SmartBrief Reviews | Glassdoor

SmartBrief Reviews

Updated December 10, 2016
14 reviews

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SmartBrief President & CEO Rick Stamberger
Rick Stamberger
7 Ratings

14 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • The culture and location of the office is very appealing to many young adults and its obvious to see why with the beer machine and ping pong tables (in 9 reviews)

  • The work/life balance here is pretty well respected (in 5 reviews)

Cons
  • Mis-management of entry level employees (in 4 reviews)

  • There was an obvious disconnect between senior management and what was going on in the trenches (in 4 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. Helpful (2)

    "SmartBrief struggles with lack of strategic direction, management challenges"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at SmartBrief full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Lots of hardworking employees, particularly at the lower level. Great and capable tech and content teams. Good and interesting product. Good work life balance.

    Cons

    There is a severe dearth of leadership at the company that translates through every level of the organization. Bad management at the middle manager level compounds this problem, meaning turnover is high. Some teams offer too liberal an interpretation of work/life balance, meaning there is flexibility in terms of working hours but too little accountability when it comes to deliverables and goals.

    Advice to Management

    Fire incompetent employees, particularly those at the management level. Emphasize the importance of good management and provide training for employees that have recently been promoted to a managerial role Create clear, transparent growth tracks for all departments and teams.


  2. Helpful (5)

    "Going sideways. Very slowly."

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at SmartBrief full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    I loved the people I worked with. SmartBrief is a good place to work as an entry- and mid-level employee. Because it operates in so many different industries it offers a unique, high-level overview of the mechanics behind various industries and types of businesses. The motto, "save busy professionals time and keep them smart" may not be an earth-shattering aspiration, but it affords a nice sense of contributing positively to the world. The core product is a good one.

    Cons

    As one gets closer to senior management, dysfunctional aspects of the leadership structure become apparent. The CEO and CFO are co-founders, and it's not clear who is in charge. The CFO is hands off. I'm not confident he understands the needs of the business in an era of tough competition. The CEO is largely hands off, but will occasionally involve himself--often after the fact--in lower-level decisions like the design of marketing collateral and entry-level hiring. The CEO's behavior is generally inconsistent. He seems to change his mind repeatedly about small things, which causes an unhelpful amount of confusion and factionalism in the management ranks.

    If there is a larger strategy for growth and innovation, other than "do what we're doing, but more of it," it has not been fully communicated.

    Advice to Management

    Take a look around at the pockets of excellence in the company: who is hitting the goals they've set for themselves? Who is assisting in their colleagues' success? Who is ensuring that the various types of clients and partners are served? Invest in those people.

    Also look at pockets of resistance: where does momentum go to die? Where do projects stall out? Who consistently says, "we can't do that?" Make sure those folks aren't empowered to get in their colleagues' way.

    Delegate authority, for real, and hold people accountable.


  3. Helpful (3)

    "Like being on drugs"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Working at SmartBrief is like being on drugs. It's fun, especially if you're younger. The people are genuinely nice and hang out together, the office is pretty, there's free beer, and the CEO can be quite inspiring, actually. Also, to stay there, all you really need to do is just go along with the program (not so terrible, really, not like they're manufacturing anthrax or something); you don't really need to try very hard. If having an easy, pleasant, work environment is more important to you than making money, it's a good place to be.

    Cons

    Working at SmartBrief is like being on drugs. It's bad for you, especially if you're older, and really, you probably shouldn't do it. Telling other people about your experiences doing it makes them bored, at best, and respect you a little less, at worst. It feels bad to stop doing it, but after a day or two you realize your life is better for it. After I left, I discovered a lot of my more casual acquaintances had thought that I had been working for a non-profit. Must've been the "working for the experience, not the paycheck" vibe that I was giving off. If you prefer making money, building your resume, and accomplishing difficult tasks to having an easy time at work, and you could care less about having free beer at work (not at all a shameless ploy to make recent college grads work for less money, right?), maybe you should look elsewhere.

    SmartBrief is a real businessman's business (not necessarily a "Con", depending on who you are). It is very much a marketing and sales organization. Let's face it, E-mail newsletters for trade associations are boring. This is good if you're a businessman, because you have less competition. But do you really want to just write summaries of others' articles if you want a career in journalism? Do you really want to just work with e-mail and websites if you love technology? This doesn't mean it's a terrible place, it just means that senior management does best what it knows best.

    Advice to Management

    To be honest, watching management in action was one of the highlights of working at SmartBrief for me, because I would probably do some of the same things they do if I were to start my own business. They certainly know how to get good value for the talent they acquire. Also, SmartBrief seems like a solid business. But hey, so is Starbucks; just because I want to be a shareholder doesn't mean I want to work there.

