How to Measure Performance | Ed Mitzen | Author

How to Measure Performance

When measuring performance, companies often consider numbers before everything else. While numerical data can gauge the success of many endeavors, it can’t tell you everything. After running two successful agencies, I’ve found ways to help my clients evaluate progress that rely on more than just numbers-driven results.

Our agency, Fingerpaint, is a human-focused business, and our performance evaluation process relies on frequent, honest communication. In this article, I’m going to discuss how to better assess effectiveness and how clients and agencies can work together to improve their relationships and overall performance. 

Improved Performance Requires Two-way Communication. In a typical client-agency partnership, it’s common practice for clients to provide agencies with feedback. But it’s also beneficial for agencies to critique clients. As in any relationship, both parties play an essential role in how things get done. Improvement and revisions on the agency side won’t be able to solve every problem. 

One way to measure progress is to see what your agency has to say about your internal team. If they come back and say, “they are highly responsive, helpful, and appreciative” then you’re on the right track. If you inquire only to find out that your team doesn’t provide the resources the agency requires in a timely manner, that’s an issue you can fix.  

If both sides strive to improve based on the feedback the other party provides, the relationship will ultimately be more harmonious and successful.

Ask the Right Questions. I find when numbers are taken out of the equation, clients have a harder time defining success. Here are some sample questions that clients could ask themselves to gauge whether or not the agency is performing to the best of their ability.  

  • Is the agency responsive and respectful of your team?
  • Do you feel that the agency consistently goes above and beyond expectations?
  • Do they usually do what is asked of them within the established timeline? 
  • Are their services achieving the goals you set?
  • Do they tell you when they think your ideas are off-strategy, or do they always say yes?
  • Do they bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to the table?

Answering yes to all these questions likely means your agency is performing well and that you have a positive partnership with them. If you’re still dissatisfied with the results you’re seeing, it might be time to look deeper into other elements that could be affecting them. 

Create Space to Improve Often. It’s vital for both agency and client to make time to communicate their concerns. At Fingerpaint, we meet with clients regularly to check in on our performance. Formal evaluations allow teams to step out of the chaos of daily tasks to consider what is or isn’t working in the grand scheme of a project. 

After receiving feedback, expected follow-up evaluations add accountability and provide a deadline for revisions and improvement. The clearer expectations are, the more likely they are to be met. This frequent collaboration for improvement strengthens relationships and results in higher quality work.

The Relationship Between Company Culture and Company Performance

The Relationship Between Company Culture and Company Performance

I’ve always been fascinated by the relationship between company culture and performance. Once I took a closer look at many advertising agencies, it became clear that their cultures were not always enhancing performance. While many companies in our industry have mastered the smaller “perks” of corporate culture, a foundation of empathy and positivity are usually lacking. The impact of culture on every aspect of a business cannot be overstated. Through creating two agencies built on human understanding, I’ve learned the true value of positive culture. Let’s talk about a few ways it can impact employee performance. 

Prioritize Life Outside the Office. In the modern workplace, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is difficult. A 2018 Gallup study of over 7,000 full-time employees found that two-thirds experience job burnout on a regular basis. Increased rates of chronic work-related stress contribute to a myriad of health problems for employees and higher turnover rates for companies, both of which profoundly affect a business’s productivity.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, creating a culture that prioritizes life (kid’s sporting events, longer vacations, flexible work schedules and locations) has been shown to actually increase productivity. At Fingerpaint, we offer month-long sabbaticals after five years of service. We automatically give employees their birthdays off, and are always offering perks like concert and sporting event tickets to reward them for their hard work. We even invested in a ski condo in Vermont that is available for our employees and their families to enjoy year-round. And in 2020, we are embarking on a flexible vacation policy – meaning employees aren’t limited to a certain number of vacation days when they need time to step back and get reenergized.

When employees are given a safe space to relax and recharge, you can avoid widespread burnout, improve morale, and nurture an engaged workforce. Investment for Investment. If employees feel that their employer doesn’t care about them, chances are they won’t care about the success of the company. People are hands down your most important assets. 

At Fingerpaint, we invest in our employees to make sure they know how valuable they are to us. We cover 100% of healthcare premiums for every employee. We offer loan repayment programs to assist those with student loan debt. Our 401K plan matches 100% up to 3% of an employee’s income, and next year, we’re raising that match to 4%. We’re also vesting all Fingerpaint 401k contributions immediately, versus making employees wait years and years for that to happen. 

