Five steps to building a culture you can 'heart'... First off, let me go ahead and take my medicine for being gone so long. I know, I know....it’s been a month. But I figured congress, the NFL, the NBA and the Indians offense all took off July so why shouldn’t I?
Actually, my July was pretty busy. I think I squeezed as much into/out of a month as possible. One of the big things in July was the formal launch of our ‘I Heart AKHIA’ program. I Heart AKHIA is a way for us to communicate the culture here at AKHIA and what makes people want to work for or with AKHIA.
The program kicked-off with a picnic where we had several activities tied to the things our employees love about working here. We covered all the staples:
- Food – roasted chickens
- Music – the AKHIA playlist
- Games – cornhole, putt-putt
- Movies – movie quote contest, popcorn machine and showing of The Hangover
- Beers/wines – beer and wine tastings, hosted by AKHIA employees
We also introduced our ‘I Heart AKHIA’ wall, signed by the people who made our agency possible – clients and employees – nearly 15 years after Jan started the business out of her dining room. (If you haven’t had a chance to sign the wall yet, come on by!)
As we launch this program people have been asking me what does it mean to ‘heart’ AKHIA? How do we put it into words? I guess being the ‘senior’ member of the AKHIA family (10 years this year!) I am a little qualified to speak on that. I thought a lot about our culture and it really all boils down to our president and owner, Jan Gusich. She had a vision for how she thought companies should do business and has never waivered from it.
The best way to describe it is Shel Silverstein’s classic story ‘The giving tree’. Jan reminds me a lot of that tree. She is a very unique person in the sense that she will give everything she has to people she cares about without expecting anything in return. The hallmark line of that story ‘And the tree was happy’ applies here. Jan – and as a result, AKHIA, is happy when people we care about are satisfied.
There is no secret sauce for this old-fashioned approach to business, but it does take a little effort to get everyone to share those thoughts and drive. Here are a few things I picked up from the boss along the way that have helped AKHIA achieve that consistency, even as we’ve grown from two to 28 employees:
- Transparency. In order to get everyone thinking the same way, it’s important to always let people know what you’re thinking. It’s part of that whole communication thing.
- Buy-in. The easiest way to get buy-in is to let people create the program they have to buy into. This approach creates a sense of intimacy as well an opportunity for people to feel they are directly impacting the future of the business (which they are!).
- Equality. For the voice to be unified everyone has to feel their voice is being heard. A big part of any internal programming or agency approach is to review as a team and have a open discussion on concerns. Plus it gives Jan the opportunity to play Michael Scott and say ‘conference room, five minutes’.
- It’s not about you. Agency is typically associated with ego’s. I find this to be amusing considering the very core of our business is to care for and lead others. Just like the Giving Tree, Jan has built a business by putting herself last, directly behind clients and employees.
- Family. We don’t work in a bubble. There is no 9 – 5 anymore. As a client goes, as an employee goes, so goes their family. It’s important to take into account family time, such as birthdays, first days of school, stomach bugs, sick dogs and cats, elderly care, car troubles, maintenance people...the list goes on. Demonstrating that an employee’s or client’s family is just as important as they are shows dedication beyond a typical work relationship.
I’ve been lucky enough to work at AKHIA for 10 years, giving me the opportunity to work with and for awesome people. I’ve learned so much in that short time and made some great friends. I’ve had the chance to work for great companies and feel like we’re actually helping them grow and impact their business.
Hopefully Jan keeps me around for another 10 years because it’s true....I Heart AKHIA!
8/15/2011 11:39:04 PM Comment on Five steps to building a culture you can 'heart'...