January 28, 2022

The treehouse is growing: 4 ways we cultivate workplace culture through change

Karen Gould
cultivate workplace culture

When our Chief of Trees, Becca Apfelstadt, founded treetree, she set out with one clear mission: Create the favorite place employees have ever worked and the favorite agency clients have ever hired.

Fast-forward 12 years later, and treetree is thriving. The agency is experiencing an exciting period of growth as we add new trees to the forest and continue to partner with clients on exciting initiatives. treetree has always been unique. From our kitchen-table founding day to our name (this is a great story for another day) to our values to our woman-owned diversity certification, we don’t fit the mold of many agencies today. And we like it that way.

But what makes us truly special is the culture Becca envisioned all those years ago—and brought to life.

1. Focus on our northstar culture goal

There are some pretty real stereotypes about marketing agencies that persist today. As a community, agency folks tend to be highly driven individuals who have a hard time turning off our work brains or turning down a project. We’re also perfectionists who are unwilling to turn out work that is anything less than amazing. Combine those traits with a client-driven business model, and you often end up with a fast-paced, high-volume work environment.

At its best, this can manifest as an exciting, creatively charged workplace culture. But unfortunately, many agency employees instead find themselves burned out and underappreciated.

2. Cultivate a positive workplace culture

At treetree, we actively cultivate practices that keep our trees feeling valued, enthused and energized. If you look at our culture as a whole, it’s an amalgamation of several important factors that come down to one main idea: You can’t have a great workplace culture without caring about your employees first as people and second as employees.

In our last blog post, we shared how we define our workplace culture at treetree, including the top three behaviors we practice every day to keep our team feeling valued. It’s actions such as leaving our egos at the door, prioritizing resourcing and bringing our whole selves to the office. How we cultivate our culture supports our people—and growth—indefinitely.

The what of our culture is of equal importance. These are the more tangible benefits and programs our trees have access to that help us maintain mental and physical well-being and a productive and positive work environment.

Here are some of the ways we cultivate a positive workplace culture outside of the expected insurance and health provisions:

  • Hybrid, highly flexible work environment
  • A beautiful, comfortable office environment in the Short North to enable face-to-face collaboration, but with minimal in-person requirement
  • Work-from-anywhere hours
  • 12-week fully paid parental leave for moms, dads, birth and adoption
  • Professional development plans tailored to your goals, as a creative or as a people leader
  • Technology resources to accommodate various work styles and set-up needs
  • Half-day Fridays
  • Monthly wellness stipend
  • Blocked lunch hours and protected white space
  • Your birthday off so you can celebrate away from work—including treetree’s birthday!
  • Paid bereavement leave including extended family and pets
  • Voluntree program that allows trees to volunteer during the workday for a cause that’s close to their hearts
  • Thoughtful and thorough onboarding process including a one-on-one “tree buddy” system

Our culture works because we’ve worked hard on it. To illustrate its effectiveness, consider our Seventh Year Sabbatical perk. When a tree celebrates seven years with the agency, they are rewarded two bonus PTO weeks and $2,000 to fund a new experience, whether it’s travel with family or a unique educational opportunity.

In an industry that is known for its high turnover and short average tenures, several of our team members have been here long enough to take advantage of this benefit, and many more are well on their way to it.

3. Lead by example

treetree’s leadership team knows that it’s not enough to say it, you have to do it.

There can’t be a disconnect between employee expectations and the agency’s decisions. That concept is modeled extremely well at treetree by a leadership team comprised of individuals who are not only whip-smart, business-savvy and future-oriented, but also highly empathetic, giving and unafraid of change. (Yes, we trees feel extremely lucky!)

Like the rest of the agency, our leaders bring their authentic selves to work every day and infuse their personalities into their leadership styles. Beyond being great at their jobs (which we trees love to shout from the treetops), they help the forest grow and shine by being themselves. Here are some examples of how our leadership team’s personalities foster our culture:

Becca Apfelstadt, Co-Founder and CEO

  • Becca believes the small wins are valuable. She is most excited when she unveils a new benefit or initiative, and when she celebrates the team’s (macro or micro) milestones. She is happiest when the forest is thriving.

Rachel Hillman, VP, Client Service

  • Rachel is a cheerleader and protector. She is an advocate for living your truth and is always ready with a word of advice or a listening ear when trees need a sounding board for things both inside and outside of the office.

Megan Myers, VP, Creative Services

  • Megan is passionate about nurturing each tree as an individual, not just professionally. Her confidence and passion shine on everyone around her, making them feel powerful and energized in return.

Rebekaah Harkless, Finance & Operations Director

  • Rebekaah relishes a challenge and is always up for solving a difficult problem—especially if it will result in something that helps the people around her. Her tenacity and generous heart make her teammates feel unconditionally supported.

Lora Winning, VP, Strategy

  • Lora lights up the room with her infectious laugh. Always ready with a joke, Lora’s presence sets a positive tone in any conversation. She makes those around her feel at ease through her open personality.

4. Continuously chase improvement

We didn’t introduce you to our leaders to plug how great they are (although we are very proud); we share that an agency leading with heart and empathy is different—and how different has made us successful. The forest is teeming with leaders who listen and teammates who believe in—and live—our values.

People change, times change and needs change, so we treat our workplace culture as a living, breathing asset. While we’ll be the first to admit that we don’t have everything figured out, we remain committed to being students of the agency, the industry and to the people who choose treetree for their careers.

Are you interested in putting down roots at an agency that puts people first? Explore our Careers page for open positions.