Digital Agency Northern Ground Hatches Employee-owned Incubator
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three weeks, Janecek says. Other Quarry projects might take months to bring to fruition, he says. (He declined to publicly disclose details about the products until closer to their release.)
A mix of product types and degree of difficulty should keep the Quarry team stimulated and avoid burnout issues, Janecek says.
He wants each Northern Ground employee to dedicate about 20 percent of his or her time to Quarry projects, but work for Northern Ground clients must always come first, he says. The biggest challenge for the incubator will be striking the right balance between Northern Ground and Quarry so that neither one suffers.
Janecek thinks that balance is achievable. The team will treat Quarry like it would any other client, making sure to communicate and form a solid plan for executing each project. Plus, although Northern Ground has no shortage of work to complete for clients—sales doubled last year, and are on track to top that this year—there are still “ebbs and flows” that employees can use to “steal a few hours here and there” to work on Quarry products, Janecek says.
Ad and design agencies sometimes use down time to focus on company social media accounts or complete tasks that don’t have a ton of business value, like designing “ a cute chalkboard wall” or spending hours making a staff video greeting for the holidays, Janecek says. “We’d rather put that unused time toward making products,” he adds.
Northern Ground clients might not directly benefit from Quarry, but it means they “get to work with a team that fosters this kind of environment and supports entrepreneurship and a startup culture,” Janecek says.
And even if Quarry fails to launch any successful products, Janecek thinks it will be worth it for employees because they’ll have gained new experiences and worked on things that are really interesting. “At the end of this ride, they will have a great story” to tell, he says. “If that’s a worst-case scenario, that’s a pretty good worst-case scenario.”