The Meerkats Staff Handbook
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The Meerkats Staff Handbook

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The best way to get a feeling for Meerkats is to read the handbook we give our new employees on their first day.

The best way to get a feeling for Meerkats is to read the handbook we give our new employees on their first day.

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  • 1. | Employee handbook
  • 2. Welcome.This is more than a workplace. It is a safeenvironment where you can be yourself,open up, ask the dumb question, admit youdon’t know absolutely everything. At someagencies, employees feel the need to adoptan act – the comedian, the surly genius,the snappy talker, the boardroom bully.Those acts don’t play here. We like realpeople. Honest, fallible, what-you-see-is-what-you-get people. Because we’ve foundthey’re the ones who cut through all thepretence in our industry and do the bestwork. So relax. At Meerkats you can be You.Better, you can be the You you want to be. Murdoch University The Vow
  • 3. Our brand promise. When asked What is your own brand promise? a lot of advertising agencies will say things like “Great creative”, or “Effective campaigns”, or more recently “Through-the-line media- neutral push-pull consumer conversations”. We say “To make the world a better place”. Yeah, we know it sounds a little pretentious at first, but we’re deadly serious. Our mission in life is to help make free enterprise work better by helping the good businesses win and the bad ones lose. Because we believe passionately that when good businesses grow, peoples lives improve. The people buying a worthwhile product or service feel rewarded because it adds to their lives. The people who own the product or service make profits and grow and employ people who need those jobs to buy their houses and raise their families.Meerkats Warren
  • 4. “Bad businesses” are those that are more interested in making a quick buck or who deal in ethically questionable products.When we say Meerkats is forgood business, what do we mean?By “good business” we mean thoseorganisations who believe they havesomething to contribute to the worldwith their product; organisationsthat are prepared to work harderto create genuine value andcommunicate honestly about it.
  • 5. we are a brand leadership company. We find out what an organisation stands for and we help them express that to the world to gain for them a greater share of the future. It’s called the Motivating Brand Idea. And it means that advertising is often the last thing we do for a client. Because brand leadership is more about how a company behaves than how it advertises. So we do a lot of un-advertising stuff, like create workshops for our clients’ management and employees, write staff handbooks, suggest new product ideas, plan long-term business strategies, design store fit-outs, create website content, social media programs, branded events, sponsorships, uniforms and vehicle design and heaps more. Oh, and advertising.HBF Essentials
  • 6. We are dedicated to the truth here. The true promise of a brand. The true human emotions that our advertising touches. Brand communications don’t work unless they reach past peoples natural defences and make meaningful contact with either their hearts or their brains. It’s either an emotional touch or a logical touch. But we gotta touch somewhere, somehow. And people won’t be touched by a message unless there is an element of truth they can relate to. And the truth about Meerkats is, truth is everywhere in our office. In our work, in our meetings, in our dealings with each other, in our brand teams, in our discussions with clients, in our transparent financial dealings, in our sharing of ideas. At Meerkats, you can’t escape the truth.Westnet Down to earth
  • 7. A culture of sharing.Our office is open plan for a reason. We believe everyone isequal. At Meerkats, the boss doesn’t get the corner office withthe big windows (he doesn’t even get an office). Sure, there isa certain corporate hierarchy but that’s behind the scenes andis essential to running a profitable company. But when we areengaged in creating brand communications everyone is at thesame level. The focus is on the idea. When the ultimate prize ismaking peoples lives better, it’s a lot easier to drop your senseof self-importance. That’s why we have that plaque out the front:“Please leave your ego at the door”. This culture of ego-lesssharing carries through everything we do, from setting up a dataprojector, to taking on a problem one of your colleagues is toilingwith, to asking for an honest critique of your idea. Meerkats Warren
  • 8. You gotta believe.We have a theory (one of many you’ll get to learn here):people do their best work for things they believe in.As a brand communicator here at Meerkats, you can’treach out and touch someone’s heart with a powerfultruth that’s brilliantly observed and beautifully expressedunless you buy into that truth. This is why we dedicateso much time and effort to finding those truths, so thatwe can believe in them first. Whether it’s the fact thatyour health really is the most important thing in the world(HBF) or the fact that having an open mind is the bestway to discover new ideas (Murdoch). We don’t believethat just because you are a professional you should beasked to fake a passion for something. So if you everfind yourself working on something here that you don’tbelieve is true, sing out. Something has gone wrong. iinet Hallelujah
  • 9. Why the name.We love it when people ask us “Why did you call yourselves Meerkats?”.Because that’s why we did it. To prompt a question that will allow us toexplain our brand values. You see, right from the start we wanted topractice what we were about to preach. By making ourselves acontemporary brand with clear values, a memorable brand identityand a great brand story to tell. In the wild, meerkats have fourbehavioural traits that we believe are great brand communications.