The point is, the more you invest in improving your employees’ lives, the more they will put back into your company. When it comes to people, you will get what you give.

Treat Employees Better Than Clients. Agencies often bend over backwards during the pitching process to impress a client. While this might help win business, the way your team treats clients is what will retain accounts. Here’s a secret I’ve learned during my time in the industry﹘ the better you treat your employees, the better they will treat your clients. 

Prioritizing the needs of your workforce over all else is just another way to show that you care. Now, don’t get me wrong, you should still give your clients the VIP treatment, but when you put your employees first, they will put more into their work and give clients the same respect they are shown.

Manager listening to employee

Listening to your People: Why Culture and Employee Empowerment Are the Secrets to a 99% Glassdoor Rating

You can tell a lot about a business from their rating on Glassdoor, a site that houses anonymous company reviews from current and former employees. Unlike thoroughly strategized marketing campaigns or curated social media accounts, a brand’s Glassdoor rating is based solely on these real-life experiences. As its name suggests, this platform is a transparent resource for anyone interested in working with or for a company, providing on-the-ground perspectives from those who have experienced their cultures from the inside.

So, how do you ensure a great online reputation without the power of the almighty edit? What makes employees sing a company’s praises? Our advertising agency, Fingerpaint, has an excellent company rating on Glassdoor, and truly listening to our employees is a big part of how we achieved that.

Ask for Feedback. Companies might have the façade of being receptive to feedback, but how often do they really welcome it? It’s one thing for leaders to be willing to hear ideas from their workforce. But it’s completely different to build a space for employee feedback into the very fiber of your company’s culture. Your employees need far more than just a general attitude of passive openness to feel as though they have a resounding voice within the company.

Critique Prompts Action. Once you incorporate a dependable way to collect employee feedback, you must act on the information you receive. Telling your employees that you’re listening without proving that you’re actually hearing them accomplishes nothing. Employees will only feel they have a voice when their ideas, opinions, and suggestions have weight with those in charge. If someone brings a great suggestion to the table, don’t just say you’ll look into it collaborate with them on a plan to put it in place!

Check Your Progress. Even when you take an employee suggestion and run with it, it’s possible to miss the mark. Once an idea comes to life, check back in with those who helped to create it in the first place. Is this the result they were envisioning? Does this new initiative benefit everyone involved? If the answer isn’t a resounding yes, then it’s time to revisit and revise. Truly great company culture is a constant work in progress, and employee feedback is one of the most valuable tools for refining it.

Reap the Benefits. Our agency, Fingerpaint, is built around the idea of prioritizing people, and that includes giving all employees an equal voice. While this may seem like a simple, straightforward value, the vast majority of advertising agencies are clearly not putting their employees first. This reality is apparent in far more than their Glassdoor ratings.

Your greatest asset is your people, and your employees should be your number one priority. When you treat all your employees (regardless of seniority) with the same respect, you end up with a team who will fight for you. If you consistently prove to your people that they are valuable, your company’s reputation will reflect that, attracting the best and brightest to your business in both clients and employees. It’s as simple as that.

success in the advertising world - coworkers collaborating

How to Cultivate Success in the Advertising World without Ever Making an Ad

If success in the advertising industry doesn’t begin and end with flawlessly executed ad campaigns (and the results to back them up), then what does it hinge on? Upon walking into an agency, you might think you need an open plan office with sleek interior design. Or perhaps the agency-wide happy hour on Friday is the key to success. Maybe it all depends on the number of outstanding people you have working for you. 

You’re getting closer. In my experience, building a successful, sustainable agency starts with the culture. You might be thinking, “Seriously, the weekly food trucks and the team outings﹘ that’s what’s gonna do it?” That’s not the side of corporate culture I’m talking about. I’m talking the way you treat every single human that works for, with, or alongside you. 

For your agency to succeed it needs a positive culture built on empathy. I promise you this is more important than landing huge accounts or having the latest tech. Because when it comes down to it, the most valuable and irreplaceable resource you can have is good talent. And without a positive culture good talent won’t stay on board long. 

Over the last two decades, I’ve built two successful agencies on the foundations of respect, empathy, friendships, and giving back. These companies have grossed over $500 million in combined revenue, but there’s something you don’t know about the man in charge﹘ I have no hand on the great work that we do.  

