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HOW I DID IT

How I Did It: Luring the Hip to Arkansas

Enticing urban ad types to Arkansas has much to do with Wal-Mart and something to do with cool.
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How I Did It

The entrepreneur: Andy Murray, 39, who runs ThompsonMurray, an advertising agency in Springdale, Ark. (pop. 45,800), that consistently attracts talent from Chicago and New York.

Why they're there: Most of ThompsonMurray's business comes via Wal-Mart, based in nearby Bentonville. The agency creates marketing campaigns, such as in-store displays, for companies that do business with the discount chain.

The hiring: Murray says the agency has had a 30% to 40% sales increase for several years, with annual revenue nearing $15 million. As a result, he hired 60 new employees last year -- about half of them from big-city agencies. Here's how he woos skeptical urbanites:

1. Promise upward mobility: "In a larger company, it would take five to seven years to get the kind of promotion that I can offer in 18 months," Murray says.

2. Live on the cutting edge: Murray invests 10% to 15% of the company's net income on new technologies. This appealed to Chris Gray, who relocated in November from Chicago. He was attracted by the agency's retina-tracking technology, which tests which product displays draw customer attention.

3. Focus on collective achievement: Murray gives out a monthly "star derrière" trophy -- shaped like a horse's behind -- to employees who aid colleagues in trouble. In November, Mark Goebel in the IT department won for helping an ad exec cope with a file-deleting system crash just before a client meeting.

4. Make it look like the city: The agency's offices resemble a Chicago warehouse.

5. Empathize: Originally from Cincinnati, Murray moved to Fayetteville, Ark., in 1992 to work for a branch office of Procter & Gamble, so he knows the trade-offs people make to come work for him. Murray feels that the company's team culture is his trump card: "Most of the people I hire have already worked with big clients and great brands. What they want is a great company."


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Last updated: Mar 1, 2003




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