Working closely with many of Kin’s customers, I’ve been fortunate to learn about different workplaces and what it’s like to be part of workplaces around the world. To share all of this good stuff, I’ll be posting a customer spotlight each month to celebrate the business, culture, and happenings at these fantastic companies. First up, a digital agency based in Montréal, Plank.
Who are you, what’s your role, and your favorite hand-held food?
[SB] My name is Steve Bissonnette and I’m the Managing Partner at Plank. I oversee day-to-day running of the company, production, and HR. I thoroughly enjoy hand-held Mexican food, which we sadly have a shortage of here in Montréal.
What’s the story of Plank?
[SB] Plank was founded in 1998 by Warren Wilansky, along with 2 former partners, here in beautiful Montréal, Quebec, Canada. By 2004, Warren was the sole owner. Plank has proudly had quite a few team members stay on for a long time, but I have the distinction of being the longest standing (15 years) and as of 2014, I was brought on as a Partner. Our focus as an agency is to bring digital projects to life for our clients, be it websites, mobile apps, or other aspects of the online experience. We’re currently at 12 full-time employees, along with 3 part-time staff members.
What’s great about working at Plank?
[SB] There are a number of great parts of life at Plank!
We have a large, open office that’s well situated right downtown in Montréal. It’s easy to get here by bike, public transport, or even by foot for some employees. We have a rich culture that has really placed a high value on all of our relationships. We run on a pretty flat hierarchy, with a lot of the ego and BS kept firmly in check.
“We value craftsmanship, involve everyone deeply in work process, and allow a lot of team navigation of where our work takes us.”
Perks include a sizeable conference budget for every employee. Everyone gets generous vacation time, as well as extended time off around the official holidays in Canada. We have learning lunches, appreciation days, and as much R&D time as we can slice off. We’ve made it a point to give everyone the best tools we can afford and, to top it all off, we have the office rigged up with crazy fast internet (1000/1000mbps fiber)!
Please share some insight into Plank’s approach to employee and workplace operations. How has Kin played a role?
[SB] We value cultural fit greatly. We hire with the intention of that person staying with us for a long time. We trust our team and let them choose much of their path. Historically we weren’t great at proper HR tasks. Once we grew beyond 6-7 people we knew we needed something to better track vacation, personal data, a company calendar, etc.
“We began with another tool for a couple years, but it wasn’t a great fit. We wanted an HR tool that felt personal and friendly.”
In 2012, Warren attended a new event called OwnerCamp, that brought together 30 small digital studio owners within a unique peer-to-peer retreat format. This seeded an alumni network of people that grew over time and happily included Craig Bryant. Once we knew who We Are Mammoth were, KinHR was quickly on my radar and I was impressed by the clean design, clarity of information, and feature list, which matched our needs. There was also the confidence that this product came from a studio like ours, who was putting out work we respected.
The biggest improvements KinHR has brought to our team revolve around onboarding new hires and tracking employee time-off. The lovely onboarding template has been very well received by new employees. We have it setup with the pre-hire tasks, as well as some of the 1st week to-do items. Kin makes it so much easier to not forget a key step or piece of the puzzle, and really gets us all off on the right foot.
The other huge improvement has been clear time-off policies that are easy to manage. This took vacation tracking from being a real stressful task, to something we all [almost] take for granted in it’s simplicity. A much smoother experience for all involved!
Anything notable going on lately?
[SB] It’s been a very exciting beginning to 2015 for us! We just hired a couple new team members; Jason Koskie coming on as our 3rd full-time Project Manager, Marie-Ann Beaudette as our newest Front-End Developer, and we’re hopefully just about to fill an open Back-End Developer role.
We just re-launched Rush.com in partnership with our friends at HappyCog in Philly, which has gotten an amazing reception from fans of the band, the design and web development communities. Even one of the VP’s at Adobe! I have it on good word that the accolades aren’t over — but nothing official to report yet.
We have a lot planned for 2015 and it feels like it’s full steam ahead right now!