Episode 224

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Culture matters. As agency owners and leaders, we get that. And we love creating a “great culture.” But, developing a great culture is about more than beer o’clock and having a ping pong table. Yes, fun is important. But if you want to attract and retain the top talent in your industry, that alone is not going to cut it.

John Waid of Corporate Culture Consulting joins us on this episode of Build A Better Agency to teach us a fresh approach to developing agency culture. He explains how to identify and define your organization’s culture, so you can align it with your strategic goals.

By focusing on organizational culture instead of a more superficial definition culture, we create an environment where the best employees want to stay and thrive. It enables us to map out our core values so we can weave them into the DNA of the agency and establish clear rules of engagement for clients, peers, and leadership alike.

John has a very unique perspective on how culture comes to life and how you can foster a culture that is outcome-focused. This conversation will reshape your perspective even if you think you have this one nailed.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here: https://www.whitelabeliq.com/ami/

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Superficial culture vs. organizational culture
  • The factors that contribute to a great agency culture
  • How your culture plays a major role in talent acquisition and retention
  • How to set behavioral expectations that bring your agency’s core values to life
  • Why a great culture has the potential to course-correct a poor work ethic
  • How to introduce new values to your agency and maintain them for years to come

The Golden Nugget:

“A great culture gives everyone an understanding of what the expectations are and how they can be successful in the agency.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “Companies of all sizes experience chaos because they haven’t defined a clear culture.” @C3PeopleSkills Click To Tweet “If you don’t have a values-based culture, it is difficult to be an effective decision-maker.” @C3PeopleSkills Click To Tweet “The best way to introduce new values in your agency is to involve your team members in the process.” @C3PeopleSkills Click To Tweet “The best way to introduce new values in your agency is to involve your team members in the process.” @C3PeopleSkills Click To Tweet “Behaviors can be taught and ingrained into your employees until they become habits. Once they become habits, you know you’ve built a culture that’s sustainable.” @C3PeopleSkills Click To Tweet

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Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too. Welcome to Agency Management Institutes, Build a Better Agency Podcast presented by White Label IQ. Tune in every week for insights on how small to mid-size agencies are surviving and thriving in today’s market. We’ll show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. We want to help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want down the road sellable with 25 plus years of experience, as both an agency owner and agency consultant. Please welcome your host Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey everybody. Drew McLellan here, with another episode of Build a Better Agency welcome back, or welcome if this is your first episode. One of the challenges in every agency today is around talent, is really around your team. So many agencies are struggling to find, attract, and certainly retain their best talent. It seems like everybody is being poached from all sides, clients, corporate, universities, bigger agencies. It seems like everybody is looking at us as the training ground for great marketers and great agency people.

And so I think agency owners are scrambling to try and figure out how to create an environment and an opportunity that makes your employees really want to stick around. I think we often do that by thinking about salaries and titles and benefits, but one of the things I don’t think we drill down deeply enough into is culture. So when we think about culture, a lot of times we think about agencies being a fun place to work, that we have challenging work that is creative, that we have plenty of opportunity for people to play whether it’s, you’ve got a foosball table in the office, or you do charitable service projects together, whatever that may be.

But a lot of times we don’t think deeper about the culture in terms of how do we set expectations around, here are the rules of engagement inside this agency. These are the norms, the behavioral norms that we expect, and that you can expect from your co-workers, from the leadership team, from management. And so now everybody has an understanding of what the expectations are and how they can be successful in the agency. And so I think that’s a topic worth drilling down into, and spending a little more time with, but first I want to tell you a little bit about the Build a Better Agency Summit in May of 2020.

So you’ve probably heard me talk about it before, but we are hosting the first ever conference that is really built for small to mid-sized agencies around the running of your business. So at AMI, what we care is how you run the business of your business. How do you successfully do that, so it’s more profitable, it’s more scalable, it’s more sustainable. And that’s what this conference is going to be all about. So we’re not going to teach you how to design logos. We’re not going to teach you the best strategies and SEO. We’re going to teach you how to lead or run or own an agency and all the best practices around that.

