From the start, Craig Conard was determined to toss out the traditions of the corporate world. After all, developing a creative culture can require a different approach.

From the start, Craig Conard was determined to toss out the traditions of the corporate world. After all, developing a creative culture can require a different approach.

"We probably have a bigger budget than any other company for Nerf guns," said the 50-year-old founder and president of Sudden Impact Marketing.

Founded in 1997, the firm of fewer than 50 employees creates opportunities for business-to-business companies through phone, direct, traditional and interactive marketing. It's the kind of work that can require an equal amount of play.

Early next year, the company's new 6,500-square-foot offices will open at 653 McCorkle Blvd. in Westerville, complete with a basketball court -which doubles as a photoshoot area - and a mezzanine filled with "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots" and a Nerf gun war zone.

The offices will be about 1,000 square feet larger than the company's current space on Lazelle Road in Columbus. No longer will low-hanging pipes get in the way of basketball games.

"We've had a few broken light fixtures, but it's made for some creative shots," said Kim Allen, who was hired as a freelance employee last January and made full-time two months later. "But if you make a shot over the air duct, it's worth more points."

Maybe the NBA should give it some consideration.

"The demographics of our company are young, athletic and competitive," Conard said. "We've got people who run the Boston marathon, people who are power lifters and cyclists. We've even got an in-house boot camp twice a week."

The company even has a team that competes in Worthington's winter basketball league, which Conard describes as "highly competitive."

He wouldn't have it any other way. A win-at-all-costs attitude is what drives his company.

"We absolutely have no fear in going head-to-head with the biggest agencies," Conard said. "That's the mindset of this company. Our people have a competitive vein to them. We look for that kind of fit when we hire."

For Allen, flexible work hours and the reward of down time to help recharge the creative process have been a plus.

It's a place which in some ways resembles home.

"There are dogs running around so you could accidentally step in something you weren't ready for, if you know what I mean," Allen said. "But I think there's a level of trust here. We know when things like that are appropriate, like shooting people with Nerf guns to get their attention."

The approach has achieved results. Last year, Business First listed Sudden Impact Marketing 10th among the area's top 24 ad agencies in gross income.

Before starting his own business, Conard worked at Columbus-based Resource Marketing Consultants Inc., where he handled the Apple Inc. account.

It's the model he brought to Sudden Impact Marketing, which also serves high-tech clients such as Cisco, Logicalis and Emerson Network Power.

In designing the new work and play space, Conard tapped Dublin-based Collaborative Design to lay out the plan. Humbert Builders in Plain City is doing the construction.

"I really think our approach has created an organization with a singular goal in that everybody is looking to achieve victory," Conard said. "Maybe that's why I'm able to justify the basketball."