2 Ways Creative Agency Success Hinges on Culture

With the economy on the mend and agencies hiring there is increasing demand for great people. More and more these great people are younger Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, and these individuals work differently than baby boomers. To be successful with this cohort of our society or better yet to thrive as a strategic leader who producing truly innovative ideas, your agency must be giving more than lip service to your culture, your team and specifically each individual.

To some leaders it’s simple. Hire, train, burn out, repeat…Crazy. Old School does not work in the new economy and with today’s changing workforce.

In doing research for this post, searching for “Creative Human Capital”, and “Agency Creative Culture” pulled up significant resources. The majority, including Adweek, Cornell University Research and a great article by David Baker at Recourses, wrote at length of how culture is key to the relationship between firm and client. There was even a publication on how governments should choose an agency of record based on cultural fit.

Following are two key tools I have witnessed working in the pursuit of building a great agency culture and creating creative human capital.

First, the work associated with the book “The Rockefeller Habits”. This is far more than a book; it is a way of building tremendous value into a company by incorporating a disciplined approach to turning complex problems into simple solutions. The core of The Habits is the One Page Plan. This plan outlines the business roadmap by identifying the single most important accomplishment every quarter. In addition, it outlines major Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) such as financial goals, Net promoter scores or marketing qualified leads. The methodology pushes the development of critical accountabilities within the organization that are used to drive day-to-day decisions. In addition to KPI’s and quarterly initiatives, the plan is very important in nurturing every person in becoming fully engaged.

And fully engaged is the focus of the second tool.

A fundamental core ideology to building a culture in your creative agency is about the psychology of team performance. In earlier blogs, I have spoken of our business coach. His work is founded on building a mission, creating a clear and actionable vision. It’s about what you do, how you do it and most importantly who you are being. Think of how good it feels when you’re ensconced in a great conversation, it’s creative, engaging, and simply feels fantastic, your fully engaged. Am I right? This is one outcome of a fantastic culture.

Roberto and his work with The Envy Generator has been instrumental in turning around a number of businesses and I will admit he has helped me significantly at function point and in my personal life.

A great read that covers the principles can be found in the book “5 dysfunctions of a team, by Patrick Lencioni. He sums it up quite succinctly as the Absence of Trust, Fear of Conflict, Lack of Commitment, Avoidance of Accountability, and Inattention to Results. I bought the soft copy on Amazon but was pleased to see it today in a number of airport bookstores as I crossed the country. I highly recommend it.

Turning to some of the publications I mentioned above.

Adweek summed up the importance of culture, the most powerful comment being the following:

“A distinctive culture is probably the most powerful way in which an agency can establish “Chemistry” and display a real point of difference”

Michael Serino, the executive director of Human Capital Development at Cornell University states in his writing; “Most business leaders would probably agree that talent makes the difference between being an industry leader or a laggard”.

And finally a favourite of mine by Maya Angelou:

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.“

The majority of business owners, including myself, think their business supports a unique culture. But truly ask yourself…

What makes you truly unique from your competitors?

Are you sharing a strong vision of your firm, of the quality of life you want your staff to have, your customers to experience?

Share your comments…2014 is the year of building a strong culture, a fully engaged team and a more profitable agency. Finally, watch this video about the new generation of creative minds:https://www.youtube.com/embed/AO1Txp8D_8U

Chris Wilson
604.731.2522 x224

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