The Culture Club: Hiring Talent That Cracks the Code

To build a successful business, it's imperative that the leaders rally from the start around the core values that define your culture. Whether you're running an advertising agency, a tech startup or a Fortune 500 company, rallying internal stakeholders around your brand's reason for being is how you build a true company vision. And when communicated properly, it becomes the code that gets us excited to come to work every day, and what helps us clearly connect with like-minded clients, prospects and talent.

I recently chatted with visionaries from two world-class leaders who have built their brands around clearly articulated culture codes, and who stand fast in their quests to recruit talent who deliver on that vision. Here's what I learned from first-in-class brand ambassadors Grant Halloran (CMO and Executive Leader of Product, Anaplan) and Stephanie Shore (SVP Marketing, MOO).

Set Expectations. Then Exceed Expectations.
When you're a smaller company and just starting out, the first priority on your agenda is to grow and be profitable. To succeed. To be awesome. But this is also when it's most crucial to spend time determining your core values, before the idea of culture has a chance to even become a talking point or a problem. For Grant Halloran of technology disruptor Anaplan, taking the time to articulate the brand's culture was key. As a company that is enabling advanced decision-making across every part of their customers' businesses, defining the core values around accountability and integrity were a clear no-brainer. So his marketing team translated the company's vision and made it relatable and applicable to the customer relationship. Because at the end of the day, it would ultimately affect how everyone at Anaplan behaved, sold and delivered the end product to clients.

Recruit Wisely. And Strategically.
When interviewing, it's always key to share your core values and explore theirs. This ensures the candidate clearly understands the vision you've articulated and that you're both comfortable there will be a clear fit if a hire is made.

When hiring at business card company MOO, Stephanie Shore looks at talent's skillset, but also thinks about how they'd fit in her organization's culture. MOO rallies internally around a core value proposition called MAKE IT, that's all about delivering a simple, delightful product and doing it with a human touch, together. So when Stephanie hires, she looks for talent who's willing to roll up their sleeves no matter what level. If they have an ego, they're not going to fit in.

Run Toward Failure. And Then Run Faster.
The MAKE IT model at MOO works as a filter for understanding reasons for failure, too. When a project doesn't go as planned, teams run the post-analysis against the brand's core values, to measure what went wrong, and to see what can be done differently the next time. Because failure is an important component of business success, and often necessary learning for how to create even better work for the future. At Anaplan, employees are encouraged to work with humility and to project that sense of modesty in their everyday work with clients. A real approach that allows for vulnerability, but creates stronger, more honest relationships with clients in the long run.

As a CEO, embracing failure and being vocal about the "why" behind how we can benefit from it is key. For disruptive brands like Anaplan and MOO, and advertising agencies like Allen & Gerritsen, failure sometimes just comes with the territory. Just so long as you fail fast, learn quickly, and jump right back up and try again.

Put the "I" In Accountability. And the "We" In Team.
We sometimes fail to succeed, which means mistakes happen. So accountability is key. At MOO, when something goes wrong, talent is encouraged to take responsibility and own the mistake with an "I." When things go right, it's all about congratulating each other and recognizing the team effort with a "we." Positive vibes ultimately go a long way, providing encouragement, and improving culture. At Anaplan, a company defined by connecting planning and action, measuring everything against an accountability scale, both within the company walls and externally with its global customer base, is what keeps the company on its path as a key disruptor in the category.

Be Everything You Believe In.
When growing any business, relationships must be cultivated from the moment new talent walks in the door, and then retained throughout their entire cycle within. Be who you were when you met, and deliver on the code you promised. If you promised quality time, deliver. If you talked about mentorship, mentor. The most important conduit for delivering on that promise of agency culture is you. If you don't breathe it every day, those who look up to you won't believe it. And they won't believe in you. And that's when the ultimate failure will happen.

At A&G, culture is part of our DNA. It's who we are. It's not a weird secret language, it's simply the core values we live by. And when we clearly articulate this culture, this code--this why behind what we do--everything falls into place. It's reassuring to know that brands like Anaplan and MOO are investing time into developing their own codes, too. And that we're all delivering on that promise.