Agency Culture in the Bold North
This article was written by Carmichael Lynch President Julie Batliner
It seems like all eyes turn to Minneapolis around this time every year. Last year, it was because the city hosted a “so fresh” and snowy Super Bowl with the kind of hygge only Minnesotans can generate. This year, it’s because we’ve been at the starting line of a two-day deep freeze, courtesy of an actual polar vortex – the coldest since 1996 when I moved to Minneapolis.
Late Sunday night phones were lighting up with school and daycare cancellations due to a little pre-freeze blizzard. By Monday afternoon in the metro — where the majority of our team members live and work — closures started rolling in for the next few days when the mercury was going to tumble to its lowest.
Parents were sent into a flurry of figuring out how to balance kid-needs and client-needs. In the agency world, things move fast. Thoughtful and quick decisions are a critical part of how we function as strategic partners to our clients. As working parents, my husband and I spent the evening figuring out how to plan ahead for meetings and tag-team care for our two kids and double work schedules—knowing other parents in our agency were doing the same thing.
But thanks to the best IT team on the planet, we are completely accessible anywhere and everywhere there’s a wifi connection or a mobile hot spot. As leaders, we are aware of both the responsibility that accessibility carries with it and the flexibility that it lets us offer team members in return. We encourage our employees to bring balance to their own lives as part of our culture — not outside of it. For us this week, that meant we reminded people at our agency of cold-weather travel safety precautions and how to access any files or information from our server from the comfort of their home’s wi-fi. It meant that I had conference calls from my home office near the fireplace. And that I was a willing participant in a game of “spy on mom” that my kids and the neighborhood kids played, euphoric in their freedom from school, pattering around corners and falling over in heaps of whispery giggles thinking they were fooling me. Of course it also allowed for uninterrupted time responding to emails (and some entertainment).
Company culture has been a buzzword for so long that it hardly meets the definition of a buzzword anymore. Surging in importance in tandem with Millennials’ and Gen Z’s entry into the workforce, businesses are expected to have it, rather than be differentiated by it. It’s pretty easy to post images of office dogs and foosball tables as a snapshot of what culture is, but it’s much more important to live it day-in and day-out by doing things that impact how people actually work together both within the brick and mortar space and, increasingly, outside of it.
Culture is what happens between people when they’re doing the actual work. No matter where they’re doing it.