Agency culture is something that is typically easy to manage and foster within a small, start-up organisation. When your team is small, you’re able to communicate your values and ethos more easily and directly encourage your employees to embody the right behaviour for your agency.
This becomes more challenging as your agency grows and your teams grow and disperse between line managers and agency pods.
At Digital Agency Coach, we’ve helped over 200 growing digital agencies overcome their company culture nightmares — and in this article, we’re going to tell you exactly how we do it.
First thing’s first — it’s important to note that a good agency culture is not about ping-pong tables and fresh fruit deliveries. A good agency culture is about the values and behaviour of the individuals within your team.
How your team behaves and interacts with one another, is dictated by the overarching company culture — and as the agency leader, this has to start with you.
As the captain of the ship — the behaviour of your agency and your people begins with you. With this in mind, the first step to creating a great agency culture is to embody this within yourself first.
Once you become the agency culture example, demanding and expecting this from your team becomes much easier.
An agency’s behaviour is defined by its values. It doesn’t matter what those values are, as long as you and your team can honour them and they’re the right characteristics for your agency’s purpose.
Some agencies are driven by philanthropic, social or environmental values, while others are heavily sales-driven and are motivated by competition and commercial values. These are two very different examples of strong values, both of which are equally as valuable when it comes to creating the right culture for your agency.
To define your values, think about the overarching direction of your agency (as above) and consider what your ideal employee or manager looks like.
We advocate thinking about those standout individuals in your current team or people you have previously worked for or with, and pluck out the key attributes that made them great. Use these to build a base of 7–10 core values and let these dictate the behaviour and culture of your digital agency.
Poor-fitting employees will impact the productivity and morale of people around them. Addressing any ‘bad apples’ within your team is key to improving your agency’s culture.
At Digital Agency Coach, we advocate using a ‘Cultural-Fit First’ approach within your recruitment process. Prioritise the cultural fit and core-values screening early on in your recruitment process, and if a candidate doesn’t fit the bill, don’t continue with the hiring process.
Building the right team, with the right values, from the very beginning is the easiest way to foster a sustainable, scalable agency culture.
With that being said, it’s never too late to address the values and culture within your existing team.
One of the key Coaching & Mentoring exercises we work with agency owners on is analysing the culture and values within your current team. This exercise helps to Identify any ‘bad apples’ that could be impacting the morale, productivity and ultimately, the performance of your agency.
To do this, we use an Entrepreneur Operating System tool called The People Analyser.
This is a simple template you can create yourself within a Google sheet or Excel workbook. Start by listing your 7–10 values along the top and a list of all your employees down the left-hand side. The trick is to make sure you set ‘The Bar’ as the minimum standard of what you require from an employee.
Once you have this set up, measure each individual against your values and determine whether this is something they Always, Sometimes or Never demonstrate. Once complete, you’ll have created a visual representation of employees who are a good cultural fit and those who aren’t.
Implementing these five steps will guarantee positive changes to your agency’s culture and ensure that you are able to scale your business and grow your team with the right people.
As always, if you have any questions about fostering a great agency culture or would like some help using The People Analyser tool, please Get In Touch with the team at Digital Agency Coach, we’d be more than happy to help.
I'm an ex-agency founder now coach and mentor to digital agencies and trusted by Google and Forbes to deliver agency growth programs across the globe.