I’ve worked at companies where there was incredible oversight, everything my co-workers did and said was recorded, all of our progress was completely data-based, and about as interesting as you can imagine. People working in those places did not behave creatively. They did what they were supposed to do and then they went home. 

Wash, rinse, repeat. 

On the other hand, I’ve worked at companies where there was almost no oversight, but routine celebrations and opportunities to collaborate were in abundance, and employees were motivated. Everyone worked hard, and creatively went above and beyond, despite the lack of rigid structure. These employees were able to work together to get results that are much greater than what any one person can do alone. 

So, what the hell, right? 

Work environments that lead with trust, foster a culture of empowerment, which breeds creativity and collaboration; the juicy stuff. This clears the way for open communication, mutual respect, and a general sense that everyone is on the same team, working towards the same goal. This makes challenges and conflicts easier to navigate and relationships deeper with time. 

Your company culture doesn’t begin and end at your―likely home―office door. It’s peppered in every outgoing communication and partner interaction. In fact, anyone who comes into contact with your brand probably senses the unique alchemy of your company, if only just a whiff, and for better or worse.

Considering that creativity and collaboration are the fruit of a positive company culture, you’ll especially want to filter for this when looking for a marketing agency to partner with. Conversely, negative company culture is one of the top reasons people leave a job, perform poorly, and struggle to do the bare minimum. Whether it’s your company or your vendor’s, high turnover and bad services are costly problems. 

So, when choosing who to partner with as a company, it’s important to consider how they will fit into your brand culture. Do they have a positive company culture and how can it benefit your business? 

Finding Motivation 

Despite what we may have been led to believe, money is only a small fraction of what drives employees to put forth their best effort; positive company culture plays a surprisingly large role.

Positive company culture is exemplified by employees who experience autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Together, these factors are the drivers of long-term job satisfaction. Conversely, negative company culture is one of the top reasons people leave a job: motivation and positive company culture go hand-in-hand. 

But how do we stoke the fires of motivation, that driving force behind all we do? And furthermore, how do we inspire others? It is fueled by our desire to accomplish, achieve, or do something, but like bigfoot, motivation is notoriously elusive. 

What is Company Culture?

Put simply, a company’s culture refers to the “expected way” to behave within an organization. It consists of attitudes, beliefs, and interactions, and is reflected in the way employees feel about their workplace. Every company has a culture, whether they’ve taken the time to consider it or not, and it is often the root of their successes or failures. 

Study after study has shown that a positive company culture is the backbone of a happy workforce, and a happy workforce is one that is engaged, productive, and perhaps, even eager to do their very best. It’s not as simple as throwing money at employees (though undervaluing them can certainly lead to disengagement), it’s about creating an environment that prioritizes health and wellness, fosters social relationships and works towards bigger goals. 

We are social creatures, after all, and many of us spend at least 40 hours a week working. Fostering and developing strong and healthy social bonds in the workplace is a cornerstone of organizational success. So what are some typical traits of positive company culture?

A focus on wellness, both mental and physical: A healthy work-life balance not only improves happiness but also boosts productivity. Life is unpredictable, and employees who know they will be supported through times of illness or hardship perform better and remain loyal to the organization. 

Increase PTO and sick days; ensure a clear policy that prioritizes the employee and makes it easy to ask for time off; and ask upper management to take regular vacation, personal days, and to stay home when unwell to encourage lower-level staff to do the same; consider a gym membership and other benefits as possible.

Strong social connectionsFriendships between work peers and management enhance collaboration, promote forgiveness of mistakes, and create a work environment more enjoyable for all. Conversely, employees who do not have social connections beyond doing the work itself are far less likely to be engaged, happy, or motivated.

Host regular social gatherings and involve upper management; encourage employees to eat together on lunch breaks; facilitate regular (and fun!) communication through tools like Slack; create opportunities for cross-department work and socializing to help build relationships between employees.

Meaning to the job: In life and in work, humans need a sense of purpose to feel fulfilled. For some, a paycheck to feed their family may be enough, but just a paycheck can be found at any company. Strong mission statements, a core set of values, and a sense of service are all important components of employee well-being and will make people much less likely to dream of working elsewhere, let alone act on it.

Involve employees, and even longer-term contractors whom you work with closely, in strategic planning; reward employees for hard work and accountability; be flexible when employees are communicating that something isn’t working well and involve them in addressing it.

Partnering with the Right Companies

If you want to lower employee turnover, increase productivity, and help your brand find success, it’s probably clear at this point that fostering a positive company culture is a great first step. But, what about your vendors—can their work culture make an impact (positive or negative) on your business? We argue they absolutely can.

