hire people that agree with us — we don’t want yes men and yes women — we want people that challenge us.

When that is a big part of your persona as a team, things like ensuring diversity at all levels become self-selecting, organic and natural. We are not a traditional agency and we have people from all walks of life in our fast-growing team.

If you had to pick the one most important factor for how your company minimises turnover, what would be it be?

Interestingly, in our six-year history, we have never had anyone leave our agency to work for another local agency. Our incredibly low turnover is down to one key factor: how we choose which clients to represent. Some agencies are forced to pitch for every piece of business that knocks on their door. We’re a bit different.

We have a clear purpose and passion, and this means that we are very specific about working with the best challengers, disrupters, and entrepreneurs. We consult each new business lead with our team to determine those we want to chase, and those that don’t inspire passion. This translates to people only working on clients that truly want to represent, and that passion leads to an engaged PR team.

In three words, describe what it is like to work at your company?

Challenging. Rewarding. Meaningful.

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