rbb Announces Employee Owners, Open Book Approach
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rbb Announces Employee Owners, Open Book Approach

Six months after forming rbb Public Relations—buying the firm back from Weber Shandwick Worldwide—Christine Barney has named six equity partners, including Lisa Ross, who will serve as the firm’s president.

Paul Holmes

CORAL GABLES, April 29—Six months after forming rbb Public Relations—buying the firm back from Weber Shandwick Worldwide—Christine Barney has named six equity partners, including Lisa Ross, who will serve as the firm’s president. The announcement marks the implementation of a business model that will “instill a cooperative spirit into the ownership and management of the new firm,” Barney says.
 
The partners include Ross; executive vice presidents Tina Elmowitz and Vivian Jimenez; and Ed Gilhuly, Christine de la Huerta and Tadd Schwartz, who will each serve as vice president. Barney is CEO and managing partner.
 
“Employee ownership and empowerment can still serve as a lucrative business option in that it gives workers a say in how the company is run,” says Barney. “The goal is to create a working environment that not only delivers superb client results, but allows everyone, partners and employees, to thrive professionally and personally. It’s impossible to keep clients happy if the people who serve them are not.”
 
She points to research showing that on average, worker-owned companies and/or partnerships survive longer, lose fewer workers, enjoy bigger profits and are more productive than their non-employee-owned competitors, according to Douglas Kruse, a Rutgers University economist who compiled data from more than 30 studies of worker-owned firms.
 
Barney says flexibility is instrumental in keeping senior people on board to serve the firm’s long-term clients. So Bruce Rubin, who founded the firm in 1975, remains “of counsel,” operating out of both Miami and New York and now focuses his practice on crisis communications.
 
Another important aspect of the firm’s culture is transparency, which manifests itself through open book management. Although rbb is a private business, company earnings and individual account billings are made public throughout the office. In addition, all employees are encouraged to participate in the financial management of the firm and have a say in business development.
 
“While everyone at our firm doesn’t necessarily have an equity stake in the company, they do control the way they define their jobs and manage their clients,” says Barney.  “In exchange for that individual power and freedom, the firm delivers an energy to its clients that is unmatchable and makes the office a place people look forward to coming to rather than dreading.”
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