Episode 224:

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 check, quadruple check, have four people check it, make sure you run it by so. All those behaviors can be taught and ingrained in your people until they become habits. And when they become habits, that’s when you know, you have an on-purpose culture or you have a culture that’s sustainable. And that’s what people don’t spend… People spend a lot of time worrying about how they’re going to treat the customers, spend a lot of time, obviously worrying about the money, which is totally understandable.

Those things are real important. The thing is how do your people behave, and what are the norms and values of that behavior? That is something that I think anybody in business, or even with a family needs to think about. Because if your kids don’t have good values, guess what they’re going to be doing, robbing, cheating, stealing, if that’s what you want your kids to do, you best not pay attention to how you bring them up and what values you bring them up, because as you know we talked before the show, I have a daughter, you have a daughter.

If we don’t set some good values and behaviors for our kids, we’ll worry. I’ve driven with my daughter, and I said, “Be safe, have fun and make sure you’re constantly learning.” Those are our three values in our family and my daughter I know, is going to be safe in the car because I’ve been with her. I trained her. I spent the time with her. And so, she may have an issue, there’s a lot less chance because I’ve spent a lot of time on the behaviors and the values.

Drew McLellan:

So I think that’s one of the places where agencies probably dropped the ball a little bit. So even if they have a set of core values, which many of them don’t, and even if they have behaviors that define whether or not you are honoring those values, which many of them don’t right. I’m not sure that they introduce or reinforce those values and behaviors well. How would you recommend a company, let’s say somebody listening doesn’t have core values and behaviors, and they want to introduce it to their agency. What’s the best way to present that to the team, and then how do you keep it alive a year, 10 years, 20 years after you’ve presented them?

John Waid:

Okay. So, the best way that we’ve seen over the last 15 years I’ve been doing this, the best way that I’ve seen to do this is to actually involve your people in setting the values. Because if you just tell them what the values are, they’re not going to have the buy-in that you need to… Let them create the values, and what I say is, as a leader, you can always override them, more than likely they’re going to already know what values they have for themselves. They’re going to know what values the company currently has, and they’re going to know what values the company ought to have.

And so we do a simple assessment that measures those three areas. What are your personal values, and you pick 10. What are the values that the company currently has defined or not defined because you can see them. Usually they come from the top and then what values do you want this company to have, so that you’ll stay here and work hard, and those types of things. Once we have that, then we involve, if it’s a smaller company, we can involve everybody in deciding what the values are. If it’s a bigger company, we take representative groups and make sure that we come up with the three unique or sustainable values, and then we’d come up with the behaviors around it.

And then we do training of the people in behavior, so we’re behavior specialists, or the consultants that… I’ve got a team of about 60 consultants worldwide that we do behavior training. And so we know how to work with your people to make sure that, that behavior is sustainable. And the leader has to emulate that behavior because if the leader doesn’t then it’s not as successful. So you need to be bought in at the beginning to make sure that you’re doing this.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So, in some sort of committee fashion define what the values and the behaviors are? And then how do you, let’s say you’re in a company where everybody was not a participant. How do you unveil all of that? What’s the most effective way to sort of seed the values inside the organization?

John Waid:

So, we work with companies from anything from five people all the way up to half a million people to put it in a book format, we actually create a little culture book for you. And that culture book indicates the norms, the values and the behaviors that you want your people to live. What we ask you to do is after you’ve created that culture book is to invest in training, either you do the training, we teach you how to do the training internally or we come in and do the training for you so that everybody knows what is in that book and why that book is so important.

And then as we’ve seen, I did work for a company, I’m real proud of them because they came to me at the beginning and they said, it’s an advertising agency. And they came with a problem. They said, we’ve lost seven people of our 35 people, and they went on to be competitors of ours. And there were our best people. And they said, I know the owner said, I know they left here because of us because we didn’t manage them right, and we didn’t treat them right. And so we need help with culture. And I’ve been working with them three years and they’ve developed their culture book. They’ve involved everybody in the process of developing their culture.

