That Pool Table Will Not Fix Your Culture Problem

by on Sep 25, 2014 in Agency Talk Remote

The Web Success marketing team recently attended Hubspot’s Inbound Conference in Boston, Mass. We all agree that it was a wicked good learning experience, and we are excited to share what we have learned with the rest of the team. But one talk has really struck a major chord with all of us. Simon Sinek’s Keynote, “Leaders Eat Last” made such an impact that we left feeling inspired but also, asking many questions. 

Success Agency is a remote agency. Did you know that? We don’t really push the fact that we are a remote agency because it really doesn’t define us and at the end of the day, does it really matter to our clients? We work just as hard out of our home offices and local cafes as many agencies work from their office spaces. And even though we are located in various cities all over the world we still collaborate on projects just as much as regular agencies do. 

So, does it really matter that we are remote? We don’t think so. 

You might be wondering, why remote?

Whenever I hear this question, it is hard to not respond with, “Why not?” Ask yourself the same question, why not remote? Digital Agencies work entirely online already. Conversations with teams happen through an office communicator (such as Skype), whether we are in the office or in our homes. And since most digital agencies provide their team members with a laptop that they can bring home with them, it is hard to argue that the only place work can get done is in the office. 

Why is culture so important?

A real standout point in Simon Sinek’s Keynote was that once you begin sending CYA (cover-your-ass) emails at work, your culture is broken. Culture isn’t something that can be defined tangibly. It’s an energy between team members and their leaders. When we hire new team members, one of the most important questions we ask ourselves is, “Is this person a good cultural fit?” A company can train for skills, but it’s difficult, if not impossible to make any given person fit a company’s culture. Candidates who mesh well culturally are more likely to stick around, which will save employers thousands. 

What do creatives really want when it comes to culture?

If you based agency culture on the “About” pages of many agencies, you would think creatives are happiest when they have access to a pool table, video game consoles, beer, and free snacks in the kitchen. The truth is that most creatives who work in offices that have these “perks” rarely take advantage of them. Deadlines, meetings, and so many other factors take away from any “free time” employees have, and so these perks end up going unused. An agency that provides an open and receptive culture is going to be the most attractive to a creative. 

Where can we be open and receptive?

It is not enough to generate big ideas if no one is open or receptive to them. For many leaders, this mindset is the very essence of innovation. Receptive leaders will always have teams that are eager to share their ideas without fear. These are the cultures where the best ideas come out, and the best products will be made. It is important to remember that almost every great inventor was told “You’re ridiculous. It will never work.” at least once in their lifetime. 

So, as an agency what can we do to improve our culture?

Creative cultures are continually experimenting, testing, and taking risks without having to fear failure. Be ambitious. “Make no little plans: they have no magic to stir men’s blood.” When Daniel Burnham said these words after the 1871 great fire of Chicago, he was being ambitious for what Chicago could become. His ambition turned Chicago into the great city it is today, a magical city that can still turn men’s blood. Build a culture that supports big steps and powerful beliefs by putting trust into your team, not fear. 

Another great point that Simon Sinek made during his talk was that if your culture is dependent on this quarter’s earnings or this month’s sales targets, then you are handicapped by short-term thinking. And if you’re spending money investing in toys to improve culture, you’re investing in the wrong places. That pool table will not fix your culture problem. Invest in your people and they will invest in you.

About the author of the post
Stephanie Mansueto is the Digital Content Strategist for SUCCESS agency.