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SmartBrief Reviews

Updated January 17, 2018
15 reviews

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2.0
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SmartBrief President & CEO Rick Stamberger
Rick Stamberger
8 Ratings

15 Employee Reviews

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

  • Free beer is great when it's actually stocked (in 3 reviews)

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

  • No one is going to tell you what you can do to expand your opportunities for growth in the company -- you need to find it yourself (in 2 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. "Steering away from the skid"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Disapproves of CEO

    I have been working at SmartBrief full-time

    Pros

    Great people to work with. decent benefits. training programs. 401K. great work-life balance. Great place to get a couple years of experience before going somewhere that pays market value.

    Cons

    From the C-suite to the middle management, leadership has created an atmosphere discouraging anyone from trying. The company is scared by increased competition and panic is its only response.

    New ideas aren't encouraged. No chances are taken. You do not have the support of your managers and they don't have the support of their bosses either. Senior leadership want you to keep your head down- nothing else.

    There is little communication of department goals, and no clear reward if goals are met. So why try?

    There is no career path. You will not get promoted unless someone leaves. There is a big emphasis on training courses, but zero opportunity to use the skills you learn. Your fate is not in your hands, so why try?

    The company has a habit of having layoffs right before declaring a dividend.

    Advice to Management

    Communicate with your employees. More importantly listen to them. Don't just shout down their ideas. Keep workers around by designing career paths. Get back to fostering innovation and make sure your company has the resources it needs to become a leader again.


  2. "Sweatshop"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • 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.

  3. Helpful (3)

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

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • 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.


  4. Helpful (1)

    "Go unnoticed until you make a mistake"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • 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.


  5. Helpful (5)

    "Going sideways. Very slowly."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • 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.


  6. Helpful (6)

    "I don't recommend working here."

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

    I worked at SmartBrief full-time

    Pros

    There are some really talented, motivated people at SmartBrief. Everyone I worked with believed in the product and thought very carefully about how to tackle existing issues. The work/life balance here is pretty well respected. They try to foster a fun, hip culture. Prime DC office location in Metro Center with a rooftop for the nicer weather. The beer machine was a nice touch.

    Cons

    The company doesn't seem to be doing very well. That, or the CEO is perfectly fine without having a vision for the future. Either way, I would highly recommend you look for a job elsewhere. A series of layoffs occurred in December and management seems to be leaving in droves. The turnover here is unreal. It seemed like every month there were multiple people leaving, and the company is not very big.

    Aside from its apparent financial troubles, the company is still stuck in the early 2000s. You'll hear a lot of talk, but rarely will there be action. You'll see a lot of driven people who try to innovate and change the status quo, only to see their ideas either A) gain little to no support or B) given so little priority that it ends up taking eons to make any sort of progress. It's easy to get stonewalled at SmartBrief. Processes are slow and change is questioned. I think someone said this in another review but, "that's the way we've always done it" should be the company's mantra.

    Expect to be low-balled with your starting salary. Raises are rare and minimal.

    Advice to Management

    I want to believe that you care about the future of this company and the future of your employees. Start INVESTING in that future. Your resistance to innovate is frustrating and has led a lot of talented people to jump ship. Be transparent with your employees in regards to company goals.

    SmartBrief is a great product. I'm hoping things turn around.


  7. Helpful (3)

    "Un-livable Wages"

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

    I worked at SmartBrief full-time

    Pros

    - "fun" culture
    - softball team
    - beer machine
    - occasional travel for conference
    - stepping stone job for some
    - surprisingly smart people

    Cons

    - pay and benefits (complete lack there-of)
    - rigid hours
    - stagnant promotions
    - huge layoff's before holidays
    - extremely minimal commission
    - competitors pay more
    - seniority means nothing

    Advice to Management

    PAY your employees a LIVABLE WAGE. Many get second jobs-- and then feel discriminated against for this decision; yet there is no alternative unless you are living well outside the city/sharing a bedroom with someone/ have a spouse or family to supplement your income.

  8. Helpful (3)

    "Great Entry Level Footstep"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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

    Pros

    -Office environment is very relaxed and casual

    -Great patio

    -Good starting point for a lot of careers

    Cons

    -If efficiency, communication, and productivity are important to you, I highly advise you look elsewhere. There are some really good people at SmartBrief who can get the job done with exceptional quality. However, it always get pideon-holed at the management level and it is a miracle if anything gets done on time.

    -If opportunities for advancement are important to you, look elsewhere. Unless you're in Sales, you can expect a minimum raise annually and see your next step in the ladder filled in from the outside.

    -The turnover rates are through the roof and it's always the best talent that heads out the door. Middle management can be development hell; anything and everything that gets there will be in limbo until you're proactive and bring it up yourself. Don't expect middle management to take responsibility for their lack of awareness.

    -If a healthy salary is important to you, I HIGHLY advise you look elsewhere. Unless you're in Sales or in a management position, you can expect below average pay and above average expectations for the amount you're paid for.

    Advice to Management

    There's plenty of good talent internally. Stop bringing in people from the outside who have no idea what SmartBrief is and give the internal candidates a chance. They've been here x amount of years more and know how the processes work. And speaking of processes, let's stop talking and actually get stuff done.


  9. Helpful (3)

    "Like being on drugs"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • 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.


  10. Helpful (3)

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

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • 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.


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