They’ve got three great values and some behaviors. Everybody is onboard, and they’re now growing double, they even grew triple digits a couple of years ago. And they’ve got tons of millennials, I’d say about 80% are millennials. So it can be done with millennials in an advertising agencies. It’s fun to do the culture work, because we have them drawing pictures up on the drawing boards, and they have a lot of fun developing their culture. And once they know that they were part of developing that culture and the owners, they had to swallow the self-awareness pill and say, Hey, we don’t want to get involved. They actually said, John, just come in and do the workshops.

We don’t need to even be there except for, we do usually a couple of workshops where we involve five to 10 people and then another workshop for two or three hours. And then the afternoon we get everybody together, if it’s a smaller company and that worked out really well. So the owners came in and said what did my people come up with. And they were amazed, I mean, amazed at what the people were coming up with. And they said, John, just roll with it, we’re continuing… And by them just letting go of that piece, letting somebody who’s done this for a long time and it takes a while to get to this simplicity that I’m sharing with you.

They are amazed and we’ve been able to replicate that same formula in probably 40 different companies, smaller companies. And so it’s something we’ve done. I’m very passionate about it. Our people are very passionate about doing this type of work because people say, what’s the return on investment, John, from this? I say, well, if you lose one good person in your company you can pay for us.

Drew McLellan:

Right, right.

John Waid:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

And turnover and retention is a challenge in every company today I think, certainly in the agency space. I want to take a quick break, but when we come back, you keep talking about the number three, and I want to ask why specifically you think people should have three values, but let’s first take a quick break and then we’ll dig into that when we come back. I hate to take you away from this week’s content, but I just want to put a little bug in your ear. We have some amazing workshops coming up in the first quarter of 2020, and I want to make sure they’re on your radar screen. So there are two in January, there’s the build and nurture your agency sales funnel, which is January 23rd and 24th in Orlando, Florida.

We are literally going to not only show you how to build a sales funnel, but we’re going to actually walk you through the exercise of doing it so that you leave with a completed or near complete sales funnel. So that’s a Thursday, Friday. And then on Monday, Tuesday, our good friends at Mercer Island Group are going to join us, and they’re going to talk to us about the prospect’s buying journey. So they’ve been working with brands and helping them pick agencies for years now. And one of the things they’ve been studying is what do prospects or what brands do as they are beginning their early, early stages of shopping for an agency long before they’re on our radar screen.

What are they doing, and how do we win each of those milestone even when we don’t know they’re out there. And so it’s going to be a great workshop. It’s brand new content from Mercer Island Group. If you have not been to one of their workshops, they do not disappoint. We get rate reviews every time that they take the stage, and so they’re going to be with us on January 27th and 28th, also in Orlando, Florida. The beautiful thing about that is right in the middle of a weekend. And why wouldn’t you spend a weekend in sunny, warm Florida on Disney Property in January. So hopefully you can join us for those. We also have a great workshop in March.

So that workshop is in Chicago. We’re heading back North March 24th and 25th. And that is the run your agency for growth and profits. This is an agency owner workshop. If you are not an owner, but you are a leader, then ideally your owner would come with you, because this we’re going talk about owner stuff. So everything from operations, to Biz Dev, to people, to profit, to financial metrics, all those sorts of things we’re going to cover. We’re going to cover all the big bases in terms of the internal backside of the business.

How do you run the business of your business better? And again, that is March 24th and 25th in Chicago. All right. I hope I see you at one of those or more of those, but in the meantime, let’s get back to the podcast. All right. We are back with John Waid, and we’re talking about creating culture and really defining and some really about creating, but it’s about defining and codifying culture inside your agency. And before the break, a couple of times John has referenced this idea of having three core values. So I’m curious, if there is purpose behind that number.

John Waid:

Right. So, we’re big believers in simplicity. So keep it short and simple or the other acronym for kiss. And we believe that if you keep it simple, people will know what the values are because a lot of companies have 10 values or 15 values or seven or whatever. And they can’t… If my magic question, when I go into companies is what are your values? And if they can’t tell me what they are, I said, you’ve got chaos. You don’t have culture. I said, if you can’t tell me what your values are, then you don’t have a defined behavior pattern for your people, and that’s real dangerous. It’s super dangerous. It can lead to a lot of problems. So three is the magic number for me, and the reason I defined three is because you need what I call an operational values.