  • 10. Curiosity Keen EyesightMeerkats are insanely inquisitive. They dig in Ever seen a photo of a meerkat standingthe dirt and poke around and leap on sticks on its hind legs, with its little front pawsand nuts and other animals in an insatiable dangling out the front there, peering out toquest to understand their world. We do too. the horizon? They do it all the time. TheyWe are fascinated by how humans behave, even take turns at it to protect their families.how they respond to ads, what makes them They use their amazing eyesight to detectact on a thought rather than just think about danger at incredible distances; like a tiny dotit, how media channels work, what makes against the sun that turns out to be a fasthumour better than pathos in ads, how to approaching eagle. They also do it to detectdo better focus groups, where the next big food, like when an almost undetectableleap in brand engagement will come from, change in colour on a desert landscapeetc etc etc ad infinitum. We invite you to be turns out to be edible plant life. We employcurious too. Embrace your inner meerkat. the business equivalent of great eyesight for our clients. We not only detect threats and opportunities where others see nothing but desert and sun, we also cast our eyesFamily Values further out, to the horizon, to devise long-Meerkats are incredibly social creatures. term brand strategies.They not only share their living space andworkload equally among their multi-familygroup (called a mob), they sometimesshare their living spaces with other species. Fun AttitudeThey figure animals such as anteaters and If you’ve ever seen a documentary onmoles help them catch food and dig better meerkats you’ll know how much fun thesewarrens so why not, hey? We have adopted little guys are. They play and tease anda similar behaviour in not only creating a muck about with each other. They havework environment of openness and equality such human qualities that it’s not surprisingamongst our own staff, but one that we to learn that in many zoos the meerkatsare happy to share at any time with our enclosure is the most popular. Likewise,clients’ partner agencies, such as media we always wanted to create a companycompanies, digital specialists, researchers, that was fun to work for. So hopefully youetc. Like the meerkat, if the relationship is experience a certain playful nature in thebeneficial to all, we are not territorial. meerkats enclosure at No.1 Rokeby Road.
  • 11. The grandDon’t be under any illusion here.Just because we are a collection of smart experiment.marketing minds doesn’t mean we think weknow everything. We see Meerkats moreas a grand experiment than a know-it-allbusiness. We consider ourselves studentsof this game; always just one chapter aheadof our clients (and competitors) in the bookof modern brand techniques. Always testingnew theories as they occur to us. In thisbusiness, the moment you believe you haveThe Answer is the moment you start thesteady slide into oblivion. We must keepexperimenting and refining. Murdoch University The Vow
  • 12. Happiness and conflict. One of the side effects of Meerkats’ philosophy of equality and honesty and embracing change is a calm, happy working environment. Over the years our office has developed a wonderfully casual and contented air about it. And we love that. But something unexpected has also happened as a result: negative events seem to get magnified. In a normal agency, things like verbal disagreements, or an unhappy client, or even a heated exchange are all part of a normal working day (this industry is, after all, a stressful environment where emotions are heightened). In Happy Katland however, we’ve noticed that these things can show up to our staff as terribly bad events that shouldn’t happen. But really, they’re part of this game. They will happen. They just don’t happen very often here.Lotterywest Mystic Money
  • 13. Lotterywest Super SleuthOur 6th sense is common.During the space race in the 1960’sNASA spent millions inventing a ballpointpen that would work in zero gravity.The Russians just used a pencil.It’s amazing how often the simplesolutions are overlooked in our industrytoo. We think it’s because a lot ofagencies think the client is paying themall this money so they’d betterover-complicate things to make it lookworth it. It’s the same with overwrittenpitch documents, the use of impressivetechnobabble, 3 hour long meetingswhen 30mins would nail it, stuff like that.Common sense avoids elephants in theroom and Emperor’s new clothes in theboardroom. We urge you to use yours.
