When Kim Holen first arrived at Gruen Agency nearly seven years ago, it was still very much a classic Yellow Pages agency on the cusp of transitioning into the realm of digital marketing.
The general manager has since witnessed a complete metamorphosis — not only in the way the business functions, but in how it’s structured. She’s a gatekeeper, finding the people that fill the bright office overlooking Minneapolis’ skyline.
Those people were humbled to learn last month that their employer was named to the 2016 list of 100 Best Companies to Work For by Minnesota Business Magazine.
The winners will be recognized and celebrated for their hard work on June 2 in Minneapolis.
Gruen Agency opened its doors for business more than 20 years ago. Local search was offline, Yellow Pages and print advertising were prospering and the whole outfit was run out of Bruce Gruen’s basement.
When digital marketing began to take hold in the 2000s, Gruen Agency was quick to recognize the transition and began adapting its offerings to meet clients’ rapidly changing needs.
In the throes of a shifting company and culture, Kim made sure that building an outstanding culture remained a priority.
“I truly believe it’s the people who make the culture,” Kim says. “It’s the friendships and our willingness to help one another succeed. There is a team spirit at Gruen Agency that is truly authentic.”
Though that team spirit has always been present at Gruen, it’s been multiplied and amplified in recent years thanks to a growing team.
Mitchell McLain was first drawn to Gruen’s warm and inviting atmosphere, and has experienced an array of transformations in the eight years he’s been with the company. From the western suburbs to downtown Minneapolis through three different office spaces, he’s seen the size of the company almost double.
“I think the everyday energy of the office surprises me,” Mitchell says. “There is always something new, exciting and positive happening and it’s great to see our Gruen team take that energy and run with it.”
Now Director of Paid Search, Mitchell is regularly influenced by his coworkers, who share their insights and spark his desire and curiosity to learn more.
“I don’t see anybody at Gruen with any intention other than to help and to be part of the team,” Mitchell says. “There is a true sense of comfort and togetherness that allows people to let their guard down and to work toward something greater than themselves.”
For Katie Ries, the opportunity to work at Gruen Agency meant a chance to expand her knowledge of digital marketing as an SEO coordinator.
After a conversational interview, Katie felt very comfortable and confident that Gruen would be an ideal place for her to start building her career. Six months later, that notion is strengthened by the fact that she doesn’t just feel just like another number on an accountant’s spreadsheet, unlike her previous job with a large corporation. The young professional feels valued and part of a team.
“My favorite part about being with the Gruen team is simple — the great group of people,” Katie says. “Work-wise, I’ve never been in an environment where everyone genuinely cares about their clients. Everyone truly wants our clients to thrive and will do everything they can to help them succeed.”
Though she’s only been with Gruen for less than a year, she shares Mitchell’s thoughts regarding her coworkers and happiness.
“If your workplace doesn’t make you happy, your work won’t make you happy, either,” Katie believes. “Forming strong relationships with team members makes you want to work that much harder to help them in their work. People are always willing to go the extra mile, whether it’s their own client, or someone else’s. We pitch in when needed and don’t think twice about it.”
From paid search to search engine marketing to web development, Holen enjoys seeing cohesion between the departments at Gruen. She can’t help but feel a sense of pride as she watches young talent make powerful decisions that impact the success of the agency, remembering back to the day she hired them to be a part of the team.
She doesn’t do anything particularly special when it comes to articulating Gruen’s values to candidates. Kim speaks truthfully about the company, where it started and where it’s going. And when she makes the decision to bring them aboard, she knows they’re going to make a huge impact.
“I get this gut feeling when I hire the ‘right’ candidate,” Kim explains. “I like their core, who they are and what they stand for. You can’t put that on a resume. Anyone can be trained, but you can’t train someone to be a good person.”
The open office resting on the top floor of International Market Square doesn’t hold any pool tables or large lounge areas. But it does feature a collaborative workspace that’s filled with eager eyes and hearts that are ready to take on projects with passion.
It’s filled with a group of ambitious people who are steering the ship and making Gruen Agency, truly, one of the best companies to work for.
“Life is short, and so it’s crucial you love where you spend those 2,000 hours each year,” Kim says. “Why would you ever settle on your own happiness? A great culture can truly enhance your life.”