Every agency has a culture. The question is – is it intentional? And when I say culture, I’m not talking the beer thirty or holiday party aspects of culture. I’m really focusing in on the shared beliefs and agreed upon “rules” of engagement in terms of how we work together, deliver for the client and push towards our goals.
In too many agencies, this is not as intentional as it needs to be. The agency’s vision, mission, and values may exist somewhere, in a file folder, or at best in an employee manual, and then agency owners check off the box, hoping that their team picks up on it. It’s culture by default, not by design.
I’ve become increasingly convinced that culture isn’t just a nice idea. It’s not simply a day out serving the community or a potluck lunch held the first Tuesday of every month. Those things can be good and a part of the culture but the concept goes much deeper than that and it has implications for the bottom line.
In this episode, I talk with Tristan White, who early on in his business realized that intention and methodology were necessary to build a strong and healthy work culture. He soon realized that culture isn’t a distraction. It isn’t peripheral to business. Culture is everything.
Tristan White is the CEO of a company called The Physio Co. in Australia. Its core purpose is to increase the physical wellness and activity levels of seniors to keep them healthier, happier, and more mobile.
In the process of building The Physio Co., Tristan did a lot of learning and a lot of experimenting with respect to culture and its influence on company performance. He ended up writing a book called Culture is Everything. Inside that book, Tristan lays out a system for building a foundational culture inside your organization. We explore that system and dig into why culture is so critical to running a long-term successful business.
What You Will Learn in this Episode:
- Why it’s never too late to grow and foster a healthy work culture
- How to live the corporate values you espouse
- A methodology by which to operate from your core values
- Why culture can equal cash
- How to design a culture that withstands challenging times
- How to develop a culture of substance
- Why a healthy work culture must go beyond a day of service and Taco Tuesdays
- How to bake things like empathetic connection into your culture
- How to interview for alignment with your culture
- Where to start in shaping or reshaping your agency’s vision and values
The Golden Nuggets:“Brand and culture are two sides to the same coin. We can define it as a company and brand is how it is lived and seen externally, and culture is how it is lived and experienced by the team internally.” – @tristanjwhite Click To Tweet “The foundations of culture are about connection. They're about communication and discovering the goal and documenting the future. When challenges come along, you are able to face them and grow in spite of them.” – @tristanjwhite Click To Tweet “Culture that gets you through the tough times is where you build really strong relationships.” – @tristanjwhite Click To Tweet “It is never too late to establish a culture by design rather than by default.” – @tristanjwhite Click To Tweet
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Ways to Contact Tristan White:
- Content for Listeners of the Podcast: https://www.tristanwhite.com.au/bba
- Culture is Everything Book: https://www.tristanwhite.com.au/product/culture-is-everything-book/
It doesn’t matter what kind of agency you run, traditional, digital, media buying, web dev, PR, whatever your focus, you still need to run a profitable business, that’s why Agency Management Institute started to Build a Better Agency podcast a few years ago. We help agencies just like yours, grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money and keep more of what you make. Bringing his 25-plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.
Hey, everybody. Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute. Welcome to another episode of Build a Better Agency. If this is your first episode ever, you’ve picked a great one. This topic that I think is going to resonate with many of you today, and if you are a longtime listener, this is a topic we haven’t spent a ton of time on in the past, so I think it was well past due for us to chat about. So the topic of today’s podcast, and I’ll tell you a little bit about our guest in a minute, the topic of our podcast is around culture and how a culture and a foundation of a good strong culture actually helps an agency scale, grow, and helps the agency owner get out of the day-to-day work, and focus on the work that is uniquely theirs.
Now, when we talk about culture, and I will ask our guest to define this through his lens as well, but when we talk about culture, I think a lot of times when I say to an agency, “Tell me about your culture,” and they say, “Oh, it’s great, and we do all these great things. We all like each other, and we have Beer Fridays, and we do habitat builds once a quarter,” or whatever it is that you do, we tend to focus on the play side of culture. And don’t get me wrong, I think that’s super important. I think it’s very important that we explore and play and discover as a team, and that we do things out in the community together and that we socialize together. I’m all for all of that, but I think there’s a deeper meaning to culture, and I think that’s around this idea of do we have a shared set of values? Do we all understand that we’re headed in the same direction? Do we all know why we get here every day and what our purpose is in being here?
