23rd September 2019

Creode interview: Building a team, developing a culture

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The agency landscape has changed significantly in recent years, and with it, the development of Creode.

Co-owners Guy Weston and Andy Park have overseen much of this, and in our latest interview, they talk about how they’ve grown a team, refined a culture, and expand on what they think we might see from the industry in the coming years.

Chaps, what can you tell us about your route to Creode?

Guy: We setup Open Path in 2012, and were running that as a user experience agency. Essentially, that was the core of what we wanted to do.

More often than not though, once we’d delivered our UX outputs, clients would ask; “can you build it?”, so of course, we then started thinking slightly differently, and decided to recruit a development team, and from that, slowly and surely we started to grow.

Andy: It was around that time too, that we were introduced to the guys at Creode, the founders, on the basis that they had a development team, but wanted to get out of the business.

We saw it as a good opportunity to get a ready-made dev team in. And in a nutshell, here we are now, three-and-a-half-years later.

Between you both, how do you split your tasks and time?

Guy: I can do spreadsheets, Andy can’t.

Andy: And literally, that’s it! No, not really.

When we first started out we muddled around doing similar things together, and then naturally you have strengths and weaknesses, so that’s what you do.

We have our own skill set in terms of the services we provide to clients, which is separate, but in the business it’s about who’s better at this, and who can do that, and that’s what works for us.

You’ve built teams from two people to twenty. What do you look for in a potential employee?

Andy: First of all, the person has to be skilled enough to do the job.

If you’re going to take on someone who isn’t, you have to be prepared to support them a lot, and often in a small company, that’s difficult.

So you have to identify the skills you need, and you have to get the cultural fit right.

You can accept some quirkiness in character there’s nothing wrong with that, but it helps being able to read people to know whether they’ll fit in the team.

It’s a tricky thing to get right and we’ve also made a few mistakes hiring people along the way, but it gets easier as your culture develops and the team becomes more embedded.

Guy: Yeah. There’s a document Netflix released about culture somewhere online and there’s a few words in it that I always remember, where it says something like “no brilliant jerks” because the cost to the team is just too high.

And I think they’ve got it spot on. So, it’s about the person too, because no matter how good you are at the job, if you’re a bit of a dick, you’re probably not worth the hassle.

Andy: I mean, look, it’s hard in an interview or a couple of interviews to find everything out.

How do you tackle staff issues that perhaps you don’t see coming?

Andy: By being human, because at the end of the day, they’re people aren’t they, and you build relationships with them over time.

So the truth is, you have staff, and people do come to you with personal issues, and if we can, we help them.

How would you describe your managerial style and how has that changed as the business has grown?

Guy: It’s definitely changing, even now, and I’ve noticed that more over recent months actually.

When we first started, there were just two of us and I was copied in on every single email that went in or out of the business, and therefore I knew absolutely everything that was going on with every client, right down to the smallest detail.

Because of that I found myself involved in every meeting, and that makes it more difficult to let go.

There was a point when I would receive 500 emails each day, because I was getting all the stuff for me and all the stuff that I was being copied in on, so there were times when I was almost drowning in it.

Andy: Delegation?

Guy: Well it is, but it’s also about not sticking your nose into things that I don’t need to be involved in.

So if we’re talking about a new website and branding I don’t need to be part of every conversation and meeting. Yes, I have an opinion, but I can leave that to the other guys.

Andy: Yeah I’ve seen that. I managed a team of people prior to this, but I think the more you do it, the more you find your own voice.

So, yes, you know you’ve got a team of people to manage, but you find your way of managing them that’s correct for you and natural, and that generally happens over time.

How has the agency/client relationship changed?

Andy: Often you think they don’t, but clients do generally want more from you. They need it.

Guy: I think one trend that we’re seeing is that companies are moving away from bringing things “in-house” because they’re understanding agencies more and more, and all the specialist brains an agency can provide.

Some companies have very good in-house people, but some don’t, and if that’s the case, they should be looking to work with an agency.

What about the future then and agency life in Leeds?

Andy: It’s always changing. Maturing is another way of describing it I guess.

Take where we are in Leeds as an example. Fifteen years ago or so, there was perhaps only a handful of agencies in the city centre, but as we know today, there’s many, many more.

Some have grown. Some have gone. Some are still where they were. And, other ones will emerge along the way.

Guy: Bigger companies will always look at buying other agencies, and mergers will happen, that’s a fact. I think we’ll see a greater diversity in the services agencies offer, and content will be a big part of that.

It’s tricky for the smaller agencies that pop up. In fact, even agencies with around ten people is hard work, doing that, often on your own, each day.

Essentially, you’re juggling new business with delivery, and you have tight specialisms where the bigger agencies can diversify.

 

To discuss a project with a member of our team, or if you’d like a chat with either Guy or Andy, get in touch with us today.