Culture Q&A w/ Ned Show
If you had to define your corporate culture in four words – and one of them can’t be “fun” – what would they be?
The culture at Chemistry is really about honesty, transparency, humility and hustle.
How can undergoing a merger or acquisition influence a company’s culture?
Melding the cultures of two organizations is probably the most difficult part of any merger. There is usually so much fear and anxiety going on with employees about the new company. First and foremost, they are usually worried about their job. They’re also anxious about whether they will have a new boss and uncertain of what the culture will be or become. I think it’s imperative, given these realities, that agency leadership be as honest and transparent as possible by communicating directly and openly with everyone and not sugarcoating anything. If there’s hard news for a group in the agency or a particular employee, get it out as quickly as possible. Have the tough conversations and move on. Also, I think there’s nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know.” Most of the time, in any merger, you don’t have every answer figured out. Don’t be afraid to say that.
How do you socialize a merger or acquisition to existing employees while trying to incorporate/merge the cultures of two offices?
Again I think you have to be honest, and I think you have to give people a tangible reason for them to be excited about the future. Not just for the overall company, per se, but what is exciting or beneficial to them personally in this new company: an opportunity to work on new clients, do different things and learn from other talented folks. Make it personal for each employee.
What core values do you try and instill when new team members are brought aboard?
We do a pretty good job of feeling someone out through the interview process. Is this someone you can talk to easily, do they feel authentic and genuine, do they say us and we when talking about their background or is it more I did this and I did that? So I guess it’s less about instilling our culture in new folks and more that we do our best to hire people who already share our cultural beliefs and work style.
What do you think is a key component to team-building?
Harry Truman had a great quote: “It’s amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit.” In a nutshell, I think what it takes to build a great team is a commitment to the job at hand and a willingness to do whatever it takes without a self-centered agenda.
What sorts of team-level activities do you encourage or sponsor?
We do outings probably once a quarter, but you never want to over-orchestrate these types of things. Once you form a committee on “culture” you might as well forget it.
How is the culture in both of your offices similar and alike?
I think the cultures are very similar in our two offices but also unique in certain ways. The team in Pittsburgh has been together for much longer, so I think that always impacts the camaraderie and closeness to some degree. The Atlanta office is still melding Breensmith’s unique culture into the Chemistry Atlanta culture. Folks are still getting to know one another. But, at the core, the sense of teamwork, honesty, humility and hustle permeates both offices.