And that sense of culture, that sense of being and belonging really does define the agency, and I think it also defines how our clients experience the agency because the reality is I can’t be one kind of person inside the agency and be a different kind of person outside the agency. I may be able to fake that for a little bit, but that’s not something that is sustainable long-term. And so this idea of culture and really having people aligned to our culture is critical. And for many of you, the biggest challenge that you’re facing right now is finding good talent, and then once you find them, keeping them and really making them a part of the whole where they really feel like they have ownership and a commitment to the team and your clients and each other, and I think a lot of that struggle comes from either not really articulating what your values are. Maybe some of you know what they are, but you just don’t talk about them very often.
I was with a client the other day, and I said, “Do you have a set of core values or principles?” And they said, “Absolutely.” And I said, “Okay,” and I said, “And tell me how those are infused into the business,” and they said, “Well, they’re in our employee manual.” And then there was the silence, and I said, “Okay. So what you’re saying is on the very first day of employment, I read through the employee manual, I see them there and then they’re never talked about or expressed or celebrated or used in decision-making ever again?” Yeah, that’s probably right.
And I said, “Okay. So if I stopped someone in the hall and I said, ‘Tell me the core values of this company,’ could they tell me what they are and what they mean?” And there was this sort of awkward long silence. And they said, “I guess we don’t really have core values,” and I said, “Well, you have them, you just haven’t taught them. You’re not living by them, and so you can’t really expect the employees to live by them because they don’t even know what they are.”
So all of that is going to be what we talked about today. So let me tell you a little bit about our guest, and then let’s just get right into the conversation because I think going to be a juicy one. So Tristan White is our guest today, and Tristan is the CEO of a company called The Physio Co, and they are based out of Australia. And that company, their core purpose is to bring physical wellness and activity levels to seniors, to keep them more mobile and healthier and happier. And so Tristan started the company more than a decade ago, and in the process of building this company out, he did a lot of learning and a lot of experimenting inside his own company around culture and the influence that it has a company performance, he ended up writing a book called The Culture Is Everything. And inside that book, there’s sort of a system or a process for building this foundational culture inside your organization. We’re going to talk a lot about that. Book is excellent, it’s a great read, and it’s a nice blueprint.
If at the end of the podcast today, you realize that maybe this is something that you could improve on, or that you could embellish inside your own organization, I highly recommend the book as a good starting point, as a thinking stimulus to get you going. But anyway, I’m going to talk to Tristan about all of this and what he’s seen in other companies and how he’s seen it manifest itself in his own company, and what I’m hoping is, as we’re talking, I want you just to use the conversation as a litmus test and see how much of it rings true about your agency, and the work that you do, and the people that you employ and if you’re all sort of marching to the same beat, if you will. So without further ado, I want to turn the mic over to Tristan, welcome him and get started in this conversation. All right. With that, let’s get into this. Tristan, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.
Drew, you’re welcome. It’s wonderful to be here with you.
Let’s first start by level-setting the definition of culture because I think sometimes it’s such a broadly used term, and I think for some people, it means, party planning, and for other people, it’s about values. So when you talk about culture and when you write about culture, define it for us.
Drew, you’re right. There are many, many different definitions of what culture could be, and for me, Drew, I think it’s so very important that culture is the values and the behaviors that are alive in an organization, and what I mean by that is that it’s the stuff that gets done around here when we’re really, really, really just getting the day-to-day happening. And Drew, that might sound simple, but in all seriousness, people have got a culture by default, which is when organizations simply just turn up and do stuff, or a culture by design, where you actually put time effort into the purpose and the values of an organization and the behaviors. And I’m big on culture by design, because with culture by default, I reckon that’s when we spend our lives firefighting, responding and being reactive to everything that happens in our businesses. So it’s what gets done around here, and it can be by default or by design.
Yeah, as you’re saying that I’m thinking about conversations that we have with clients a lot about brand, and that every organization has a brand that either the marketplace decides and defines for you, or you can decide and define for yourself, and then live it so that the marketplace adopts it and assigns it to you, and I think culture is exactly the same sort of thing.
Ah, entirely. Entirely. Drew, as I sit here at my desk and reach for a coin, I really think that brand and culture are two sides to the same coin in that we either define it for ourselves and we live it from a brand external perspective and culture from an internal perspective, they’re really a very similar type of concept, and we can allow it to happen or we can take complete responsibility for it.