This is further proof that the secret to success isn’t solely dependent on outcomes. In many agencies around the world people are working hard to produce great work but feeling less fulfilled and appreciated than ever. Their discontent drives them to other agencies where this unfortunate cycle starts all over again. Turnover rates cause agencies to suffer. How can teams produce consistently great work with talent cycling out so often?

These agencies might claim to have great company culture, and, on the surface, it might seem like the truth. But without a truly human foundation, company-wide holiday gifts don’t do anyone a bit of good. Your people are the ones who collaborate and create truly show-stopping campaigns. Your number one priority as the leader of an agency should be making your staff happy.  

The same goes for your clients. Of course, agencies want to make sure they keep clients happy in order to continue partnerships. But if you treat both your employees and your clients in a way that leaves everyone feeling heard, respected, and appreciated, you’ll reap what you sow. 

Happy employees work harder and produce better campaigns. They might even give you a great review on Glassdoor. Happy clients continue to do business with you and also spread the word to others. As your reputation grows, talent and new business come to you. It truly is that simple.

The Evolution of the Agency! My Years in Growing a Business

Before I entered the advertising industry, I was a marketing director. This meant agencies pitched their ideas to me, and I was charged with deciding which one was worthy of our business. During my time on the other side of the table, I started noticing some serious issues with most of the companies pitching to us. High turnover rates, profit-driven business practices, and low morale seemed to be the norm in the advertising world. I felt agencies had it wrong, so I set out to try and break the monotony.  

Over the last twenty years, I’ve successfully built two successful advertising companies that I structured differently from traditional agencies. In April 2008, I founded my current agency, Fingerpaint. At the core of the company is the “revolutionary” idea that if you take care of your people, they will in turn take care of your clients. And let me tell you, our results speak for themselves. 

Fingerpaint was founded in the midst of the economic downturn. With determination and years of entrepreneurial experience under my belt, we managed to grow as a company even when the economy was struggling. Within a year we were an enthusiastic team of fifteen ready to take the ad world by storm. Then, Fingerpaint was faced with one of the greatest challenges a new agency can experience. Our biggest client (two-thirds of our business) had to drop us due to circumstances that were out of our control. I didn’t know what we were going to do.

I made the unconventional decision to not lay off anyone. I scrambled to find work for us to stay afloat, and while they weren’t the most glamorous projects we could’ve been doing, they allowed us to keep every single one of our employees. To this day, I’m proud to say that in my over 20 years as a CEO I haven’t laid off a single person. 

We don’t simply fire people if the account they’re working on gets cut. We are dedicated to the success of our people above everything﹘ even the success of our clients. This unwavering commitment to our team is what makes Fingerpaint stand out among other agencies. We believe that by creating a culture of empathy, respect, and empowerment we will always be able to bring more to the table. With such a stellar workplace reputation, some of the best talent in the industry wants to work for us.

With our team growing stronger with every new hire, our clients are the ones who ultimately benefit. Although we’re not driven by profits, we’ve managed to grow by 30-40% every year. Our employees are happy with their jobs and in turn produce top tier work. Our clients are happy with their results. Everyone wins.

Fingerprint - 5 Principles

Get to know Fingerpaint: Our top 5 principles

A strong company culture is vital to business success. I am passionate about teaching other businesses the connection between culture and business performance, and how to create a team that will serve your clients well. I practice what I preach in my own company, Fingerpaint. We are known for our spectacular, one of a kind company culture, and it has proven to benefit our bottom line. To give you more insight on the values I have built my company on, I am walking you through our five main principles at Fingerpaint.

We are independent by design.

As an independent agency, we are dynamic and free to cater to each client individually. That freedom allows us to roll with the punches, change directions if something isn’t working, and give our clients the individualized work and attention they deserve. We are “right service” rather than “full service.”  

We are people first. 

At Fingerpaint, we treat our employees like family. Additionally, we back that up with actions: benefits, sabbaticals, and more. When your team members feel valued, their dedication and the quality of their work is that much better. On top of that, when your employees are treated well, it will translate to the treatment of your clients, too. 

We invest in our clients.

Just as we invest in our team, when we start a relationship with a client, we make them a priority for their entire time working with us. Our dedicated team works on and off the clock to ensure success for our clients. Your success is our success!

We create outside the lines.

We are constantly looking for the “next big thing” and to constantly wow our clients. We not only believe in creating unique, captivating, effective marketing—we don’t accept anything less. We seek out employees who don’t just think outside of the box, they live there. Our approach to marketing is innovative and we always try to stay one step ahead, and it works!