  • 14. We value momentum.We hate twiddling our thumbs. We loathe dilly-dallying.We despise going round in circles. We love momentum.We crave action. We demand impetus. For our clients,for our agency and for you. If you’re not movingforward in this business, you are becoming out of touchwith society. And for a brand communications companythat is death. This perpetual “what’s next” attitude iswhy we create long-term brand strategies for our clients,why we often call a new campaign “the next chapter inthe brand story”, why we demand that all senior Kats beefficient storytellers and presenters, and why we’re goingto end this point here so you can move on.
  • 15. Loose Tight.This is the key to loving life at Meerkats. Knowing when to work looseand when to work tight. And agreeing that with your team mates.There are times when we must cast off the self-imposed shackles ofclient demands, deadlines, budgets, traditions, rules, fear of failure,logic, etc, and think freely. And wildly. To surprise ourselves with justhow original we can be. It’s that magical moment when we all embracewhat’s possible, not what’s probable. Tight mode is when the ideahas been chosen and now stuff has to be organised and planned andcosted and scheduled and delivered on. You must be able to switchbetween these modes instantly. The bottom line? There are agencieswho operate loose all the time (creative hotshops, for example) andthey burn bright for a while then gradually fail under the weight ofthe realities of running a functional business; and there are agencieswho operate tight all the time (some big multi-nationals) and they plodalong making good profits but losing their brightest people becausethe management doesn’t let them fly. Meerkats can be the best ofboth worlds. As long as you get the whole loose-tight thing.
  • 16. Perth is the new Miami.We believe we can do world class work from righthere in little old Perth. Not because it would make usfeel big and important, but because it would prove thatMeerkats’ brand idea is potent. And we don’t mean justthe occasional international advertising award.We mean having people in other states and countriestalk about our work and our clients and our philosophy.To have them be curious about us and maybe evenlearn something from us. That’s the kind of legacy wewant to achieve. It’s happened many times before.Crispin Porter + Bogusky began in Miami with apassionate brand idea and achieved global renown.Likewise Wieden & Kennedy in Portland, FallonMcElligott in Minneapolis, St.Lukes in London, KessellsKramer in Amsterdam. Why not Meerkats in Perth? Trigg Beach
  • 17. You’re the next world-beater.There’s another very important upside to this ambition:You. If you are very good at what you do, you will feelthe urge to apply it on grander stages, on bigger brandswith national and global impact. You will want to have thechance to create world recognised work. Imagine howcool it would be if you could achieve that without havingto move you and your family to some horrible smoggygrey metropolis and work 14 hour days.Imagine if you could fulfil your potential while living inan amazing place like Perth, with all its sunshine andhealthy lifestyle and relaxed pace.We think that’s a win-win worth chasing. Police&Nurses The Stand
  • 18. Ideas before heroes.Advertising is famous for creating heroes. It turns creativesinto rocks stars and agency owners into legends. So it’sunderstandable that our industry attracts people seeking glory.But at Meerkats, we put the pursuit of individual glory aside andfocus on the greater good of nailing the objective.We don’t care where ideas come from: planners, media,accounting, creative. That’s how we like to play here.No noses out of joint. No egos dented. So resist the urge tobe territorial about your role. Keep your mind open to goodthinking from others.iiNet The new No.2
  • 19. Suppliers are family.Printers and film companies andsound studios and photographersare our No.1 partners in this grandadventure of ours. On countlessoccasions they have helped us toprove that our philosophy deliversbetter work. On time and on budget.We wouldn’t be where we aretoday without their passion and skilland patience and help. So theydeserve to be treated with respect,to be invited to contribute, to be paidfairly and on time, to be listened to,to be consulted and involved.Just as the meerkat shares its homewith other species, so too do weconsider suppliers a part of ourextended family. And will betreated as such.Stockland Townside
  • 20. No bad work, ever.We’ve noticed that many agencies seem happy to letthe little jobs slip out the door with a quality of finishthat is lower than the big stuff. On a full page colour adthe copy is perfect, but on that little 10x2 mono ad thecopy is not quite interesting enough, the art directionnot 100% on brand, that sort of thing.Like they have all agreed that a lower level of qualityis simply unavoidable at the bottom of the food chain.We disagree. We think the true measure of an agency’sperformance is the quality of the small stuff. It’s like asecret window to their soul. And we truly believe Meerkatshas a higher level in the lower levels.