And I think your coin analogy is a great one because it also reminds us that you can’t be one thing inside and another thing outside, and maintain that consistently over a long period of time.
Drew, you are so true. I don’t want to misquote this, but I think it was Tony Hsieh from Zappos, who said that culture is a lagging indicator of brand in the marketplace, and when you’ve got culture, when it really… Maybe I’ve got that back to front. Maybe if the culture is thriving, then that’s a leading indicator of what will happen in the marketplace in the coming months and years because the culture really does drive the output of an organization.
Absolutely. So as I said in the introduction, you’ve written a book about this, you have a lot of expertise around this, but it didn’t start out that you were just a culture expert. So give the listeners a little bit of the background of how you came to have these beliefs and have them strongly enough that you wanted to capture them in a book and teach people about this.
Yeah, Drew, important part of my backstory is that I’m a physical therapist, or a physio therapist as we call them here in Australia, and I started in 2004. Way back almost 15 years ago, I started a business called The Physio Co, which is a physical therapy business that helps seniors stay mobile, safe and happy. It’s for older people, and we go on site to age care homes, retirement villages and people’s own homes. And for a start, it was just me and I built this small team, but then a few years in, Drew, I was really stuck. I had these 20 odd team members that were all reporting to me. I hadn’t set up a core purpose of the organization, a set of defined values. I hadn’t made the culture clear. To be honest with you, I didn’t even know what culture was at that time, and I sort of had allowed a culture by default. And I was stuck, I was stressed, I was firefighting all day and night, and I decided I had to find a better way.
I went for a short sabbatical from here in Australia to North America. I visited some senior healthcare businesses, and I discovered this idea of a values-based business, and I came back to our business and I decided of setting the culture and setting the future where we’re going to head was what was necessary. And that period of being completely stuck and completely stressed to taking a break, finding a solution, and then realizing what’s possible if we really do design the culture is my background. And Drew, since then, in the last 10 years, we’ve grown that business from 20 team members to now 150 team members, we deliver services to about 300,000 older people every single year, and that business has been ranked as one of Australia’s 50 best places to work for 10 consecutive years based upon this system or this rhythm of culture practices we’ve got in our business.
And it was that experience that set me up to say, “Look, this is all well and good to do it in your business, Tristan, but imagine if the world could learn and other people could build great cultures from what you’ve learned here,” and that’s where I decided to publish the book to both document our business story, Drew, but also to help other people who might be stuck, might be Tristans of 10 years ago, who are completely stuck, and he might be a tool for them. So that’s the background.
Let’s talk about this idea of stuck, because I know that one of the things you talked about in the book is that having a company that is culture or values-based allows an owner to get unstuck, so describe to us… When you say you’re stuck, what does that mean?
Stuck, to me, Drew, means that I’ve got an idea as to the direction, the vision, the future of what our team could look like, and I think most business owners have got an idea as to what that could be, whether they’ve documented, whether they’ve really written it down and been clear what the future could look like, and share it with their team is often secondary, often they haven’t done that just yet. But for me, I had this idea of what the future could look like, and I just couldn’t make any progress towards it. I was forever two steps forward, two steps back reactively. My email inbox was completely full, and I felt like I had team members who were reliant on me to do their jobs. I didn’t have the time or the space to focus on the future and building what I thought was possible with our business. I felt completely stuck in the now. I couldn’t focus on bringing the future to life, and that’s what it meant to me.
So I think a lot of the listeners think that they have a culture, that they have a way that it feels to be an employee inside their business, but I think the methodology that you sort of map out is more calculated, more prescriptive than that, and that there are certain elements… Like you talk about core purpose and values and things like that, so what are the elements… So I’m going to ask a question that I’m going to preface before you answer with a thought. What are the elements that someone needs to have to actually begin to build a culture? And I think many of the listeners are thinking, “Well, crap. I’ve had my agency for five years, or 10 years, or 20 years, or a year, and I haven’t done this. How do I go back now and start this culture thing all over again?”
