Octopus Creative is a Santa Cruz-based design studio that places a high value on balance, collaboration and a great experience — for its clients and its staff.
“We’ve grown from two people to 11 employees, with 150 percent year-over-year growth — all through referrals,” says founder and creative director, James Hobbs. While Octopus partners primarily with startup clients around the Bay Area, they’ve also worked with bigger names like Google, eBay and PayPal.
I can run payroll in a quarter of the time it took me with Paychex, and the support is fantastic.
Success in an industry with high expectations takes creativity and commitment, but James believes it takes something that’s even harder to find than always-in-demand talent: room to breathe.
"A lot of people that work at Octopus have come from positions where companies have worked them to the bone. When you're in an environment like that, you feel stifled. You don't have the freedom to create,” James explains.
Instead, he’s attracted great people by creating a culture people want to work in, putting an emphasis on work-life balance with perks like unlimited vacation time. “We don't want to draw every single drop from our employees — that's terrible for their creativity. We want to give them the freedom and openness to think outside of the box."
In the midst of efforts to encourage a balanced and positive creative space, James’s early efforts with payroll were quite a drag.
“We only had three employees at the time, but Paychex — our provider at the time — was a nightmare. I kept thinking, ‘It shouldn’t be this hard,’” James says. “Because we were a small business, they just didn’t care about us; we were shuffled from rep to rep, and nobody seemed to know what they were doing.”
Gusto lets him spend his time doing other things. “I can run payroll in a quarter of the time it took me with Paychex, and the support is fantastic,” James says. “Gusto also has an awesome integration with Xero. But most of all, I love that I don't have to think about payroll very much. Gusto just takes care of everything for me."
As Octopus has grown, James says he’s learned a lot about people. "One of the most amazing realizations for me as a manager has been realizing that employees have different goals and aspirations — namely, they're all motivated by different things,” he says.
Gusto’s Giving feature lets employees contribute directly to the causes they believe in. “It’s easy for people to donate through their paychecks, and Gusto’s Employer Matching feature shows employees that they have the support of the companies they work for," James says.
“It isn’t easy to hire these days, and we really want to create an environment where people want to work for us. Gusto is part of that culture.”