One of the best things about starting your own business is that you can set it up to reflect your values.
As a leader, you set the stage for:
- How the company will operate.
- The types of people you will hire.
- The clients you choose.
- How you partner with clients.
Our mission is centered on a fierce commitment to our values and passion for inspiring others. We are committed to earning the trust of our colleagues, communities, and clients by serving them authentically, graciously and humbly. Generosity is so central to who we are that we recently started a nonprofit.
It’s very different than many agencies that focus on creativity and “the work” in their purpose or mission statements – we want to be known for who we are more than what we do.
Want to build your own values-based agency?
Here’s how to ensure the values you set are infused within your organization.
Behavioral interviewing paired with insights
A solid values-based agency starts with hiring the right people and asking them the right questions.
My team asks questions about the candidate’s aptitude, abilities, and client management skills.
As the person ultimately responsible for culture, I like to ask questions that give me a sense of who the person is.
These include: “Have you ever been asked to do something that went against your sense of ethics?” and “What’s a common misconception about you?”
- We also use tools like StrengthsFinder to understand what makes the person tick and how they will fit with the rest of our team.
Protecting our values and shared culture means thinking more broadly than just who the prospective employee is.
New hires must share the team’s values, complement our existing skillset and enhance the overall team and client experience.
In other words, we want people who can elevate culture while adding new skills to the team.
Having an infinite mindset
Short-term – or finite – thinking can lead people to compromise values they may otherwise hold strongly.
As an agency leader, you must sometimes focus on short-term needs, like ensuring you have enough money for payroll. But if you’re the type of finite leader who hires and fires based on short-term needs, you’ll build a different culture than you might intend.
Ethical fading, or losing sight of ethical connotations of decisions, can creep in when people are only focused on the near term. Use an infinite mindset whenever possible to build a strong, high-performing, values-based agency.
An infinite mindset means focusing on a greater purpose and acknowledging that the goal of a business is to keep playing the game. The priority is building high-trust teams, understanding that you’ll often need to flex and adapt to stay in business, and respecting your worthy rivals.
Agencies may exhibit finite thinking when they lay people off quickly after losing a client or are solely focused on selling the agency.
Investing in leadership training and development
Most agencies ensure their people are great marketers and are up to speed on the latest tactics. That’s a given and should certainly be part of the marketing training curriculum.
However, investing in leadership training and development at all levels helps ensure your team knows what you truly value. As an agency leader, I see my role as developing the next generation of great leaders, not just the next generation of great marketers.
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Now that you know how to ensure values are engrained within your organization, how do you ensure that you’re driving and getting the results for your agency by leading with values?
It comes through receiving benefits in three key areas.
1. Employee retention
Digital marketers have a lot of choices regarding where to work. While the old perks like pool tables or happy hours used to matter, remote work has changed what drives employee satisfaction and retention.
The ability to leave home to pick up kids and perform some work off-hours. Believing in the company’s values and having systems that allow employees to feel connected to their colleagues. These are all important.
Employee turnover is disruptive both to the company and its clients.
Our turnover is less than half of the norm. I attribute this to leading our people with clarity of our values and setting them up as best as possible to lean into them.
Are we perfect? No. But with values and purpose as a focus, it helps keep employees around longer than the norm.
The alignment of values is key to building a mutual foundation of trust between employees and an agency. It also helps make bonding easier among employees.
2. Client satisfaction
Clients appreciate values such as transparency, humility, and gratitude.
Building trusted relationships and managing their accounts by a strong values-based group leads to higher client satisfaction and retention.
Of course, the marketers must be managing accounts well – that’s table stakes.
Building deep relationships builds a shared commitment and vision. It helps create an “us” mentality with the client and agency as a team, as opposed to the common “them” or “vendor” relationship.
One other benefit of building deep relationships? As your client partners leave for other companies, there’s a good chance they will bring you.
3. Increased innovation
Values-led organizations tend to create psychological safety. This means a safe environment exists for individuals to share their thoughts and ideas with leaders.
Innovation must not be limited to new strategies and tactics – it can be new processes or feedback on what types of services the agency should start or stop offering.
Innovation can be team-based, as well. This can lead to employees being heard and feeling valued, something which will also play into retention
I hope that these views on building a strong values-based culture help you strengthen your agency to drive the results you seek.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.