So I guess my question is a combo question. A, what are the elements that are required to really build this company that is based on this culture, and B, is it ever too late or do you have to do it differently if you’ve already been around for a long time, and there is some culture, whether it was by design or by default, to use your terms, that already exists that I have to undo? Which I’m guessing was your case when you came back from your sabbatical, right?
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Entirely. Entirely, Drew. Let’s deal with the second part first, and that it’s never too late. It’s never too late to decide that building a strong culture is important, but the longer that you’ve had the existing culture by default in place, it’s likely that you’ve got a number of folks who are very committed, and dare I say, to the existing non-structured approach to culture, and that’s going to be the challenge is to engage with them, decide whether they’ve got what it takes to make the pivot towards the new culture by design, or if not, there’s going to have to be a few people that might find professional homes elsewhere if you are committed to doing this culture by design, and that was the case with my 20 person team.
There were 17 team members who were somewhat relieved when I decided that we needed to document the future and decide what the behaviors were. There were three who fought hard to keep to the existing non-structured approach, and it was hard work for me, but I was committed to the culture by design, and therefore these people did find themselves in other professions and other workplaces, which hopefully served them better, and was certainly better for us they weren’t there. So it’s painful, but it really is… And the outcome is 20 team members all the way to 150 team members and growing from my perspective. So that’s the first part, Drew.
Another part to point out is that people who answered the question tell me about your culture and your business, and they respond with, “Our culture is great,” is a real red flag for me, Drew, because then… Even our business, 10 years, one of Australia’s best places to work, our culture is a work in progress. We’ve got the foundations in place, but we’re continually evolving. And just this morning, I was sending out the 11 week plan for this next quarter that I’m going to do as the CEO to build a little bit more depth into the culture and the communication that we’ve got in our growing team. So it never ends, and thinking you’ve got it right is a real red flag from my perspective.
Before you talk about the core elements, what kinds of things were in your 11 week plan? So you’ve been doing this for 10 years, and you’re still tweaking it and trying to perfect it. After 10 years, what are some of the things that are still on your to-do list to add depth to the culture that you’ve built?
Yeah, great question, Drew. So one thing that’s important, and I’ll tie the answer to that question into the elements of the culture system, and so the Culture Is Everything book that I’ve written has got a four part system to bringing a culture to life, and the first part is called Document The Future, and I reckon this is about vision, and I reckon a vision needs to be in two parts, it needs to be a peer off into the future, what I call a 10 year obsession, which is a very long time, but it takes a long time to build something great, and it also needs to be broken down into smaller parts, which I call a three year painted picture vision, which is a much more detailed shorter-term vision as to what the business will look like in three years time, and employees can connect with a three year vision a hell of a lot better than they can with the 10 year obsession. And so, that is the first part of the system.
And in our business, The Physio Co, we set a 10 year obsession way back in 2009, and it ended at the end of just 2018. So the time is right, the time is now that we’ve released a new 10 year obsession, what we’re going to achieve over the next 10 years, and tied into that is a tighter three year painted picture vision, that’s what we’re going to look like. And so right now in quarter two of this year from April to June, I’ve got an 11 week plan to have a regular communication rhythm from myself of a fortnightly newsletter, regular SMSes, some videos, and we also have a whole team event, and it’s going to be about bringing that vision to life because we’ve just said it, I need every team member to be very clear on it, so then we can incrementally work towards bringing the vision to life. So that’s the focus for this quarter. Does that answer that question, Drew?
Yeah, it does. Great.
Yeah, and so back to the system is document the future is a part of the system’s vision, discover the core is another part of the system, a clear core purpose as to what we’re here for, that everyone can understand, and a clear set of core values, between three and five core values, and I reckon they should be action statements. For example, be memorable is an action statement. Integrity is not a very livable type of value, and no disrespect to anyone who’s got the integrity value, but I think if you’re going to use that one word, you need to give examples as how to live that that concept of integrity. So discover the core, document the future.
The next one is the tricky bit, I reckon. It’s called execute relentlessly, and it’s about the small, teeny tiny things of communicating over and over and over again, and the systems you put in place, because we’ve all been part of a team where there’s been a wonderful new initiative that died a very quick death if it wasn’t kept alive by the leadership team. And the last part, Drew, is called show more love, and quite simply, if you’re going to execute relentlessly and bring a vision to life, you’ve got to connect empathetically with the team members, and that’s the fourth part of the system that we’ve got.
