At Mad Fish, we pride ourselves on forward-thinking relevant strategies. These strategies include words like social, organic, inbound, outbound, and paid. While we spend a significant amount of time staying up on the latest relevant strategies, it’s easy to forget about the most important strategy of all, creating a team of top-notch digital strategists.

When Corrie and I set out to start our own business, we told each other we wanted to create a work environment different and better than those we had experienced in our early careers. While both of our previous work environments were professional and priceless to our career experience, we still felt that we could do it better.

Soon after hiring our first employee, reality hit us (like it always does).

Creating a work culture is no easy task. Employee satisfaction had to be cultivated thoughtfully, groomed over time, and only would work if both owners and employees fostered it together.

We’ve tried and succeeded, and tried and failed at many employee benefits over the years. From the beginning, we insisted that staff members set their own weekly schedules – if you are a morning person, set your hours as such. Like to work late? Set your day to start later. Just keep the team informed so we ensure our clients have access to us anytime.

This past March, Corrie and I discussed what type of creative environment our team and future team members could thrive within. We ultimately chose to implement a policy that I feel truly embodies three fundamentals of our Mad Fish team:

  1. Our exceptional professionalism
  2. Our creative and strategic personalities
  3. Our capabilities for constant innovation

Unlimited paid time off policy: Let’s be adults

So in April 2014, we rolled out our unlimited paid time off policy for all employees. Who would have thought this policy would become so popularly discussed and somewhat controversial as it has the last few weeks? Leave it to Richard Branson to create a sensation.

Under our policy, staff members are asked to notify management and colleagues when they take vacation, sick days or personal time, as a means to ensure our clients get great service. But there are no annual constraints in which they must abide.

  • Our team doesn’t lose their vacation days if they don’t use them. Vacation is at their discretion.
  • Our team isn’t forced to come to the office when sick. They choose whether to stay home, work from home or come in.
  • Our team doesn’t put off doctor appointments, family functions or personal interests because they don’t want to use precious vacation hours.

We’ve removed the anxiety of trying to live life outside of the office.

At Mad Fish, we take hiring seriously. We focus on hiring exemplary individuals capable of true leadership. They all excel when given the correct tools and an environment to be successful. When I run down the list of personality traits of our ideal employees, they all fit one fundamental characteristic that Corrie and I were always confident we could find: They are all capable adults who take their clients and their careers seriously.

Those types of people don’t need employer help with managing their schedules.

Thinking beyond the status quo

I feel that all too often as business owners we are blinded by the status quo. While we’re working to innovate our services and offerings, we forget to innovate our employee manuals. At Mad Fish, it’s our mission to not forget that just as the digital marketing environment is constantly changing, so is the world we live in. If you want to employ thought leaders and ‘A’ players, your employees need to be treated as such.

It’s working

This policy change has worked out great. The Mad Fish team has never been more productive and the team atmosphere is great. No one has abused the policy. The success of the program is wholeheartedly attributed to the staff we have on the team, and less likely influenced by the owners.

As a business owner, I feel it’s one of my duties to provide the necessary tools that enable employees to learn, thrive, and develop their careers. To me, the unlimited time off policy is one of those tools.