Agency Spotlight: Plank
Frontify loves agencies - big and small. It has to be said though, that some of the best creative work is being done beyond the “traditional” agency network by those who are outside the fold.
Plank is a scrappy and ultra-talented web design company from Montreal, Canada who are playing by their own rules and proving that being genuine and decent people truly pays off. The live their values in the clients they accept, the people they hire, the way they collaborate and how much they give back to the community.
Tell us all about Plank. When were you founded? How did you get started? How many employees do you currently have working for you?
Plank was founded in 1998 with just enough money and freelance clients to pay for an office for 3-4 months to see what happens. That was over 17 years ago. Currently Plank is 12 full-time employees with a few different part-time support staff.
Tell us about your clients. Who do you work with? Do you have a particular sector you focus on?
While we have over the years worked with tons of different types of clients in all kinds of industries, our focus is on working with creative industries such as Arts, Culture and Entertainment. Over the years we have worked with people like Michael Moore, the legendary band Rush and leading gaming companies like Bioware.
Give us some insight on the projects you’ve worked on. Share 3 that have been meaningful you in some way (ie: tugged your heartstrings, you had a BIG budget, you made a little budget go far or anything else that made it memorable).
Given that we have worked on hundreds of projects over our almost 20 year history, it’s very hard to narrow the list down to 3! We are very proud of the work we did with Michael Moore as we felt like we were having a direct impact on very serious political issues. We are also very happy that organizations like The Sun Magazine, evenko, the Fantasia Film Festival and Culture Days have all trusted us for more than 5 years and in some cases, closing in on 15 years! I’m personally happy that we’ve been able to encourage the return of professional baseball to Montreal, with the Montreal Baseball Project.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing agencies today?
I think the key challenge is clearly defining what is different about your team from others. I’ve come to realize over the years that the same way that while not every client / partner is a good match for us, we are not a good match for every client / partner. We strive to find those people that we will excel with and match our personality and culture.
What brands/companies do you feel are ones to watch right now? Why?
From an agency perspective, there aren’t any specific companies that we aspire towards. There are specific things that we look at and say “well done” but our goal is to continue to inspire ourselves, become more creative and constantly be learning and pushing forward.
What is your management philosophy?
Treat everyone with respect and give them to room to do their jobs well. I also want people to realize that I truly feel that we are all equals on one team and that everyone’s role is important and let’s everyone else do their job.
What tools do you rely on in your shop to help run your agency efficiently?
Our toolset is currently the following:
- Communication: Slack & Email
- Client Management: Basecamp
- Project Management: Trello
- Resource Management: Forecast
- Human Resources: Kin HR
- Financials: Harvest & QuickBooks
- Marketing / Business Development: Hubspot
- Creative: Axure / Adobe Suite
- Dev: Laravel
How do you generate ideas at your agency? Do you have a process?
It all depends if it’s client related or internal. The project teams will work together and brainstorm ideas directly, and collaboratively no matter the role of the people on the team. Our project managers will set the boundaries for collaboration.
Describe your office? What’s it like to work at Plank?
This quote from an interview with Kin sums it up.
“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)!”
What events do you attend? Why these ones?
Everyone in the office is given the opportunity to do one professional conference a year. I also attend a series of different business development events, related to the types of clients we aim to work with. For example, over the past few years we have attended:
- Design Thinkers
- An Event Apart
- Hot Docs
- Lone Star PHP
- Smashing Conference
- PHP Tek
- Canadian Museum Association Conference
- Owner Camp
- Operations Camp
- Digital PM Summit
Which awards do you submit entries to?
To be honest, submitting to awards is not a part of our company culture. It’s a bit of an afterthought. There are very few that we find that are fairly priced and truly open. Many times we feel as if they are pre-vetted and the same companies keep turning up in the same lists. Over the past few years the ones that we have found have given us some attention and respect are Communication Arts & .Net Magazine.
If Plank was a band, which one would it be? Why?
I see Plank more as a baseball team. When I think about team dynamics and how we choose and value our people, it’s based on the philosophy behind Moneyball.
Thanks to our Canadian friends at Plank for taking the time to answer these questions for us. Be sure to follow all of the comings and goings with Plank. Check out their Twitter account, follow them on Facebook and get all of their latest updates via their LinkedIn page.