Building an Agile Company Culture for Growth
This week I’m talking to Paddy Moogan, Co-Founder of Digital Marketing Agency, Aira.
So Paddy, give us an introduction to yourself and the company culture you have there at Aira.
Thanks, Lizzie. Thanks for having me on the podcast. I’m Paddy, I’m one of the co-founders of Aira. We’re a digital marketing agency based in Milton Keynes. We do work such as SEO, PPC, content marketing, digital PR, that kind of thing.
When it comes to culture, I guess it’s something that is definitely a personal passion of mine and certainly something which I focus on a lot when it comes to my day to day work. It’s always been really important to us, essentially since before Aira was even a thing to be honest. Before my co-founder and I started the company, when we were just talking about it, we both made it clear that culture was going to be a very big part of what we wanted to build.
I’ve been quite fortunate that companies I work for in the past had very strong cultures. I really enjoy working for the bosses that I work for, so I’ve been quite lucky and seen great examples of culture. So I need to bring some of that towards Aira and my own company. So yes, it’s always been important to us. I think right now, a we’ve grown, it’s become challenging in different ways but also more satisfying to see in action, see it working, but it’s always been really important to us.
"The main thing that's changed is we've had to think a lot harder about what culture actually means to people."
So how has the company culture changed since you started the business?
It didn’t change too much for the first, I’d say year or two at least. We’re nearly five years old now, and the first year or two it didn’t really change too much because I think the team were quite small at that point. We did think about it, but didn’t really focus on it too much. As we’ve grown it’s become a bit more challenging in different ways because as you grow, you add more personalities and more people, and more people can equal more people problems and that kind of stuff. It has been a bit of a challenge, but at the same time I think some of the core principles have remained the same. We always put a big focus on trust in the team and trusting them to do the right thing. It treats them like grown-ups. To be honest, that’s never changed and probably never will. We’ve also had quite a big focus on learning and helping people with their careers. That hasn’t changed, and again hopefully never will.
I think the main thing that has changed from a personal perspective is I’ve had to think a lot harder about what culture actually means to people. We’ve got quite far without really defining it too much or trying to say what it actually means in reality, whereas now we’re getting to the point where, when we hire people and as we grow, we want them to understand the culture that they’re coming into and also try and look for people that can help that culture and enhance it. So that’s definitely a change – so more the thinking around it, I guess, but also accepting that it’s going to change over time on its own.
"As we've grown culture has become more challenging in different ways, but also more satisfying to see it working."
Making people aware of culture in an organisation has obviously been linked to engagement and how driven and creative people are. What methods have you adopted to ensure people understand the culture at Aira from day one?
It’s actually quite a timely question because I’ve been working on this a lot over the last couple of months. To be honest, traditionally we’ve never had anything really tangible that we can point to, to show people the culture. Something I’ve been working on recently – two things really…
One is an internal – I don’t like the name, to be honest, but it’s going to be a company handbook essentially, for everyone who joins and everyone who’s here already. It goes into a bunch of things, the practicalities around day to day office stuff and benefits and perks and things like that, but also we’re opening it up and talking about what culture means to Aira, why we exist, what we’re trying to do, what kind of behaviours and values we look for. That’s going to be given to everyone as a bit of a starter when they first join the company so they get a bit of an understanding as to what culture actually means and they actually understand it.
Alongside that we’ll do a bit of a presentation run through from myself or Matt to explain things in a bit more detail and give them a chance to ask questions. We’re going to introduce that over the next couple of months.
We are also building a version which is more of a public deck. We’re calling it ‘The Culture Code’ at the moment, stealing a bit of Hubspot’s wording. Again, I don’t love the name, but we’ll see what we come up with, but essentially a public version of that handbook which talks about the culture and what we look for. The idea being that anyone who’s looking to maybe apply for a job or understand a bit more about how we work, they can look at that deck and go through and see what we look for and what the culture means. That’s a quite tangible thing we’re working on at the moment, but yeah, traditionally we’ve never done too much that is really tangible. It’s been more day to day stuff.
The one thing I can probably point to that we have done almost by accident – but is very tangible – is when we hire people, we do look for certain behaviours and certain elements that would fit into the culture, and again looking to diverse from the culture and add to it as well. So hiring has been quite an important part of my job and Matt’s job.
For example, me and Matt will still do a final interview with people. We don’t hire people who myself and Matt haven’t met. That’s been the one way that we ensure culture is communicated at the interview stage. We’re hiring people that we think can add to it.