Okay, so I want to dig into all of those a little deeper, but it was funny because when you were saying that you have to do it relentlessly, I think one of the things that happens in agencies, and I suspect it happens in all kinds of companies, agency owners are typically voracious learners, and so they come back from a conference, a meeting, they’ve just read a book, whatever and they implement, fill in the blank, whatever that is, and what the employees tell me is that they wait about 30 to 45 days before they show any enthusiasm for it at all, because odds are it is the flavor of the month.
And the new book, the new conference, the new podcast, the new webinar, or whatever it is that the owner is going to listen to in 30 days is now going to be the new flavor of the month. So how long did it take when you introduced, or in your experience with other companies as well, how long does it take before the employees actually go, “Oh, she’s actually serious about… This is not kidding around. This is true change here in this organization.”
Drew, the short answer to your question is it takes about a year, and that’s my experience. And I don’t want to scare people by saying that, but I also want to say that it takes… There are four parts to this system that I speak of, and I really think that one part per quarter is a wonderful way to bring the system to life. Culture creates change, and for business owners… I don’t feel very comfortable saying this, Drew, but for business owners, staying in business is really important for all of us. That’s our main job, and culture can equal cash. Culture really can build a sustainable business. It helps you improve cashflow, and therefore stay in business to serve your clients and your partners for longer. So a year is the answer. And culture is a long-term commitment, and every culture will have dips, it will have troughs, it will have peaks, that is life, but you know what? A long-term commitment is what we’re talking about here.
So the fourth element of sort of your equation really is about sort of connecting with the employees, and I know you talk about the importance of empathy as a business owner when it comes to getting your team to adopt and really embrace a culture. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Yeah, I sure can, Drew. And show more love, as the fourth part of the system, came from a real place of pain for me, Drew, and why I say that is that building this team, and we were beyond the first five years while building this culture-based business, and I had probably a 50 person team, and they were really capable people that were really wonderful people, really capable, and I just had this sense, I could tell we were capable as a team of doing more, of creating better results and connecting with more senior people, and if for some people or for some reason, we just weren’t achieving it. And I had a long, hard look in the mirror one day and thought to myself, “Tristan, are you responsible for this? Is there a way that you can can influence it?” And what I came up with was I really trust these people on my team. I love them. I care for them. I believe they can do great work, but do I actually tell them that? Do they know that that’s how I feel about them?
And when I thought about it deeply, I don’t think they did. I hadn’t told them that I trust them. I hadn’t reminded them that I appreciate their work. I hadn’t praised them often enough, and I hadn’t found a way to really connect with them, both personally and professionally, and so that’s where this part of the system came from and a very simple rhythm of things like a handwritten anniversary card that goes to people’s own homes that says, “Dear Drew, happy third Physio Co anniversary. So happy we work together. Keep up the fantastic work. Tristan, and everyone at The Physio Co family.” And something like that is a small part of the show more love rhythm that can have such a huge effect not only on the individual, but when it lands on the coffee table, the fridge at someone’s home, and their spouse or housemate picks it up and sees it, it really creates connection in the house as well.
That doesn’t always… Not everyone values them as much as other people, but I’m willing to risk it that the ones that are valued are worth sending to every single person. So that’s one example, Drew, and another example that I think is important is a meeting a rhythm of connection and meetings start off with an agenda item that said some good news. Can you please share some good news either personally or professionally? And that was a wonderful start to the meeting. It got a few laughs, it got a connection between our team, but we’ve recently tweaked that just a little bit and it’s no longer good news, it’s simply news.
And the reason that we’ve made that change is because we’re a connected team, and most of the news that comes across is good news, but if someone’s having a crap time at home or at work, or really struggling with a client, or whatever it might be, we want to create a safe space where they can share that challenge, and that challenge sharing is where we get an even deeper empathetic connection with our teammates. So there’s a couple examples, Drew, as to how we show more love and connect on an empathetic level.
Yeah, it makes me think of… Have you read Steve Farber’s book Radical Leap?
Yeah, I have. It’s a wonderful read.
Yeah, so same idea. This idea of love and it’s interesting because I have a lot of agency owners will say to me, and in particular, they paint the millennials with this brush, but, “Oh, my God! They want a trophy for everything. They want to get praised for coming to work three days in a row. They want to…” Agency owners on occasion are frustrated that it seems like a never-ending want in terms of praise and love. How would you respond to that?
