Throwing a Stone at Glassdoor

I’m doing it.

I really am.

Arm is cocked, and I’m chucking a big fat rock at Glassdoor.

But first… I digress.

Let’s quickly review a personal belief.

glassdoor anonymous

Belief: I believe you get everything you deserve.

Whether that’s wild success, horrific turnover or a bad reputation – no question about it, you earned it.

So when I recently looked at i.d.e.a’s Glassdoor reviews, no doubt: I took more than a little notice.

Here are just a few excerpts:

“Great at spinning ‘best place to work’ but it’s not even close.”  Two stars.

“High turnover.” One star.

“Worst agency in the city.”  One star.


Well, what can I say? As one of three owners of the company, these reviews – which were all written in the last year – naturally, sadden me.

If you’ve met me or know anything about the “real” me, then you know how much I genuinely value people. I actually like meeting new folks. And, as a mega-extrovert, if we ever get the chance to meet, I want to hear all about you: where you’re from, who your teams are and where you went to school. (Ask my wife and she will vouch that this is why we can never get quickly in and out of a social engagement.)

Simply put, I want to know people’s stories.

Speaking of stories…

I have made it clear to our team from the get go that, to me, growth has never purely been about our revenue, but about our story: the allure of putting San Diego on the map nationally for creative problem-slaying. Which brings us to another personal belief….

Belief: I believe no one gets there alone.

Business is a team game. What is a business but a shell comprised of real, live people. Our people are our everything. If we don’t take care of our crew, shame on us.

Yet when I revert back to 2012, when my first agency Fishtank merged with PR and social media firm Bailey Gardiner to form i.d.e.a., we ended up with an overwhelming 70 percent turnover in staff.


The truth is, it was the right turnover.

Maybe that’s not a popular statement to bring to the surface. Many of the folks who were working at the agencies pre-merge weren’t down with my “we’re going galactic” mentality. Change is hard and we were evolving from local creative shop to discovered national player.

Now, nearly five years later, we’re just nearing the end of our second transformation. We have been fortunate to attract enough national all-stars to create meaningful, effective work for Courage Brands like Harrah’s, Hostess, Major League Baseball, New Era, PUMA and the US Ski and Snowboard Association.

NOTE: None of the above justifies having bad reviews.

DOUBLE NOTE: I really am getting ready to chuck that rock at Glassdoor.

As we have evolved as a business, so have our company’s core values. Together, with our senior team, we have done the hard work to know what we stand for. If you know what you stand for — you know when to take a stand. We’ve locked our three guiding principles, which remain pinned up at every team member’s desk:

·     Talented WEs Top Talented MEs (Integration)

·     Serve Our Partners Gratefully (Service)

·     Courage Gets it Done (Courage)

If I have one bone to pick with Glassdoor it’s the anonymity factor. I get it: Glassdoor wants people to speak candidly without fear of consequence. But as a company that puts an emphasis on “courage” (See: Guiding Principle #3) we’re almost always going to have a gripe with nameless reviews.

Moving forward, my hope is that if a team member has an issue with the way we are running our business, big or small, that they will have the courage to approach us while they are still with us and in the building. On the flip, we have worked hard to create a culture where our team can comfortably approach us to provide constructive criticism. Providing that feedback is so hard but essential to evolving the company and team forward.

As owners, I believe we either “make believers” or “fake believers.”

When you have your values locked, and you live them everywhere in your organization, then it’s easier to make believers. Core values are not eye rolls; they are how the exceptional roll. We’re just now truly coming into our own as an agency, and it’s only after a half decade of soul searching to get this right.

Note: If you are a “fake believer”, at any job, why waste the time there? My two cents is to go find something you are passionate about and start making a meaningful difference elsewhere.

I do believe, overall, that Glassdoor can be a good thing. It’s the home of a few key data points that let us know as agency owners where we stand with those who have moved on and ways we can always improve for those who choose to be here.

Ryan is a cofounder of i.d.e.a. — a fully integrated 50 person creative agency based in San Diego. After a decade working in New York, Ryan moved to California to write screenplays. Instead, he has been living one.

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