So a basic, get it done value, what I call the manager value. So it’s the get it done, the basic value and then I have a growth value that you want to have. You want to have something that’ll help you grow and get better. And then I have the aspirational value and that’s what makes you want to come to work every morning. And let me just give you an example of why, if you do three values and you divide them in those three categories, why that’s so powerful.

Drew McLellan:

That’d be great.

John Waid:

Yeah. So the United States was built on the foundation of three values, Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. So life is your operational value. If you don’t have life, you don’t have anything else. If you can’t make money in a company, you can’t pay the employees. So you need an operational value. You need something, what’s going to give us life? What’s going to help us survive? That’s your survival, one. The second one is liberty. If I give my people liberty, then they’re going to be able to grow. They’re going to be able to get better. They’re going to be able to develop. And so I have liberty. So if you have that for our nation, that’s what allows us the freedom that we have to pursue happiness.

We need that freedom. And then the pursuit of happiness, if I’m alive and I have freedom then why am I doing all this? Well, it’s because I want to pursue happiness. So that’s your aspirational value. That’s your leadership value. So if you have those three pillar values that can help you tremendously, the Roman Empire was built on three values. One was utility. The second one was it needed to be utilitarian. You needed to build something and it had to be useful. So that’s your baseline value. Then they said it to last forever. It has to be strong. That was the second. That was your growth value. That was get stronger, get better, make sure you’re building these things well.

And that has to be beautiful. So, that was the aspirational value, and if you travel throughout the world, the Roman Empire, we see they had buildings that were utilitarian. They had the strength that lasts, they’re still around today, and they’re beautiful, absolutely beautiful. So those are the three values that built the Roman Empire, and we know that, that empire did really well for a really, really long time. And so if countries are using it, families are using it, why not use it in your business? And like I said, it doesn’t cost a lot for what you spend on coffee for the year, you can pay for this.

For what you spend on a simple accounting system, you can pay for this. It’s not an optional expense. This is not a nice to have, this is a need to have. If your people don’t know how they’re supposed to behave, it’s our fault as leaders. And don’t feel bad about it, 95% of companies, even more, I’d say 98% of companies have chaos versus culture. And so this is a simple formula that if you get somebody who’s professional can help you with this, the upside of this is the ROI on doing culture right and getting behaviors, and that end up being habits is astronomically high.

Drew McLellan:

So if somebody is listening and they’re saying, okay, I’m going to commit to this in 2020, I’m going to define our values and behaviors. What are the common pitfalls that a company makes or trips over when they’re trying to define or codify their values and the behaviors that define those values?

John Waid:

So one of the pitfalls, that’s a great question. One of the pitfalls is you don’t involve people. If you don’t involve people upfront, you’re going to lose some, it costs you a dollar to involve people up front, 100 right before you make the decision and 10,000 after. So if you just throw the culture at them, say, I want you to behave this way, probably not going to stick. So try to have the involvement, and like I said, you can do it through an assessment. It doesn’t have to be face-to-face, if you don’t want to. If you’re running a smaller company, you can do these face-to-face and it doesn’t take long.

I mean, it doesn’t take long at all, it can be a few hours or two or three days to define your values. The payoff is tremendous. So involve people up front, it’s one of my recommendations. Make sure that you listen to your employees and what they’re saying versus just trying to throw again, your values onto them, because what they’re saying may be even better than what you had in mind. And third, make sure it’s written down, make sure it’s lived and make sure that you practice and get trained on these things and make sure you promote for it and make sure you reward for it and all those types of things, because at the end of the day, if you do that, it’s sustainable.

If it’s not, then you’re just throwing money away. So, make sure that you commit to it, and it takes six months to three years to change a typical small behavior in humans, especially adults. And so commit to at least six months to work on this. And like I said, it’s something that you just you’ll be so happy if you work on this, that you’ll want to do this because it’ll… A lot of people that go through this exercise say, John, I sleep better at night. So if you want to sleep better at night, if you want your people to be more engaged and involved, and if you want your results to be better, this is a tremendous investment.