And what I love about the way we’ve built this conference is that every attendee will have the opportunity to both learn and to teach. And I think that’s where the magic happens. I think you guys will learn so much from the other participants, the other attendees. Yes, the keynote speakers are amazing. Yes, the breakout speakers are amazing, but I think you’re going to have a great time learning from each other. That’s sort of a core tenant of AMI, whether you come to a workshop or anything is I know that all of you have as much to teach as you have to learn.

And I want to give everybody that holistic experience of doing both. So one of the features of this conference is what we’re calling the round table discussions. So imagine 10 or 12 agency owners or leaders around a table. And you’ve specifically selected a topic that is of interest to you, and the facilitator at that table is a subject matter expert in that topic. So Biz Dev, tax strategies, succession planning, talent growth and acquisition, contracts and legal documents, whatever it is. How do you use research inside your agency, thought leadership, all of those sorts of things are going to be the topics that you get to choose from.

And then you’re going to sit around the table and yes, you’re going to learn from the subject matter expert, but you’re also going to have the opportunity to learn from and teach the other people around the table. What are you doing around that topic? How are you finding success and hearing about what they’re doing that’s working as well. So it’s a very 360 sort of learning opportunity for you, and I’m excited to offer that to everybody. So we have a limited number of seats, we only can take 225 people at this conference.

I want to keep it small and intimate so you can get to know each other and you can spend a lot of time networking and chatting and making new connections and new friends. So grab a ticket before we sell out, and I will see you in Chicago in May 19th and 20th of 2020. All right. All right. So let me tell you a little bit about our guest. Our guest is a guy named John Waid. And John is the founder and CEO of a company called Corporate Culture Consulting. And this firm was created by John and some partners to really help companies identify and align the organization’s culture with its strategic goals.

So this is not about culture, like your fun club, kind of culture. This is core fundamental cultural issues. What are the values and behaviors that are absolutes inside your shop and how do you weave those into your organization and into the DNA of the employees that will create a place where people feel valued, that people feel like they’re contributing and being recognized, but they also understand the rules of the game. So John, before he started C3, he had worked at Pfizer, PepsiCo, Nestle and Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery.

And in all of those places, he learned the key value of how taking indispensable people and helping them have great attitudes, great understanding and empathy for their co-workers and a shared value set around how we actually get work done. So this is not values at a superficial level. This is at a fundamental organizational level. So he began really studying behavior in organizational settings and working as a behavioral consultant, helping people adopt these values and really weaving them into the DNA of the organization and the people.

And so I asked John to come on the show because I think this is a critical thing that we can all dive a little deeper into. Many of you probably have core values. Many of you have probably defined some of these things, but I wonder if you really take full advantage of them. And I think John’s going to help us see how we can do that and how we can kick off the year and make sure that everybody is in alignment and has a really great understanding of your expectations. So, if you’re not happy with the work ethic of some of your employees or people are coming in late or people aren’t being as respectful, or maybe they’re not stretching themselves creatively, whatever it is, you can set the expectation that you want them to align with how you want them to show up around those things.

But I think we often assume they know, as opposed to really articulate and define for them what our expectations are. So I’m excited to have John on, and I am just excited to dig into this topic. So let’s not dilly dally around. Let’s just jump into the conversation. John, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

John Waid:

I’m happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Drew McLellan:

So John, I gave folks a little bit of your background in the introduction, but why don’t you tell everybody how you sort of got to this position of having this expertise?

John Waid:

So, I’ve worked in sales and marketing pretty much my whole career. And I realized that as I’ve gotten older and I’ve worked at a lot of different companies and now for the last 15 years training and development and in the area of expertise and company and team cultures. I’ve realized that the important thing in companies is that people know how they’re supposed to behave, because that is so important, the values and the behaviors that companies just aren’t defined. And I’ve only had one or two managers in my entire career that have told me how I’m supposed to behave at the company.