First things first, I think it’s important that as much as it would be a wonderful world where everyone cared for our businesses and our clients as much as we do, it’s just never going to happen. We just need to park that and realize that the business owner, the agency owner, is going to have a higher level of care and resilience and focus than the other team members. If we can get people to their best possible contribution, then I think we need to allow for that. And that’s not settling, Drew, that’s just a complete transparent view of things. So that’s the first thing. And secondly, Drew, I think the most powerful thing we can do is have a language that we speak in our businesses, and what I mean by that is the core purpose of The Physio Co, our physical therapy business, is to help seniors to stay mobile, safe and happy.
And as an example, if a team member comes to me and says, “Hey, Tristan. I’ve got family commitments, my second child has now started school, I’ve been working Tuesdays from 9:00 AM till 5:00 PM, right now I need to pick up my child from school at 2:30 PM. I need to drop that shift,” and there are some people who might think, “Right. Dumped. As the agency owner, I’ve got to wear this.” And my response in those sort of situations now with a clear culture and a clear language is I get it entirely. I’ve got kids of my own. I understand family comes first. By the same token, we’ve got seniors we need to help to stay mobile, safe and happy. So let’s make it mean you versus this problem, and how are we going to solve the fact that we’ve got a few less hours that we can serve.
And sometimes, Drew, that works, and it doesn’t work all the time, but for the right people, if you’ve got the right people in the team, their response will be, “You know what? I actually don’t want to lose the hours, I just need to find a way to fit in my family commitments with it, so can we rework the roster?” Or, “You know what? I was chatting with somebody in my team, and they would love a few more shifts. So can we drop mine out and bring that other person in?” And by having that conversation around outcomes for clients, and what’s important to the organization, if that’s when we can get a better connection, and less of me versus you type of environment, that’s the way that I usually go about it, Drew.
Yeah. So let’s talk about the impact that this has on the business. So all of this sounds great, everybody’s like, “Yep. Of course, I want to have a great culture.” Here in the States, and I suspect in other places all over the world, people are really challenged right now to find and keep good employees. So all of this aligns, but to the point you made earlier, at the end of the day, the reason we own a business is to run a successful, profitable business, so I want to talk a little bit about how this shows up, if you will, on the balance sheet. And I don’t mean it necessarily, literally, but I do in some ways mean it literally. But I want to take a quick break, and then when we come back, let’s dig into the business value of having a strong culture like you have been advocating for.
Thanks for checking out this week’s episode of Build a Better Agency. I want to interrupt very quickly and just remind you that one of the services that AMI offers is our coaching packages, and it comes in a couple of different options. So you can do our remote coaching package where we would communicate with you over the phone or over a Zoom call, or we also do on-site consulting, where we would actually come to your agency and work with you for a day or a period of days to solve a specific problem, typically that you’ve pre-identified and we’ve talked about on the phone. So if you’re interested in either of those, you might go over to the AMI website, and under the Consulting tab, you will find more information about both our remote coaching and our on-site consulting. Let’s get back to the episode.
All right. We are back with Tristan White, and we’ve been talking about culture. And right before the break, I asked the question all of this sounds dandy, how does it actually serve the business in terms of profitability and sort of systems and processing growth, and all the things that we think about when we think about the burden of running a successful business? So I’m going to just throw that back to you and see what you think.
Drew, this is one of the most important questions that you could’ve asked in this whole conversation because what’s the value, why would we bother doing this sort of stuff is the question that we get all the time, and I have got 10 years of experience of focusing on culture, and there’s two things that I think are most valuable to the agency owner or the business owner that comes from creating a strong culture. One is money, and I say that the culture does create cash for a number of reasons. There’s continuity with team members because there’s continuity with clients and delivering client deliverables and projects is one of the biggest challenge that happens in organizations.
Engaging clients, setting a project, delivering it, collecting the cash, doing it over and over again is a critical part of building a really thriving business, and you can’t do it if you don’t have consistent team members, and you don’t have team members who are delivering, and you’re not having to replace them, make excuses and spending time and effort on recruitment and retention activities, let alone client retention activities, because they’re getting a bit peeved with the fact that you’re not delivering on what you need to. So that’s one side of things on the client side of things and the recruiting costs.
