3 leading agency MDs share how their internal culture gives their team purpose

 |  By: Kate Jones In: Agency management

Agency culture permeates the lives of all those who work there. Consciously or unconsciously determining who joins the team, who stays and which clients are drawn in.

But culture is deeper than the agency’s brand, formal values and whether or not the office has a ping pong table or allows dogs.

Culture is about interactions, freedom and purpose. It impacts happiness at work, fulfilment and ultimately, how good people are, or have potential to be, in their roles. The right culture can prevent silos and encourage better cross-department understanding. Organically seeding understanding and collaborative working.

Eero Aalto, Head of Business Transformation at Heimat Berlin (part of TBWA) recently said “People, and the way people are organized, drives the culture.

In this vein, we spoke to three leading agency figures about their culture, and how they’ve created a culture that drives purpose in individual roles.

Managing Director of a UK creative agency

The MD of a London-based agency enjoying a number of high-profile clients told us that he believes strongly in an agency culture that embodies honesty. Honesty in the work, with the clients and within the team.

“Agencies are paid to help brands find their authenticity. Are they themselves particularly authentic? Are brands comfortable working with agencies staffed with agreeable robots or would they rather work with straight-talking people peer-to-peer?"

He drives his agency’s culture through 7 key considerations:

1.      Making things better

2.      Cutting through the noise

3.      Honest conversations with clients

4.      Less wasted time

5.      Removing the silos

6.      Uncovering what you don’t know you don’t know

7.      Continuous improvement, even in small steps

He uses these drivers to ensure that the team are working on the right things, having the freedom to use their talents

“There’s a buzz in a busy agency. You can feel it, and certainly hear it. But the noise I’m talking about is the noise of working on the wrong things. In this industry you have to get to the essence of what’s needed fast. If you allow the signal-to-noise ration to become unbalanced, people waster their talents. So cut through it. Before our new System (Synergist) we couldn’t see which areas our business should focus on. Now it’s crystal clear.”

He discussed how using one system is organically developing a collaborative culture, where people understand and appreciate work across departments:


“Synergist is the phenomenon that touches every person in the agency, so it can join everything up, pull people together and demonstrate the value of each team to the rest. It increases people’s awareness of how everything works.”


“Authenticity is an inspiration when dealing with clients. Proper data helps you achieve it. It also empowers people, pulls everyone together, shows which projects are going to be profitable and which aren’t and encourages adult conversations with clients.”

Steven Clark, Finance Director, Tayburn

 Edinburgh-based agency Tayburn have enjoyed profitability for 35 consecutive years. Winning awards for both effectiveness and creativity. When asked how they've  achieved this, Steven replied:

“In a sentence we’ve created a remarkable culture here, and we’ve decided to make remarkable happen for our clients too.’

Tayburn have implemented five core values:

1.      Challenge the unremarkable

2.      Better together

3.      Act with purpose

4.      Simplicity

5.      Playful

Steven told us, “There’s a buzz here. ‘Better together’ means get the right people together from the outset, share things and collaborate with the best. We have 40 people here now. They all use Synergist and access the same data.”

Discussing how collaboration is baked into their culture through their system and empowering the teams, Steven commented:

“We give transparency to our teams, so they have the information they need to manage jobs properly. Today, designers, artworkers and account managers are all mini-entrepreneurs.”

...and the founder of a UK digital agency said...

“You’ve got to get your values right. We came up with four core values and they didn’t drive everything we do. Now everything we do is R.I.T.E – Results, Innovation, Trust and Excellence.”

Regarding Trust, he said “Communicate openly and honestly with clients and staff.”

He also discussed the importance of career progression opportunities within agency culture. They implemented Synergist and saw a difference in individual roles.


“It’s helped us change our culture. People are empowered to run their own departments like proper little companies now.”

Their Director of Finance added:


“When young graduates join us and work on small clients, the data now lets them be strategic. They understand the money side of things right away. It’s such good career experience for when they are promoted to handling larger clients.”


“It’s removed all the debates and emotions – it’s all factual now. We can see when a department has earned extra hours of specialist time. They can allocate it how they need. That’s very empowering.”

We hope this blog has got you thinking about the culture within your agency. Where you can be extremely proud and where you can perhaps empower your team a little more, and celebrate those who are doing fantastically-well.

If you’re interested in hearing more about Synergist, and how implementing one system for all your business needs can encourage individual accountability and team collaboration across your agency, then why not book onto one of our up-coming webinars. Hosted by our implementation partners, The Agency Works.