“Culture” can seem a very abstract concept. The dictionary definition of the word – “the ideas, customs and social behaviour of a particular people” – might not seem to help: ideas, customs and behaviours can also sound like pretty vague terms.
The truth, though, is that culture has real value for business. That’s because, when it comes to companies and other organisations, “culture” refers to values and methods: what a given firm does, and why they do it. In other words, culture is central to delivery.
This is especially true of creative businesses such as design agencies: so much of what they do is about encoding and communicating the beliefs and character of their clients that the agency’s own culture becomes absolutely critical.
Imagine two different agencies: one is dynamic and creative, the other more cautious and conservative. These are two very different cultures – and that matters.
The clients of these two agencies will receive very different services: the first might deliver vibrant web design campaigns that reflect a broad range of tastes and input; the other might deliver a corporatised solution that emphasises a very specific perspective. Both agencies might deliver value; but it would be a very different kind in either case.
Any business engaging an agency needs at a very fundamental level to trust that team. This usually requires some synergy of culture between them. The key reason that an agency’s culture matters, then, is because it needs to agree with their clients’: this sort of alignment in values will make the whole relationship a lot easier.
There’s also something else – and something deeper – going on here. Any good agency will have at root an open culture. They may be a little more corporate, or a bit more creative; they might focus more on SMEs or on the FTSE 100. But to achieve the best results for their clients, whatever its specifics an agency should foster an inclusive internal culture.
Why? Because an agency’s business is ideas. To achieve the best results for its clients, any agency needs to have so non-judgemental an environment that every idea – from every part of the agency – can be aired and tested. A more top-down environment will not win a client good results. Businesses should be looking for an agency that prioritises its people.
At Squibble, we adopt what we call an ‘everyone equal’ culture that achieves exactly this. We don’t play a set of rules: instead, for each project we listen to everyone and go from there. We think this kind of openness shakes the best solutions out of the tree.
And that’s why, ultimately, the culture of an agency matters: because its values and methods are what get its clients the results they’re after. Culture isn’t abstract at all; its instrumental.