While it may be tempting to side-step questions about company values or deprioritize asking them, mission statements, and internal turnover, making sure to properly vet vendors can save headaches and dollars down the road. It is a partnership, after all, and the productivity of a vendor’s employees will have a direct effect on the services they deliver to your company. Studies have shown that happier employees are correlated with better customer service outcomes.

It’s also likely any vendor you work with will require a minimum contract that extends beyond the month-to-month. This means employees from both organizations will quite possibly be interacting with each other for an extended period of time. 

No matter how positive the company culture, if staff from partnering vendors are unhappy, unhelpful, or difficult to work with, it will directly impact your own employees. In the event that it turns out to be a bad partnership, processes are likely to be inefficient, and extracting your business from the relationship could create headaches.

When selecting a marketing agency, there’s more to consider than just the bottom line. To say the least, you have to trust your agency to be the voice of your brand, represent you publicly, and manage your online image. If they don’t share your company values (for example, inclusion and diversity), is it a realistic expectation that their services and products will? Probably not. 

Ensuring that the goals and values of both organizations are in alignment before any contracts are signed will set the tone for the entire partnership, increasing the odds of a successful collaboration.


When you’re specifically looking for an agency to partner with, it’s likely initial conversations will include a lot of questions about your own business: what do you do, what kind of help are you looking for, and what do you know that you need, just to name a few.

While these questions are important—allowing an agency to get to know you, understand your market and audience, and ultimately put together a strategy and scope of work for you—it’s just as important for you to get to know them. 

The conversation should be approached the same way a job interview would be, with questions being asked from both the potential employer and potential candidate. Any partnership between an organization and a marketing agency needs to be a good fit for both parties. Otherwise, it’s not much of a partnership. 

Some questions you might ask:

  • What is the history of the company? This question can give you insight into how they got started and most importantly, why they got started. Chances are whatever inspired them to start a marketing agency is still a guiding value today.
  • What is the company mission and values? Chances are any agency you interview will have a well-crafted mission statement and a list of core values, but your goal should be to ask how they are practically applied—be sure to get specific examples.
  • What is their approach to diversity? Any marketing agency worth their salt has thought through a diversity strategy and chances are it’s one of the values they identified. Do they consciously strive for representation when choosing brand imagery? Do they craft language and narratives with accessibility and inclusion in mind? Is cultural and diversity training an ingrained part of their company culture? Asking about this directly will give you a good sense of where these priorities lie.
  • What is the company culture like? Be direct and don’t mince words. While it might feel awkward to ask, any brand that has invested time and energy into fostering a positive company culture will not only be ready, but proud to answer it. If it turns out to be a curveball, chances are that company culture has not been a priority. The answer to this question should go beyond a list of values.
  • Who will be managing your account, and how long have they been with the company? If someone is newer to the team, that isn’t necessarily a sign you need to cut and run, but you will want to be sure they are getting the support they need in taking your account over. For example, is the previous account manager handling the transition, or will they be expected to hit the ground running without oversight? You want to feel confident that the person managing your account will not turnover often, if at all, and that they are well supported when needed. 
  • How long do contracts typically last? Long-standing clients are a sign of good customer service and an ability to cultivate positive partnerships for contract terms, they can range widely, but are typically between one and two years, and will largely depend on the scope of work needed. SEO agencies tend to have longer contract terms as the nature of the work requires a consistent approach over time. Understanding what kind of timeline will be needed to complete the services sought will help you understand contract terms. 

Do your research

The more direct your discovery conversations are with any potential vendor, the better. However, it’s important to do some other investigating, too. We’re all on our best behavior during introductions, so don’t mistakenly take those first calls entirely at face value and skip the rest of the vetting process. 

Social media, LinkedIn, and review websites like Glassdoor and Yelp are powerful tools for learning more about a company and potential vendors. What do existing employees and customers have to say about the company? Do people rave about working there or the services they’ve received? Or, are there more negative comments than positive ones? 

Likewise, take stock of the company’s organizational structure and who has decision-making power. Are there women and people of color in leadership roles? Is the company structure rigid and hierarchical, or more suited to collaboration? How big is the team in general, and how many clients are they providing services for? All of these considerations can serve as clues as to whether the company will be a good fit for your own company or not.

A Good Fit Leads to A Great Partnership

Done well, organizational partnerships can greatly benefit both parties and allow them to play to their strengths. Choosing a good business to partner with can be a cost-effective way to add an entire team of marketing expertise to your company resources, allowing you to stay focused on what you do best. 

Likewise, partnering with an agency, means they can put all their energy and expertise into what they do best: helping your brand grow with specific and niche services. Taking the time to get to know each other and properly vet the other company before entering into a contract will help ensure a successful collaboration that will hopefully last for years to come.

Categories: Company Culture