Secondly, Drew, I think it’s so important as business owners that we have space and time to be able to do the networking, do the relationship building, do the future pipeline activities that are necessary to be able to grow a business, and you cannot do that if you are sitting in interviews all day, every day, trying to find new people because the churn of employees is so high. So for me, Drew, yes, there is the cash that come from having a consistent service delivery to your clients, and secondly, there is the growth opportunity that comes from having the space available to do what most agency owners want to do, and that is focused on the future, network, build relationships, and focus on what is coming next in their business. So that’s my experience.
Well, and I think to add to that, I think when you are pulled back into the business all the time because everybody isn’t in alignment and doesn’t understand what your core purpose is, and that everyone isn’t sort of pulling the wagon in the same direction, then it’s very difficult for a business owner to get out of the day-to-day long enough to do the things that, as you I think identified, are really are the core job as a business owner. So it’s not only that you have the inconsistency and your interviewing all the time, but you want to empower your people, and also have confidence that they are moving in the right direction that serves both the clients and the business. And it sounds to me like this is a roadmap for sort of defining that so everybody understands, “Okay, here are the boundaries that I can work with.”
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Drew, it’s so true. And as I’ve grown our business, and as every business owner has, we have multiple jobs and multiple tasks and responsibilities at times, and there have been times where I’ve employed operations managers or project managers, and they’ve worked well for a period of time, but as our business has grown, they either haven’t continued to grow, or we’ve changed, and for better or worse, they’ve had to leave the business, and that means I’ve ended up with two or three jobs again. It’s amazingly stressful and reactive, and we get it.
And even right now, Drew, in our team at The Physio Co, I’ve got a senior exec in my team who is one person down, and she’s now doing two people’s jobs, and her ability to proactively help us to grow the business is completely challenged by the fact that she’s reactively doing a couple people’s jobs, and so it is the reality of not having the right people the right jobs, and it does happen. Yes, I’ve written the book on culture, yes, we’ve got a great place to work, and yet, right now we find ourselves in one of these challenging times. It does happen, but by having the foundations in place and the alignment, that’s when we can work through these challenges and continue to grow the business at the same time.
Well, and I also think that sometimes people think of culture as being something that makes everybody happy, and it’s great when times are good, but I believe, and I know that you do it and you’ve talked about it in the book as well, that really part of the value of culture is it helps a team or a company get through a tough time, a challenging time in a better stair-step everybody working together sort of way because you’ve already got a different level of commitment to not only the values and the core purpose but to each other because you share these values. So it’s also as you’re experiencing now I would guess that your company is going to come through this challenging time a little easier because you had all of this culture in place.
Entirely, Drew, and people think that culture is for the good times, and look, I see it, I hear it, I believe that culture provides good times in a business, but if your culture in your business is simply you do a so-called, as I do air quotes here for the audience, a culture day, where we do something fun and we go out and do something as a team, they’re great extra or additions, but the foundations of a culture are about connection, they’re about communication, they’re about discovering the core and documenting the future, and doing the same thing over and over again so that when the black swan events happen, and they do happen, they will happen.
Bad stuff does happen both in the business, but even more importantly, Drew, is bad stuff happens in the lives of us business owners and in our team members, and if we can build a culture which is about connection, it’s about alignment, and it’s about empathetically helping each other through those tough times, then a crap time in the life of the owner or of someone in the team won’t necessarily derail the business, and we can continue to deliver, do great things and move through the challenging time, and I think that’s one of the great strengths of building a strong culture.
Yeah, as you were talking, I was thinking about some cultures are sort of built around almost this vacation fantasy world of everything is great when we’re making money, and we’re going on a trip together, or we’re off doing a culture day or a serve the community day, but just like we wouldn’t marry somebody that we’ve only been on vacation with, you sort of want to be in the trenches with somebody when things are bad before you know that these are people you’re going to be committed to, and so I think a culture of substance has to be rooted in things just the day-to-day grind of 40 to 50 hours a week of trying to get the work done and trying to make clients happy. If the culture is a foundational part of that, that’s how it helps you transcend a tough time and get back to a better time, I would guess.
Entirely so, Drew. And the rhythm of communication, rhythm of connection, which I think is critical for a strong culture enables us to identify those challe