Developing a Creative Company Culture


Every company has a culture, and you have probably experienced cultures that you’ve considered good, and certainly those that have needed a stronger direction. Company culture isn’t a new topic, but a strong company culture is increasingly important to attracting and retaining the best employees. For a company that specializes in creative services – video production, graphic design, photography, social media and web design – our approach to culture isn’t going to fit every kind of company. Cultivating a creative company culture involves a lot of the same principles that any other company might have, but there are some very important differences worth discussing. At Versatility, we strive to create a culture that empowers our team so that they feel free, yet supported; that there’s a direct path for improvement, yet space to really define their position. Here are a few strategies we use to help successfully cultivate this culture of creation.

1:   Build the Team

It’s important to check candidates’ skillsets to be sure a learning curve isn’t going to eat into the already steep expense of onboarding a new team member. Skills, software and procedures can all be taught to the right person; it’s a person’s mindset that matters most – especially in a creative environment. While we expect (and demand) professionalism and a strong work ethic, we’ve never looked for “worker bees” who would fit more comfortably in a corporate environment. The problem with this, is most people will happily tell you that they’ve never “fit into a corporate environment.” They’ll tell you that they are individuals, free-thinkers and self-motivated. But the reality is that most people tend to struggle with true independence, and it’s challenging for employees to really be in charge of their own destiny, carving out their own niche within a creative company. So the challenge then becomes sorting the real, creative thinkers from those who simply romanticize the idea of a creative workspace. It’s not always easy to know how well someone is going to meld with your existing team, but a strong company vision and frequently asking current employees for feedback on your existing company culture will make it easier to find a good fit.

2:   Empower!

A creative team needs to feel supported, even if artistic people are more individualistic by nature. Give your team the freedom and responsibility to use their creative skills to do their best work. As a leader, it’s your job to inspire them and help them create a sense of ownership in what they do. For a creative person, this might be something as simple as having them take ownership of a specific client relationship from top-to-bottom (more or less). It’s ok to guide and give direction, but be open to ideas. This seems obvious, but it’s not always an easy practice for leaders – especially owners – within a business. But keep in mind, if you hired the right person for the right reason, you should let them do what you’ve asked them to do: elevate your business. Micromanagement is one of the easiest ways to scare off top creative talent.

3:   Encourage!

Encourage your team by getting them to push their boundaries in productive ways. Convince them to test their limits by reaching outside of their comfort zone; allow them to identify and through the process of exploration, disqualify feelings of doubt that they might have. This, along with continued education and learning, helps build confidence within everyone. Give your team members the ability to grow by providing access to educational resources and scheduling a block of time each week specifically for self-development. A strong team is a collaborative team, and a collaborative team is a constantly learning team.

4:   Lead by Example

As a leader, you should be learning, growing and sharing as well. For the success of your company and your team, it’s important for you to live the culture as well. Instill your company’s core values and principles in all that you do, and your team will follow suit. Your clients will feel the authenticity as well. Clients, and employees, can sniff out a phony from miles away. A creative team, because of their perspective on life and work, might be even more susceptible than the average worker when it comes to identifying someone who’s being disingenuous. Find specific action items you can take to live the message of your vision and the philosophy behind your culture. Your team will reward you with great loyalty and a reciprocal level of care for the company.

5:   Have fun!

As a creative company, the need to let loose and not take ourselves or our company too seriously is extremely important. Getting out and having fun with one another inspires creativity and strengthens the bond within the team to make for a more enjoyable, productive and successful work environment. Hiking, team lunches, offsite meetings and even a comedy show are some of the things we’ve done together as a team, and it has strengthened our bond and helped us learn more about one another so we can communicate more effectively!