Why Ukrainian agency Bickerstaff.734 made its employees co-owners of the business

Ilia Anufrienko, the founder and head of the creative agency Bickerstaff.734, in a column for AIN.Capital, shared his reflections on business development, work during the war, and most importantly, he told us how he made his colleagues co-owners of the company and what motivation program he invented: be sure to read to this moment.

The beginning

It is said that if you look at a tree, or even at a stump, to be more precise, you can see many rings there, and it seems to be considered the age of that tree. But a creative agency is not a tree, so it’s hard to say how old we are. To be honest, it is not difficult to say, but not everyone can do it.


The state register says that “BIKERSTAFF” LLC was born on September 28, that is, we are a little less than two years old. If Bickerstaff universe-agency was a child, he would probably enter the Guinness Book of Records.

Because this child was able to win the Cannes Lion for our great Khortytsia, got the D&AD shortlist, brought the first LIA to Ukraine for our Old New Calendar project and much more.

Our fans often ask us – how? (actually they don’t ask, but if they did, we would answer). And it’s just because we programmed the matter of reality according to our request to do good to the world with what we know how to do. And here we are, we have discovered the regularity of this universe – if you do good things in creativity – then Cannes Lions appears. Because the lion is about important things happening in society. Therefore, now we are all young, but strong lion cubs, who are ready to keep on fighting for Ukraine, defending our home, falling in love with our country even more.

And according to the results of the VRK, we are the third most creative agency in Ukraine! In other words, if our agency were a movie, we’d be Nolan’s The Dark Knight (it’s the third best movie on IMDB).

But we didn’t stay in third place for a long time. Because according to the results of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity by VRK we took first place. That is, it turns out that we have now become the legendary film “The Shawshank Redemption” (it is on the first place of IMDB).

War and changes

It’s been 5 months since we were the strongest people in the world. It seems that we have already cried all the tears and scared away all the fear. We are used to starting the morning with “how are you”. Our team became warbirds, some may have flown, but everyone, without exception, fights with all their might. We are lucky because all our team is alive and well being. We are lucky enough to be useful and create 13 projects during the war, all about Ukraine. We are lucky to be useful and speak to the world about our country so loudly that more than 30 million people have heard about it.


Strategy of Bickerstaff.254

If you don’t have a business, you can’t lose it! This was our strategy from the beginning, so we never did business, but helped others do business, creating something useful for the world, for the people around, and for everything that is good in the world. Over the past 5 months, our team has made one of the largest number of social campaigns in Ukraine. As a result, Bickerstaff.734 took the biggest number of awards at KIAF positive change.

The most effective campaigns were Easter Gif Attack and All Around the (Russian) World targeted on our neighbors who don’t really understand (don’t want to understand) that a real war is going on. Easter Gif Attack is pure partisanship. We got into the most saint holiday for all Russians, and left a message about the war in Easter gifs, which Russians send to other Russians to congratulate them on this bright holiday, and then go on to cheer for the “special operation in Ukraine”.


And for Russians who dream of traveling somewhere other than Syzran, we created a travel website offering tours of bombed Kharkiv and Irpin. You can see exactly what it looked like here: All Around the (Russian) World.


At the beginning of the war, our agency had a financial cushion, and two more on the balcony. From the financial cushion, we paid everyone’s salaries in advance. And under such conditions, our agency survived with almost its full staff: no one was laid off, everyone worked the same as before, and several Bikerstafchanynies even received promotions, including financial ones.


And during this year and 8 months something else important happened. which didn’t exactly change the course of history, but it definitely changed the course of our agency’s history. Our CEO and Founder used to be one person – Ilia Anufrienko, now about 6 Bikerstafchanynies have changed their Facebook and LinkedIn statuses! And today to the question: “are you a co-owner” they can answer “yes”, or they can not answer at all, because the co-owner can do anything in general – because they are Ukrainians, and also a co-owners, and also a part of Bickerstaff, and a designers, or a creative directors, or a copywriters, or just a nice people who came up with a project and won the Cannes Lion or D&AD.


Talented people very often have a limited choice of career — you are either an employee and do cool things, you are creative, you work for fun, or at one point you become more of a manager than a creative person. In addition, not all creatives want to be entrepreneurs, but everyone wants to earn good money – that’s why Bickerstaff is such a place for talented people, where you have a lot of opportunities for your realization. It was important to give a choice: either earn your lion’s share and join a cool worldwide agency like W+K or Droga5, or stay here and be a co-owner of a creative business and develop the Ukrainian creative market.

Our boss Ilia Anufrienko wants Bickerstaff.734 to become a company where all talented people would feel part of something common and big. There is a phrase in creative agencies that “the most valuable thing in an agency is people”, so our boss decided to make it a real part of the business. Because of that, people who get a lion are given a share in the agency. So, in the agency 6 people, designers and copywriters, became co-owners of the business.

The size of the percentage depends on two things – the number of Cannes Lion and D&AD awards, and the value of the percentage itself. The valuable changes in proportion to the development of the agency. After each “lion” at Cannes or “pencil” at D&AD, the share is redistributed within 10% of the total share in the agency. Now it is 6%, 1% for every co-owners. If there are more than 10% lions, then the amount will be proportionally distributed – someone for three lions can have a 1.8% share, and someone who won one will have 0.8%. This system is fair because if you keep doing cool things, your interest grows, along with the value of that interest. And if you live on past victories, then the percentage will be very small.


To understand how often this proportion can change, we used the example of Ukrainian agencies: Fedoriv agency won its first lion after 12 years of existence, Saatchi & Saatchi – 2 lions in 16 years, Banda also won 2 lions in 11 years. Since the agency does not chase a large number of projects, the focus is on the quality of these projects, and every brief in the agency is solved at the highest possible level, which is why each project, as a result, has a chance to receive high-level awards at the most difficult international festivals. That’s why we have a global plan to do even more good things and change this (whole) world.

What’s next?


​​And now you have read this whole heart-breaking story, and you can ask: what will happen to the Bikerstafchanynies next? As our Group Head aka Co-owner of Bickerstaff, Marina, said, “Any network (network = network agency) won’t take us such crazy people”, that’s why we plan to become a Universe Based Agency. This will give us some advantages, for example when the ants from another universe do something good for our Earth, they will probably need an agency to communicate, and we will already be a global agency, so guess who they will turn to with a new brief on the subjugation of the Humans? Okay, right, to Droga5, but we won’t be so far down that line!


We wish you all the best and faith in our victory! And another important point: when you see a dog on the street, call him, and if he responds, then everything in your life will be 10/10. And if he does not respond, it will also be 10/10, because your life does not depend on dogs or anything – only on you!

By Ilia Anufrienko, the founder and head of the creative agency Bickerstaff.734