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3. Ollis/Akers/Arney

At Ollis/Akers/Arney, a willingness to embrace change has led to levels of success CEO Richard Ollis never imagined. What has he learned? That flexibility, trust and communication mean everything.

by Jennifer Johnmeyer

Sep 2022

Photo courtesy Ollis/Akers/Arney

To Richard Ollis, employee trust and business transparency are vital. “Everyone has a voice, and they know that,” he says.

Through his years as CEO of Ollis/Akers/Arney, Ollis says he’s learned how much communication matters and how to present information in understandable and effective ways, which has led him to new levels of appreciation for his team. That appreciation comes in many forms. Most notably, as a 100% employee-owned company, every person in the organization is an employee-owner, which means they grow their stock portfolios each year —giving them a stake in the company’s outcome.

Ollis also holds quarterly “state of the agency meetings,” in which the entire organization meets to review financials, revenue, expenses, profitability, and what the company expects to pay out in company stock as people retire. Additionally, he sends a summary of weekly management meeting notes to all employees. 

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“What I thought would be a negative turned into a super positive, and frankly now has become a part of our culture and how we operate as an organization. I’m a convert.”
— Richard Ollis, CEO

“We publish what we’re working on, problems we’re trying to solve,” he says. “When you’re forced into a situation, as we were with COVID, it teaches you to learn different ways to do things, and sometimes they’re things you maybe should have been doing all along.”

A key takeaway Ollis took from lockdown was how much remote work could increase both productivity and employee satisfaction.

“Our staff performed so well,” he says. “Productivity was up, employee satisfaction was up, and we learned how to hold meetings remotely.” As a result, Ollis/Akers/Arney now offers a 50/50 hybrid work environment for anyone who prefers to work from home.

“What I thought would be a negative turned into a super positive, and frankly now has become part of our culture and how we operate as an organization,” he says. “I’m a convert.”

This combination of flexibility, trust, and communication has led to soaring levels of employee satisfaction and turnover of less than 5%. Ollis expects that the company will only continue to grow stronger.

“We just want to keep communicating to our employees that they matter, that their voices count, and that every decision is keeping their success in mind,” he says. “They’ve been knocking it out of the park, and I give them so many kudos.”