  • 21. We like awards. We like evidence that we are good atOn the sensitive subject of awards. what we do. We just don’t think about them until the job is done. We never ask “will this win an award?” at the concept stage. It’s the wrong motivation. We ask “will this nail the objective brilliantly?”. A simple analogy is a football game (either code). You can have one eye on the ball and one eye on the scoreboard, willing it to tick over. Or you can keep both eyes on the ball, play as damned hard and skillfully as you can, then at the end of the game look up at the scoreboard. We all know which mindset will get the silverware at the end of the season.Westnet Down to earth
  • 22. Rule#47 How many times have you been in a meeting, had a thought pop into your head but kept it to yourself, then later somebody says the same thing and everyone goes “Wow, great idea Tony”. Well we have a rule about that: Never leave a meeting with a nagging thought still inside your head. Get it out. Let it live and see what happens. Ask the dumb question. Go against the popular opinion. If a thought appears, you have a responsibility to voice it. You’ll be amazed how many times it turns out that others were thinking exactly the same thing and not speaking up (especially if it’s to highlight a problem, or burst a client’s bubble). You never know, it might be the thing that makes an idea better, or prevents a catastrophe.
  • 23. Give away Meerkats was launched with a publiceverything lecture on a research project we did into the buying habits of West Australian consumers. The findingsyou value. were subsequently printed in the local industry magazine. All for free. All available to anyone who wanted to learn and benefit from it. In other words, we are totally cool with sharing how we work. And why. It’s a kind of commercial karma; let it go and it will come back tenfold. Or something like that. Maybe twelvefold, we can’t remember. The point is: don’t be protective of what you have learned, how you crack big ideas and solve problems, all your clever tricks and techniques. Share it with whoever will listen. That should lead to the gradual improvement in the level of trustworthiness held for our industry, which currently ranks alongside lawyers and car dealers.
  • 24. Stockland Townside It’s not about the client. And it sure isn’t about the money. Or the awards. Or the fame. This business is about the people who will help our clients grow their market share. It’s about what those people think, what drives them, what they fear, what they hope for, how they see themselves, how they see advertising, how they consume media, how they live their lives. Everything at Meerkats begins with the truth about people. It’s not about us. Some agencies call them consumers or the target audience. We think that’s a trap. Straight away you start to view them as different to you. Dumber somehow, or more gullible. We call them people because the audience is all of us. It’s your mother and your sister and your Uncle Trev and his mate with the chip shop and the guy who sits at the next desk to you.
  • 25. We want to feed your soul, Career or job? your curiosity and your ambition so much you never want to leave. You have a wonderful We want to give you such opportunity here. To build rewarding brand projects a home for yourself. to work on you can’t To create a role and a believe people from other career path and a sense of agencies aren’t trying to belonging that means you bust down the front door won’t want to leave. Like, to get in. Every employee ever. Traditionally, ad folk here has their own annual are nomadic. We change training budget, so go ahead agencies like we change and use it. You represent the our mobile phones. Always next generation of brand looking for that next job communicators and we want title, pay rise, greener grass. you to show the world the true Well, here at Meerkats we power of the Meerkats way. have chosen you carefully So, what are you here for and we want to keep you for - a job or a career? as long as we can. We want you to grow and learn and succeed and take over this place one day.HBF The Deal
  • 26. Cut the crap.Give ‘em up.The excuses.Now.Before you finish your first day here. Whatever yourrole is, there are no excuses here. Only learnings.We find out why something went wrong, we learn,we do better, we move on. No finger-pointing,no martyrdom.We get better, together.
  • 27. No.1 Rokeby Road, Subiaco WA 6008 | T: 618 9388 0011 | F: 618 9388 0021 | E: thewarren@meerkats.com.au | W: meerkats.com.au