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The Richards Group — Agency Profile

Photo via @richardsgroup on Instagram

Published on October 1, 2018, at 4:45 p.m.
by Bri Roselius.

Stan Richards’ philosophy is simple. When he founded The Richards Group (TRG) in 1976, Richards had one method in mind: The Peaceable Kingdom. Known to many as a 19th-century painting, “The Peaceable Kingdom” depicts humans and animals interacting harmoniously. However, this painting does more than exemplify Quaker ideals. The Peaceable Kingdom is a way of life and has been the foundation of TRG’s culture since the very beginning.

An agency like no other.
Nestled in the heart of Dallas, and just a five-minute walk from Uptown’s West Village, TRG is known for going against the grain of traditional advertising and PR agencies. Agencies today are unmatched by TRG’s unique work environment. As a company that admittedly refers to itself as odd, TRG has become one of the most closely watched, respected and profitable businesses in the advertising industry.

TRG continues to defy many truisms and prosper in this cutthroat business by incorporating unconventional methods and a willingness to break down barriers in the workplace.

“No one person is more important than the others: Everyone is important, and everyone’s voice matters,” Katie Maiers, TRG brand planner, said.

An outlier in the industry.
Highly structured and rule-bound, TRG is anything but a loose, anything-goes culture — a shocking revelation for a company in a ”creative” industry.

Employees are expected to be at their desks no later than 8:30 a.m. Time spent on the job is accounted for in 15-minute increments — failure to do so, and you’ll be docked $8.63. Close of business is 6 p.m. — finish your work and go home. For Stan Richards, discipline needs to be implemented if success is desired.

Despite valuing structure and guidelines, TRG’s creativity emerges through its unique management and architecture.

There’s an unwritten rule at TRG: Don’t use the elevator. Located in the middle of the building is a four-floor spiral staircase — the focal point of the agency, the literal center of culture and the symbol of TRG’s no-barriers philosophy (Stan Richards, “The Peaceable Kingdom,” 2001). For TRG, it’s more than a method of getting from one floor to another; it’s also the pinnacle of clean communication. When wanting a collegial atmosphere, there’s a lot to be said for saying “Hi” on the stairwell.

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The same idea applies to the floor structure. Forget departments — all employees sit together, but no two employees in the same discipline are permitted to sit next to each other. For Richards, to know them is to respect them. In what is known to Groupers (TRG employees use this term to describe themselves) as “neighborhoods” is an open-concept labyrinth that emits a ”friendlier network of studio spaces” (Stan Richards, “The Peaceable Kingdom,” 2001). When people with different jobs sit side by side, Richards believes, they collaborate more and resent one another less.

“Our independence is a huge point of distinction,” said Maiers. “Maybe it’s a Texas thing, but [in Dallas] there’s a balance of work and life, and work isn’t the means to enjoying life, but a big reason as to why you enjoy it.”

A leader who inspires the kingdom.
Just a mere four decades ago, Stan Richards founded TRG on one principle: Creativity doesn’t need a muse. It needs a drill sergeant. TRG’s peaceable kingdom has inspired Maiers to think about her own entrepreneurial aspirations.

“I hope I’m not the only one that sometimes thinks about what I would do if I were to start my own business — How would I establish an office culture? How would I ensure that my employees love coming to work?” Maiers said. “[Being a part of TRG] makes me appreciate the office culture that we’ve crafted in our ‘peaceable kingdom.’”

Katie Maiers isn’t the only one who has adopted Richards’ thinking: Taylor Bennett, the CEO and chief creative director of MESH, an independent creative and strategic agency, has adopted Richards’ unique structure in his own company.

“It’s just easier,” said Bennett, when asked about TRG’s structure. “[This structure] allows for people to grow in the agency. There’s no ceiling; everyone has an opportunity to rise.”

As Richards’ mentee for several years now — and a veteran of the agency lifestyle for over 20 years — Bennett still calls upon Richards today with his own business questions and challenges.

In the last 40-odd years Richards managed to create a company that defies industry standards, clenches nationally recognized clients, showcases a portfolio packed with some of the most memorable campaigns in the last 30 years, and inspires his fellow Groupers and peers to reach for the unreachable.

Richards, S. (2001). The Peaceable Kingdom: Building a Company without Factionalism, Fiefdoms, Fear and Other Staples of Modern Business. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

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