So I call it the difference between culture and chaos and a lot of most companies, small or medium or large have chaos going on because they haven’t defined the culture real well. And so I realized that this was a niche that I wanted to specialize in because there’s a lot of torture and suffering in companies because we don’t have those behaviors defined. So from large companies like PepsiCo and Nestle, and I worked at a winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, I started to realize that my best leaders were the ones that define the behaviors that they wanted.

And those were the ones you wanted to follow voluntarily. So that’s kind of drew my passion. I’ve been doing leadership, management and sales training for the last 15 years. So I do that all over the world, and then I also specialize in the culture area. So that’s my background, and I came from a mom that was a people person and a dad that was a businessman. And you need both, you need the people skills and you need the business acumen, if you’re going to be successful running an advertising agency or a PR agency, you really need those two skill sets. And if you don’t have them, you got to develop them. You got to get trained in it.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. It’s interesting to me, one of the things I hear agency owners talk about all the time, especially when they talk about sort of the generational divides, as they’re bringing in a bunch of younger employees that are mixing and mingling with their longterm sort of middle-aged employees, they’re frustrated that they don’t behave the same way. And yet it’s interesting, you’re right, they don’t clearly define what that behavior expectation is. And so they assume, and we all know the danger in that. They assume that everyone knows A, how to behave in a business setting and B, that every business expects the same behavior.

And I’m inside agencies, I’m on site with them all over the world, all year long. And I will tell you that they are not the same. And the cultural norms of each are very different, but if you don’t know what they are, then how do you know how to perform against them?

John Waid:

Yeah, that’s right. If you don’t know that one of your values is creativity, for instance, or massive creativity, then how are you supposed to know that when you have a wacky idea, it’s okay. You’re not going to get fired for it, or if trust or respect are important. Do you know that those are important and how to live those? Because if you don’t, then again, you have chaos because I’m not going to treat you with trust and respect, if you don’t treat me with trust and respect. And if we don’t know that we’re supposed to treat each other with trust and respect, and that needs to be defined, and then the behaviors behind it have to be defined also, and then you have to hold people accountable to live those.

And that’s how you should hire and fire and promote is based on those values. And that’s how you can make good decisions too, because lots of times when we come up with struggles in our companies, we need to make a quick decision. And if you don’t have a values based culture, then it’s hard to make those decisions. Do we fire this person or do we keep them, or do we promote them or do we demote them? So it’s real important. And it also helps you to define your business and how you work with your customers, because at the end of the day, if you don’t train your employees on how to behave, how are they supposed to know how to behave with the customer?

Drew McLellan:

Right. One of the things that I know you believe in, so you talked about what if one of your values is wild creativity, but the reality is how we behave in achieving that wild creativity various dramatically. So it could be about dress code. It could be about having wild ideas. It could be about disregarding rules about meeting times. I know one of the things that you teach is this idea of, that you not only have values, but then you need to have behaviors that sort of define how you bring those values to life. So can you talk a little bit more about that?

John Waid:

Right. So you want freedom in a framework, you’re not going to be able to define. You can’t write a manual of everything you want somebody to do. So you have to have, if wild creativity is one of your values, then you do have to define how that looks like and what that looks like and dress code, what that looks like, and the ideas that you come up with. It also, how you interact with people, because if I can tell you my wild idea and you’re willing to listen to it, accept it and even pay attention to it, then that creates an environment of openness and trust and respect for each other so that while creativity can lead to respect and trust and all those things. If the behaviors around it are the right ones, if not, it can lead to chaos.

If you don’t define the behaviors, because then we’re all disagreeing. I don’t, that’s a stupid idea or that I don’t agree with that. And so, or, you know what, I’m the one that runs this place so it’s going to be my way or the highway. And if you have an idea or you go up against me, I’m going to fire you. And that happens a lot in companies, and you lose a lot of really great people and not only do you lose the great people, you lose everybody else because they say, Oh, that guy was really good. And that person got fired.