We don’t just build brands, we activate them.

Waiting for your audience to come to you is a thing of the past. In today’s digital age full of social media and online content, you have to be where your customers already are. Not only that, but in the sea of content, you have to catch their attention long enough to stop their scroll, and be engaging enough to draw them in (and get them to click). At Fingerpaint, we call this “activating the brand.”

All of these values are at the core of our work and our culture. These principles set us apart from our competition and allow us to truly serve our clients to the best of our ability!

Want to learn more about Fingerpaint? Do we sound like a good fit? Learn more on our company website.

Company culture through the lifecycle of a business, Part Four: Maintaining company culture after mergers and acquisitions

So far, I’ve discussed how to create and nurture your company culture, and how to adapt it as your company grows. In the final part of this blog series, I want to talk about how to keep your culture intact after mergers and acquisitions. It may seem challenging, but it’s far from impossible!

Use culture to connect.

As your company grows, not only will you have more employees, but you may even add other business units or entire businesses themselves. Suddenly, you may find that you have employees spread out at different offices and in different states, maybe even in different countries! 

It can seem like an uphill battle to keep up a cohesive company culture with so many fragmented parts of your team, but it is possible! Make the extra effort to connect all of your team through “all-hands” meetings and events. Get creative with ways to unite your business units for quality time and open conversations. If everyone isn’t able to attend an event or meeting, video call them in! While it’s not ideal, it still provides some form of face-time for your team.

Be willing to adapt.

If you are dealing with a merger, you may have to make some changes as you work to marry two different company cultures. My advice is to take the best of both company cultures to create a new one. Be clear about how the new values and culture look so that there is no confusion throughout your team. Be open to feedback from new employees and old in order to create a culture that joins the merging companies more seamlessly together.

Start from the ground up with your “new” employees.

Employees joining your team in a merger want to be valued and heard, too. Be conscious that everyone is dealing with a lot of change, and as this Entrepreneur article states, reach every person. A culture doesn’t work if you don’t have a functional team. Work with employees and managers alike to get to know your people—their desires, their needs, and their aspirations. As you do this, your team will get to know you, too, which will open up opportunities for you to demonstrate the values and leadership you hope to instill in them through the culture.

As a leader, your job is to string a common thread through your team, no matter how much it changes and grows. You keep the ship afloat, holding your values at the core of your company and its culture. By leading with empathy and flexibility, listening to your people, and constantly creating opportunities for your team to connect on a deeper level, you will uphold a culture that will be able to withstand any amount of change your company may go through.

I would love to help you grow your business through empathetic leadership skills and and exceptional company culture. Get in touch.

Company culture through the lifecycle of a business, Part Three: Adapting your culture as your company grows

So your company is growing—congrats! That’s a good sign that you’re doing something (or a lot of things) right. As your company grows and expands both internally and externally, you will need to adapt what is at the core of your business so that your company’s values and culture stay intact as it scales. In part three of this blog series, I will be discussing how to adapt your company culture as your business grows.


Consider culture when hiring.

As your company grows, you will inevitably have to hire more employees. As you hire, be sure you are looking for people that will fit your culture and already share the values that you have at the core of your business. Behavioral interviewing and conversational methods can help identify these traits in your potential new employees. Hiring employees that already fit into the company culture will help maintain it as you continue to add to your team. You can also consider offering a referral bonus to your employees to encourage the great people you already have to help you find other good fits.


Go beyond technology—get out of the office!

It is easy (especially in today’s world) to get stuck behind a screen. New hires may receive friendly emails, and employees may talk via g-chat…but nothing replaces the authentic connections made from having time face-to-face. If you are serious about investing in your culture, hold events in and out of the office that will help bring your team together. As your team becomes more connected, your culture will become (and remain) cohesive.


Think like a small business.

This is a great point discussed in an article by Jason Richmond from that I would like to expand on. As your company scales, it may grow out of the “small business” category. Even so, to keep your company culture evident throughout your company, you should try to uphold the values and communication styles of a small company. As Richmond explains, keeping communication open and continuously getting to know your employees as people become even more important in a growing company. The more in-touch you are with your team, the more opportunity you will have to exemplify and lead with your company values, further nurturing your relationships with your team as well as the culture you have created.


Make culture everyone’s job.

