There’s one (of many) aspects of your agency that even when all else seems to be running smoothly, has the potential to make or break it.
What is that?
It's your agency culture.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” - Peter Drucker
What is agency culture?
The term “corporate culture” has become a buzzword these days, but what defines it? Culture is a pattern of norms, values, beliefs, and attitudes that influence individual and group behavior within an organization. The combination of each of these factors contribute to the overall image of the brand and can help attract and retain talent. The corporate values and beliefs are often established by the leaders within your company but will filter down to the employees who need to adopt them as their own for the culture to show up in all aspects of the business. Essentially, culture is “the way we do things around here,” and often includes:
· Decision-making style and speed
· Organizational values
· Management leadership styles
· Communication style with customers and employees
The effects of a negative agency culture
If your agency culture is lacking or not where you’d like it to be, rest assured, corporate culture can be changed over time. However, it’s critical that executives lead the charge and support the process. They must believe in and defend the culture shift for other employees to do the same. It’s important for them to communicate to the employees and follow that up by reinforcing the new culture. This is just as, or even more important, when training new employees after a purchase or merger.
The industry has changed dramatically, and many agencies will need to reinvent themselves (or shift their corporate culture) to accomplish profitable growth. Many agencies continue to do business as they did five years ago only to find it doesn’t work. Agencies that don’t embrace change often find their revenues falling, profits disappearing, and new sales slipping. These are signals it’s time to make some changes!
Creating an agency culture
Culture is something that evolves over time and hopefully, if it’s a positive culture, it takes on a life of its own. But it starts by being intentional. Many businesses treat it like an afterthought, which can be a detrimental approach.
If you haven’t taken time to think about what defines your culture, you’ll want to address that as soon as possible. You can establish or renew your agency culture by first considering what type of people do well in your agency and what common values, beliefs, and habits characterize them. By sharing this outside of your organization, you’re more likely to attract more of that into your business.
And it’s not just your internal employees and a strong management team that you’re trying to acquire by developing a unique culture, it’s a strong sales force as well. The producers that contract with you, have a huge impact on the success of your agency. So, you want to attract those who align with and support your agency culture.
Culture fit also comes into play when you merge with another agency or purchase one. I’ve seen many M&A deals falter, and ultimately fail, due to company cultures being misaligned.
The benefits of a strong culture
In fact, the emphasis placed on culture is one of the main reasons why Partners Advantage recently joined the Gallagher family. It's most likely why they've been recognized as one of the 2019 World’s Most Ethical Companies(R) by Ethisphere for the 8th consecutive time. Named “The Gallagher Way”, the company culture is characterized by shared values like:
· We support one another. We believe in one another. We acknowledge and respect the ability of one another.
· We push for professional excellence.
· We can all improve and learn from one another.
The Gallagher Way permeates everything they and we, by extension, do in our business. It guides day-to-day decisions. When you have a culture that runs deep — where everything is viewed through that lens first within your agency, you give the people you employ, the people you partner with, and the clients you serve a consistent and memorable experience every time.
If your agency has good middle and senior managers with the same or similar values as you, they’re able to help shape the desired corporate culture and reproduce it themselves. In fact, every CEO or president should aim to make him or herself expendable. The culture you foster in your agency should live on even when you’re no longer there.