Managing Culture in Creative Agencies

In 1986 Jane and I opened our first business. Being fresh out of University we wanted to jump into our own venture and there was nothing that could stop us.

Now, had we been a little more mature, a little smarter and with more patience, we may have gone out and worked for a few years gaining some life experience and perhaps receive some mentoring on how to manage ourselves, our expectations and people.

We were really fortunate. We worked really hard, paid a lot of attention to our customers and our numbers, and within a few months needed to hire our first staff person. Having never hired a staff person before, we went through my HR text books and followed recommendations from business associates.

Interviewing, rating, second interviews, more ratings, testing, personality quizes, situational discussions … I mean we did the gamot.  And we failed.  Then we failed again … our first hire worked for us for way too long before we got the nerve to let this person go.

How typical … and not a surprise looking back.

Managing people, managing culture and managing your business environment is the most difficult aspect an owner of a creative agency has to face.  If you are more than a sole proprietor you know what I am talking about. 

Learning to be a good manager and then learning to delegate, that is, trusting that people can live up to your standards and deliver for you is not easy.  But it is imparative that learning to control your feelings, to tame your impulses and truly trust those around you is key to a balanced work life. 

I had a turning point a few years back. In a meeting, Tate told me that I needed to trust the team or fire the team.  Wow?  What a punch…

Now I live by it, hire by it, and am trying to impress upon our group that we can all work together in trust of each other.  It is absolutely essential.  Building a culture of trust, where your safe to express your opinion, comfortable to step out and help in unusual circumstances, find satisfaction in the things that you do … this is my primary job.

I would argue that owning the culture of the company is synonymus with owning the business.  Your creative business is a people business, a service business, and building a team who trust one another will drive a service that exceeds your standards and those of your clients.  And good customer service will tame me every time.

Chris Wilson

Chief Client Advocate

Part of our team: Isabelle, Trevor, Leonardo, Jane and Marc

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