I believe this point from Ben Davis included in Inc truly sums up how to continue to have a winning culture in a growing company: make it everyone’s job. As a leader, you have created a culture based on values and beliefs, and you have surrounded yourself with people who have “bought in” to your vision. When employees take responsibility for upholding culture, not only will they be more satisfied with their own work environment, but they will help keep your company culture intact, even as your business and team continues to grow.

If you would like to learn more about my philosophy and how you can implement it into your business, get in touch with me. I would love to help take your business to the next level.

Company culture through the lifecycle of a business, Part Two: How to cultivate and nurture your company culture

Company culture through the lifecycle of a business, Part Two: How to cultivate and nurture your company culture

So you’ve created an awesome company culture, now what? In this second part of this blog mini-series, I would like to talk about cultivating your culture so that the values and ideals that you have brought to your company stay front of mind.

Communication is key

Now that you have a positive company culture, it’s time to focus on keeping transparent, open communication with your people. Transparency not only keeps everyone on the same page, but it creates a sense of trust. Take it from Communications Expert Kit Pang…he emphasizes the multifaceted benefits of quality communication in a business. Having a strong voice as well as empowering your employees to join in on the conversation is invaluable to creating and maintaining your company culture.

Listening to your people

So I just talked about communicating, and a huge (and vital) part of communicating is listening. Part of maintaining a good company culture is being in tune with what’s working and what isn’t. Make sure that your employees feel heard when they have ideas, issues, or input. The people who know the most about your culture are the ones who are immersed in it every day, so be sure to listen and be receptive to feedback. Businesses are constantly evolving, and you may have to make some tweaks internally (to your culture or something else!) to keep it working like a well-oiled machine.

Stick to your values and promises

Changes can occur in your company that may throw you or distract you from the values you have set into place as pillars of your culture. Always come back to the basics of how you built your culture. Any strong culture is built on an even stronger foundation, so remember what values you built your company culture on, and bring those back into view if your company or team begins to stray.

Be a human

This may seem obvious…but some companies and leaders become so corporate-minded that they lose their sense of being human. It is so important to me to be approachable, authentic, and down-to-earth. I treat my employees with value and respect. Employees who feel valued and heard will be loyal assets to your company, and in turn, will play a large role in maintaining and nurturing your company culture.

Stay tuned for the next part of this blog series, “Company culture through the lifecycle of a business, Part Three: Adapting your culture as your company grows.” I am excited to continue sharing my knowledge on this subject! If you would like more information, feel free to reach out to me. I would love to share my expertise with you and your team!

Company culture through the lifecycle of a business, Part One: What makes for A Positive, World-Class Company Culture

A great company culture means success—for your business, for your employees, and for you. Even corporate giants like Deloitte have found a strong correlation between culture and success. According to their research discussed in Forbes, “94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct corporate culture is important to a business’ success.” Your company’s culture affects everything from employee happiness to the quality of the work, to client satisfaction, and it will evolve as the company grows and changes.

In my next few blog posts, I will be talking about how to manage culture through the lifecycle of your business. But first, you have to create a company culture. Here are the main factors that can help you create a truly exceptional company culture.


A “People First” Mentality

A superior company culture begins here. A company that puts its people first will inevitably have a core of devoted, motivated, and happy employees. Putting people first might mean offering great healthcare coverage, the opportunity to work from home or take sabbaticals, providing resources for continuing education, or something else. The point is, we treat our employees like family…and they, in turn, treat our clients the same way!


Encouraging creativity, growth, learning

This goes along with the “people first” mentality, but I believe it is important enough to have its own section! Allowing your employees to voice their ideas, collaborate, think outside of the box, and continue to learn and grow their skill sets is vital to great company culture. This will help your employees maintain their sense of purpose, and ensure that your team enjoys coming to (and being at) work.



It is incredibly important to get involved in something bigger than yourself. You can (and should!) bring this into your company culture. I believe in this so much that we have our own full-time director of philanthropy at Fingerpaint! Integrating philanthropy and emphasize the importance of serving others in your community is a great way to further engage your employees in a wonderful culture.


Leading by example

The best way to teach is by example, and the same goes for leading, as well. All of the above points are great, but a great company culture starts with you! Your team is much more likely to adopt and live by these ideals if their leader is showing them how to do so! Set the standard for what you want your culture to look like, and the values you want your company and employees to live by.


I would love to share more of my philosophy with you. Visit my website to get in touch!