    So, the advice: I think the majority of SmartBrief employees are vaguely dissatisfied, but are comfortable enough that they don't want to bother finding something else. Some like their jobs, but not as many as you seem to think. Maybe more really liked their jobs in the past? Was there a great start-up culture that isn't surviving big business bureaucrats moving into management positions? I'm not sure. I think maybe SmartBrief tries to hire ugly ducklings, and I think maybe, deep down, the CEO thinks everyone has a bit of the ugly duckling inside them. But what if they're mostly just ducks after all? Then you end up with a duck pond, not Swan Lake.


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  5. Helpful (3)

    "Disorganized environment which rarely has goals but does have talented people"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Intern in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Intern in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    Fun people make working at SmartBrief worthwhile. The culture is quite relaxed and most people do not take themselves too seriously yet they remain professional.

    Cons

    SmartBrief really doesn't have a business model and has little idea of how to communicate what it is attempting to accomplish both within and outside of the organization.

    Advice to Management

    Leadership at SmartBrief should really sit down and think about what the business is trying to accomplish. While working there there was rarely a sense of moving forward and it felt as if employees were simply there to get a paycheck but were never really engaged nor could they be because the company has little vision.


  6. Helpful (3)

    "Nice People with No Direction"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    Beer machine, nice/smart people, casual work environment

    Cons

    zero leadership from senior staff.

    Advice to Management

    Please understand that betting on a short term exit strategy can backfire when all long term prospects haven't been made priorities.


  7. Helpful (1)

    "SmartBrief is a good company with a good product, but is a very poorly managed company"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    Very relaxed environment and a great work-life balance in terms of expectations. They have a very good benefits package there as well.

    Cons

    Poor communication from management in terms of the direction of the company. It is very easy to get lost and caught on the outside of being one of managements favorites...

    Advice to Management

    My advice would be to be more transparent to your employees and to treat all employees fair.


  8. Helpful (1)

    "SmartBrief has great potential that needs to be realized."

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    -Flat culture
    -Nice people
    -Company does a great service and produces a quality product
    -You can innovate and push ideas forward
    -Tremendous opportunity to be highly involved at an entry level and learn from experience

    Cons

    -There is minimal development or career advancement unless one threatens to quit, has a competitive offer, or does everything themselves
    -Poor motivation/communication from leadership--there is no mission.
    -Little leadership awareness of workplace issues
    -Extremely poor top down communication skills from leadership

    Advice to Management

    -Focus on Professional Development (in education, communication about career advancement, and recruiting, ect.)
    -Hire smarter people--recruit more widely and raise bases to become competitive in the marketplace. We are losing excellent candidates we are lucky to have apply because salaries are so much lower than competitive comparisons.
    -Address workplace issues effectively and efficiently.
    -HR should read SmartBrief on Workforce


  9. Helpful (2)

    "Lots of internal issues, moving nowhere."

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Client Services in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Client Services in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend

    Pros

    It's an online media company; within the publishing word, online & digital media is the place to be. Whether or not email is really progressive within online/media is up to you...

    Work/life balance is feasible at SmartBrief, but only because people leave at 5pm and don't want to work late. It's not something that is really promoted but something an employee just stumbles on.

    Oh, another good thing is the awesome office manager, and there is a beer machine.

    Cons

    There is no innovation, desire to develop & compete. Management is satisfied with mediocrity, probably just enough to get the company bought (which these days is all they care about). There is absolutely NO focus on career development for individuals. The only way to move up is to make a big stink, threaten to quit or beg. Employees that have been there a while fall into the same mentality as the senior management and don't care to move the company forward.

    Advice to Management

    INNOVATE, EVOLVE, TAKE RISKS, COMPETE WITH OTHER COMPANIES OUT THERE! And try to retain your employees by listening to what they want and caring about their careers.


  10. "Sweatshop"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Freelancer - Anonymous Freelancer
    Former Freelancer - Anonymous Freelancer
    Doesn't Recommend
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    The editors are great. Very talented and nice.

    Cons

    I worked for Smartbrief for several of years, and the pay is horrible. You might write an item, but if they editor doesn't think it's a good fit, you don't get paid. You only get paid once for an item, even if they use it 10 times. It doesn't matter if you have tons of experience -- you get paid the same as a newbie.

    Advice to Management

    Pay writers fairly and stop treating freelancers like they're in a sweatshop. Freelancers deserve at least COL raises.


  11. "Go unnoticed until you make a mistake"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at SmartBrief part-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Smart and savvy coworkers who care about writing.

    Cons

    Good luck getting a raise.

    Advice to Management

    Your employees are your best asset. Act like it.


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