And guess what? You’ll be a pioneer because this is not human nature. Human nature will not spend money on this. Human nature will not pay attention to this, and this is the number one pitfall of just about every company. And just to give you an idea, how much do you think it costs boeing, not to have a safety culture?

Drew McLellan:

Oh my God, right.

John Waid:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. Well, the price that they, and many other people pay it is undefinable. Right?

John Waid:

Right, right.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah.

John Waid:

Right.

Drew McLellan:

So as I’m listening to you, I’m thinking that folks are listening and they’re probably nodding their head. I don’t, this seems sort of basic, like of course we should have values, and of course we should define the behavior that we want inside our company. Why don’t we do that?

John Waid:

Common sense isn’t common. Life’s not fair, a friend told me because common sense isn’t common and life’s not fair, probably that’s at the basic level. 88% of our behavior comes from the subconscious, as we get older, we get very fixed in our ways. We’re very much operationally driven. We do what we need to do to survive. So we’ll have that survival value is alive and well, and just about every company. The growth value and the aspirational value are non-existent in most companies. And that’s really where you’re losing the, because you’re only hitting one cylinder out of three. And it’s in our DNA.

We were survival specialists and the rest of it, we could care less sometimes. And so if you want to do more than survive, if you want to grow and thrive and have something to look forward to, in your older age, because you left something better than what you found it, then it’s good to work on these things, and it seems like common sense. And again, it’s not common.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. As we sort of wrap things up, I’m curious how you’ve seen companies weave the values and behaviors throughout the sort of the norms of the organization. So whether it’s recognizing people with an employee of the month award or something, how did companies keep the values kind of front and center and at the conscious level, as well as the subconscious level?

John Waid:

Right. So what gets written gets done and what gets paid attention to gets done. So you need to make sure you’re weaving this into your daily routine. It can be through everything from an incentive, like the employee of the month, more than anything, it’s just recognition of, Hey, you live the value of… There’s a famous company that has three values that I really love. One is their base value is warrior spirit. Their second value is servant heart. And their third value is fun-loving. And that company is tremendously successful, they weave that into their compensation system. They weave that into the way they train.

They’d spend a lot of money on training and they also weave that into how they treat their own people and how they want their own people to treat the customer. And because of that, they’re number one in customer service or number one in performance, because that warrior spirits, what gets you to get things done. That servant heart is what helps you to grow and get better because you’re humble and you want to learn, you’re not real cocky. And then the third value, fun-loving, if we don’t come to work to have fun and we’re not having fun at work, especially for the millennials, then why should we come?

Maybe we’ll go somewhere else where they’re providing that. And again, I don’t want to say that, that ping-pong tables and happy hours are not culture. Culture is the combination of those three values and the adjoining behaviors of that. It may include happy hours. It may include ping-pong tables. That’s not what it is, because you need to get work done and you need to have that operational value. You need to have that growth value. You need to have the aspirational value to be balanced. And that’s, what’s going to help you to be successful. So, that company I was talking about Southwest Airlines.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, right. Yeah, they do all right.

John Waid:

Yeah, they do all right. And they’ll continue to do all right, even in a recession. So they’ll outperform everybody.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Your point is well taken in that, we think of culture as that people like coming to work and that people are having a good time and while that certainly is a part of culture. What you’re saying is culture is much more about assuring operational excellence. It’s assuring being different and better than your competitors. And that people have a motivation that’s bigger about coming work. So, that may be where the fun part comes in-

John Waid:

Exactly

Drew McLellan:

… but your value shouldn’t be just about that. But I think sometimes in our effort to be the most favorite camp counselor, I think a lot of agency owners suffer from that. We want to win the bet. We want to be voted most popular camp counselor. Our culture efforts are more party planning than they are behavior modification.