So why do I need to be stay? Especially with the newer generations, they’re not being loyal and they’re not staying very long, so retention becomes an issue, work ethic becomes an issue. All those things become issues when you don’t deal with them and the values of the behaviors that you want.

Drew McLellan:

So let’s talk about the whole work ethic thing, because I think that’s a common pain point for a lot of agency owners. What’s the thought process you would go through, if you are not happy with the sort of work ethic of your employees, what’s the process you go through to define the value and the behaviors that would course correct that issue?

John Waid:

Right. So, work ethic can be what I call an operational value because that’s a basic value that if you don’t have that, you might not have some of the more growth values or some of the more aspirational values. So work ethic could be showing up on time. Work ethic could be, you don’t leave until you finish your work. Work ethic could be… The thing is you’ve got to define what work ethic means to you and your agency, because if you don’t and people are showing up at all kinds of times, if that’s not the way you want to run your business then you need to let people know that and make sure you’re hiring for that.

If somebody is haphazard in the way they come to work and they don’t get anything done and they don’t do what they’re told, that could be another, you know. When I ask you to do something, you need to do it and you need to do it within 24 hours. So those types of things, even though it seems like, gosh, people should know that coming in. They really don’t. I worked at Frito-Lay when I was 18. And the lady said to me, and this is one of the first or only bosses that’s ever told me. She goes, we have three rules here, at Frito-Lay you need to finish your route, and if you’re going to show up late or not show up, you need to let me know if not you’re fired.

If you cause or punch a customer you’re fired. And if you cause any property damage, truck damage or anything else, and you don’t let us know you’re fired. So do you understand the rules for working at Frito-Lay? And I said, “Yes, ma’am.” And that was the start of my summer route chart, routine with Frito-Lay. And I loved it because I knew what got me fired, and I knew, and she left me alone. She never, because she said, “You’re going to do well, if you’ll pay attention to those rules.” So we need to be real specific with what we want from our employees, as far as our behavior. And then that value, that she was telling me was accountability.

I’m accountable for my actions. So those were three good behaviors that she told me right off the bat. And we often don’t tell our people that. And as a small company, you rely on, if you have 10 to 100 people, you rely on every single person to be able to run your business well. And so they need to know how they’re supposed to behave. And if they behave that way, then everybody’s going to get along better because they’re not going to be saying, well, that guy didn’t show up for work or that person didn’t finish their job, or that person gets perks because they’re sucking up to the boss. No, there’s no sucking up. There’s, did you do your work or did you not do your work? Did you have a good attitude?

Drew McLellan:

So, no cussing and no hitting your customers, I think that’s probably a good general rule for everyone.

John Waid:

Well, if they’ve obviously had a problem with that, so.

Drew McLellan:

Right. So if I want everybody to honor client deadlines, so I have to create a value around that. And then how specific, what would the specific behaviors be behind that? If I wanted, if I said, look, deadlines are not optional, that’s the value inside our agency, then what would the behavior, how would I define those behaviors in a way that everybody would understand exactly what I mean?

John Waid:

So value like that would be accountability. You’re accountable for making sure that you meet the deadlines, you’re accountable for preparation, a written preparation, make sure you do your homework, make sure you know the answers to the questions. Make sure that you do your work in diligent and cross all the T’s. Make sure you triple check your work because it’s… One thing I can meet the deadline, but then the quality is not good. So-

Drew McLellan:

[crosstalk 00:19:38].

John Waid:

… I need to also regulate, and I know in advertising, one little error can ruin everything.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely. Right.

John Waid:

I’ve messed up ads in my career. I’ve messed up TV commercials. I’ve messed up all kinds of things. And I fortunately had a mentor that’s taught me triple che