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NO. 3 SMALL | Shine United’s culture outlasts the COVID crisis

NO. 3 SMALL | Shine United’s culture outlasts the COVID crisis

From the Shining stars: Meet the Madison area's Top Workplaces series
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Shine United display

Mike Kriefski stands at a computer monitor and works with a Shine United team member before the pandemic. The company has gone to great lengths to retain its culture and benefits during trying economic times brought on by the pandemic. 

This past chaos-packed year has been anything but a joy ride for Shine United.

Revenues dipped for the downtown advertising, design and digital agency — a result of the economic mess created by the pandemic — four employees were laid off, the agency’s first layoffs in 20 years, and its staff was scattered to complete work remotely.

While the first and second quarters were challenging times for revenue, Mike Kriefski, Shine United’s president and executive creative director, said financials are picking up.

“The trick as a leader in these times is to manage for the times, but not totally forget about where you started and what your core purpose and goals are,” Kriefski said. “Our ethos is about the four Cs: compensation, career, community and culture.”

The only ones to take a 10% pay cut were the six owners. Shine’s 42 employees did not face a reduction in their generous fringe benefits.

“We still have fully paid medical, fully paid dental, parking was fully paid, and we still paid for home internet,” Kriefski said, adding that the firm also worked to find other job opportunities for those who were laid off.

And the firm continued rewarding 10-year employees with a $10,000 bonus and an additional week off.

Several people were promoted during the pandemic, because Kriefski didn’t feel it was fair to put their careers on hold.

Kriefski said the company has weekly all-employee virtual meetings to share information about the firm and twice-yearly meetings to share financial information. Leadership sent weekly or biweekly emails to staff.

“The truth can be scary, as well,” he noted. “Some didn’t want to hear the facts. Some wanted to keep their heads down and work. Some need to know everything possible. For those who needed more information, they could go to their supervisor or come directly to me.”

Kriefski said the company culture built so carefully in pre-pandemic times help see the company through. “The sense of community, the sense of teamwork, belonging and the feeling of value, it paid dividends,” he said.


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