John Waid:

Right. And that’s what you want. You want to change mindsets and behaviors. Hopefully they already have the mindsets. I love, there’s another quote from another company. And it’s that if you hire people that believe what you believe, they’re more likely to do what you’re going to ask them to do anyway. So you want to look, if you have your values well-defined, you have behaviors, you can start to look at your peak, because people tell me, John, where should I recruit? I said, “Look at the people who best live your values and behaviors that you want and go recruit where they came from.” Because that way you’ll have people that believe in what you believe and are willing to do what you’re going to ask them to do anyway.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, hiring for cultural fit, especially if you’ve defined culture the way you’ve been talking about it would certainly give you a leg up on the odds that it’s going to work, that they’re going to stick around for a long time, that they’re going to add value to the company and that you’re going to be able to add value to their life as well.

John Waid:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And again, we’re trying to change mindsets and behaviors in this podcast because most people will not invest in this in 2020, and you’re missing a huge opportunity that doesn’t cost a lot. Again, you’ll spend more on coffee than you’ll spend on doing your culture, and coffee’s only a little piece of what you’re offering as far as culture.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, absolutely. John, if folks want to learn more about you, I know that you have written extensively on this topic and that you speak on it. Where would they go to learn more about your work and to follow your teachings if you will?

John Waid:

So you can connect with me on LinkedIn at John Waid, J-O-H-N-W-A-I-D, and you’ll see the company, Corporate Culture Consulting and everybody that’s connected with me, I put out one or two pieces every week talking about culture. So, that’s one way, another way is you can go to our website, www.c3culture.com. You can reach me by email at [email protected] You can also connect with us on Facebook, whatever it is that your preference is, you can connect with C3. You can also call me, I love calls. So call me, and if I don’t answer it’s because I get too many sales calls.

I actually work on sales cultures too, and we’re trying to remedy that because that’s a nuisance. The person who won the Nobel Prize in economics a year or two ago, didn’t answer the call from the Nobel Prize Committee because they thought it was a sales call.

Drew McLellan:

You could win a Nobel Prize, if you could eliminate sales, unsolicited sales calls, you could be like time’s man of the year.

John Waid:

I would love to be timestamped.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

John Waid:

I know, right. And I thought the woman of the year, the girl that won the prize, that was cool.

Drew McLellan:

It was very cool, yeah.

John Waid:

Anyway. So you can reach me by telephone at (404) 915-3051. And if you live in Atlanta, Georgia, let’s meet for coffee.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So a plethora of ways to reach John. John, thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us today. I appreciate it very much and I’m sure folks will be reaching out. So thank you.

John Waid:

Thank you.

Drew McLellan:

All right, guys. This wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency, just a couple of housekeeping reminders. Number one, remember that every month we do a drawing. So if you leave us a rating or review, wherever you go to download the podcast. So whether it’s on iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play, wherever it is, wherever you get your podcasts downloads. If you shoot me a screen capture of that review because as you know your usernames, I love monkeys two or three does not tell me your name or your agency. So if you will shoot me a screenshot of your review, we will put you in the drawing.

And every month we give away a free seat at one of our live workshops or access to one of our on demand workshops. So it’s about a $2,000 value and all it takes is a rating and review. So it seems like a pretty good ROI on that. Also want to remind you that registrations for our conference in May, Build a Better Agency Summit which is going to be May 19th and 20th, registration is open now. Grab your seat before we sell out, we’ve got amazing speakers, amazing round table discussions. You will be there as both a student and a teacher, I promise you’re going to be teaching and learning. And we would love to have you join us.

So head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com and find the Build a Better Agency Summit link, and you can register right there and last, but certainly not least a huge shout out to our friends at White Label IQ for sponsoring the podcast. They make it possible for us to come to you every week with great guests to help you change and grow your agency. So if you’re looking for anybody who will White Label PPC, design, WebDev, White Label IQ is your place to go. And if you head over to whitelabeliq.com/ami, they’ve got a special deal just for podcast listeners. All right. If you’re looking for me, you can find me at the Agency Management Institute website, you can shoot me an email, whatever you need I’m around, and I will be back next week with another guest.

So I will talk to you next week. Thank you for listening. That’s all for this episode of AMI, Build a Better Agency Podcast. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops, online courses, and other ways we serve small to mid-sized agencies. Don’t forget to subscribe today, so don’t miss an episode.