The success of a company is determined by many different ingredients, all of which are closely interlinked with one another. As founder and CEO, I have always found one aspect of running a business most challenging. It is, at the same time, also the most fulfilling part of the job; building a world-class team. Because only with a world-class team we can build a world-class company.
Meaningful work matters
When you spend eight hours a day, five days a week on a job, that’s not just a job — it’s your life. Or at least a big part of it. When you spend so much time on something, you better spend it in a meaningful way. That’s why, as a company, we are focusing on clients with a meaningful mission, so we can dedicate our time to worthy causes that make us want to go the extra mile.
Work is a big part of life, but not the only part. We believe people’s health and happiness are critically important. That’s why we want people to have a life beyond work, in which they have time and peace of mind to invest in family, friends and, ultimately, themselves. By traveling. By learning. By living a healthy lifestyle.
When you spend so much time with each other as a team, respect, trust and openness must be part of our culture in order for diversity to flourish.
Different skills. Different experiences. Different characters. Extroverts and introverts. People from different countries, speaking different languages. Normal people. Weird people. Whatever that means. Diversity brings different views and different ways of problem solving.
We hire people not because they are like us, but because they add something different to the team. This is reflected on one of the walls in our office. We asked everyone to pick a person who inspires him or her. The result is as diverse as it can be; from scientists to entrepreneurs, from actors to master chefs and from musicians to sports icons. They’re all there.
Diversity creates an environment in which people can learn from each other and grow, which ultimately elevates the team as a whole.
Growth is a must
Different people have different needs. But if they have one thing in common, it’s their desire to grow, both personally as well as professionally. Diversity in a team contributes to that. But there is more.
People grow by being challenged to do things they have never done before, by being asked to solve problems in ways they have never done before and by being given the trust to experiment in doing so.
Although companies generally don’t like to admit that they sometimes make mistakes, people also grow by being allowed to make them. I once read a story about a stock broker who made a very bad trade, which ultimately cost the company he worked for millions of dollars. ‘I assume you’re going to fire me,’ he hesitantly told his boss as he admitted his mistake. His boss answered: ‘I would be crazy to do so. You now posses experience that is worth millions of dollars!’
The story made a lasting impression on me and taught me that mistakes not only help people to grow, but also that it helps to create an environment in which people can be much more creative.
Creativity moves forward
What is creativity? Personally, I believe creativity is people’s ability to solve problems or tell stories in a way it has never been done before. It is also the one thing that ultimately makes a digital agency worthwhile for its clients.
As David Ogilvy, one of the founders of modern public relations, often said: ‘If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative’. What he meant with that, is that if something doesn’t sell (regardless of whether it is about a product, a service or an idea) it doesn’t solve a problem. Creativity moves us forward, not only as an agency, but as civilisation as a whole. It is only thanks to the power of imagination that people have made great inventions or came up with great ideas.
Ultimately, we believe that doing meaningful work, done by a diverse team of people who continuously grow, in an environment where creativity can flourish, leads to one thing: Excellence.
Excellence sets us apart
Excellence is not only about eye for detail, perfection and sophistication. It is about setting the bar high and ensuring that clients continue to be surprised by a meaningful contribution to their mission.
I am privileged to know Mary Jo Jacobi, former aide to US President Ronald Reagan, former Assistant US Secretary of Commerce an Executive Vice President at BP America at the time of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. She once said to me: ‘Your reputation as a company is ultimately determined by your client’s actual experience minus the expectation he or she had of you.’ She is, of course, spot on. Only excellence can help lift that experience above a client’s expectation.
A good salary and pension plan. Plenty of holiday. A cool office with a big desk. They all matter to people when they decide to commit to a new job. But eventually, it is the intangible that people base their choice on.
It is the intangible that builds a world-class team.