Des Moines Agency Earns Fifth Consecutive Top Workplace and 2023 Values Award

There’s no beating around the bush. Advertising firms aren’t exactly known for being a symbol of work-life balance and healthy work environments.

But one Des Moines, Iowa-based agency has risen above that reputation.

Lessing-Flynn (LF), a full-service marketing agency established in 1907, has been named a Top Workplace in Iowa for the fifth consecutive year – every year the agency has been eligible to participate. And this year the agency rose to second place out of 75 companies of similar size and is the only advertising agency to make the list five years running.

New this year, LF also received the Values Award, given to one company out of more than 700 in the state, regardless of sizes. LF leadership has also previously been recognized with the Leadership Award.

Deciphering the ingredients to maintaining happy employees isn’t rocket science. Survey data reported by the Washington Post found that work-life balance and flexibility, a good boss and the opportunity to be promoted ranked among the most highly desirable workplace traits in workers of all ages. While these traits seem obvious, advertising agencies seem to have difficulty cracking the code.

In fact, Forbes reports that agencies average a whopping 30% employee turnover rate. LF’s turnover rate? 4%.


Culture trickles down

So how is LF building and maintaining a positive workplace culture?

“One word: team,” says CEO Tom Flynn, the fourth generation to co-own and manage the longest-standing independent advertising agency in the country. “We don’t do egos here. We make decisions collectively with our team members’ best professional and personal interests top of mind. We also very intentionally hire for culture.”

LF Chief Operating Officer and co-owner Jess Held works closely with Tom to intentionally define and build workplace culture. Held often takes the lead on employee interviews, looking closely at an individual’s overall contribution to the broader LF team.

The team environment is a driving factor behind LF’s award-winning culture. But it doesn’t hurt that employees get the opportunity to work from home twice per week and enjoy a shortened, 37.5-hour work week. LF implemented a 7.5 work day more than 20 years ago and has consistently prioritized sustainable workloads among employees.

“A lot of companies say their employees are their most important asset, but LF shows it,” says Jon Pauss, an LF senior project manager. “We see it in the amount of time and resources they put into individual professional growth and the benefits and resources they offer in support of each of us.”

Pauss arrived at LF in early 2022 after spending close to two decades at another agency. But he isn’t the only employee who found LF after leaving other agencies. In fact, more than a quarter (26%) of all LF’ers come from other agencies both in-state and beyond.

“This is the first agency I’ve worked at where top leadership has taken the time to know me as a person,” says Kristy Hoelscher, LF senior copywriter. “They actually care about my experiences and understand how important fulfilling work is to employees’ overall well-being.”


Listening and Investing

Hoelscher’s sentiment isn’t unique among LF employees. Quarterly Pulse Surveys disseminated anonymously to employees help LF leadership pinpoint areas where the company can improve. A culture of listening is a driving force at LF, from the corner office to every employee. A good thing, too, since the Harvard Business School says one of the most critical traits in a CEO is being a good listener.

Flynn and the LF leadership team listen closely to the agency’s Quarterly Pulse Surveys. The in-house, anonymous surveys seek to readily address any pain points and keep the leadership team aware of employee sentiments.

The surveys not only give employees a chance to voice their opinions on a myriad of topics, but the results are then presented to the entire company at monthly town halls. The presentations include the full spectrum of answers, not just the positive ones.

“The people here are truly invested in the company and the company is invested in them,” adds Hoelscher. “Our core values aren’t just buzzwords that make us sound cool. We actually mean what we say.”


About Lessing-Flynn

Founded in 1907, Lessing-Flynn is the longest-standing independently owned advertising agency in America and a five-time Top Workplace in Iowa recipient. The agency helps clients solve complex brand and marketing challenges, producing award-winning work across a variety of industries, including agriculture, animal health and nutrition, construction, financial, healthcare, higher education, manufacturing and technology. More information about Lessing-Flynn can be found online at or via email at [email protected].