We normally blog a lot about technology, because that’s what we do. But what we don’t talk about as often is what we do behind the scenes; the things that are not as exciting as all the amazing tech that we produce, but that we also couldn’t run our business without.

We’ve been doing a lot of operational work lately, to make sure that we are running as efficiently as possible and maintaining our excellent standards alongside enabling ourselves to keep growing. A big factor in any decision that we’ve been making recently is how we do all of that while maintaining the essence of who we are as a company, so we’ve been talking about culture a lot.

What is culture?

Big question, we know.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines culture as “the customs and beliefs, art, way of life, and social organisation of a particular country or group”.

More broadly speaking, culture is the traditions and customs that hold a group of people together. In the work sense, culture is the thing that helps bring the right people into your organisation and keep them there. It is a summation of how everyone in the company communicates, the behaviours that are encouraged (and discouraged) and the standards that every employee is held to.

Much work has been done to define business culture over the years, but we’re going to use Robert E Quinn and Kim S. Cameron’s culture typology as a framework for this particular blog. They have defined four key types of culture:

  • Hierarchy culture: Clue is in the name here. Everything in these types of cultures is very structured, and the main focus is on operational organisation and procedures.

  • Clan culture: Providing a sense of belonging and family is a key priority here, with focus being placed on morale and successful relationships (both internally and externally).

  • Adhocracy culture: Businesses firmly in this culture are focused on innovation and experimentation. Risk-taking is positively encouraged and success is measured by new ideas and individual freedom.

  • Market culture: Results are the driver for businesses with this culture. Financial success and a competitive reputation keep employees motivated and leaders are constantly measuring market share and product penetration.

Quinn culture types diagram

What is Nimble Ape’s culture?

In an ideal world, your culture would contain elements of all of these things to ensure maximum success, but normally, a company will fall predominantly into one camp more often than the others. For us at Nimble Ape, that is the clan culture camp.

We have always had a very open culture, as we believe that everyone is motivated to do their best work when they are trusted, given the opportunity to voice opinions, and have some degree of social need fulfilled.

We care about cultivating strong relationships with each other and with all of our clients, and believe that the people element of the work is crucial. We are a completely remote team, so we are very aware of the need to give everyone the chance to have those ‘water cooler’ moments in other ways so that we are not spending 8 hours a day with our heads down, feeling isolated.

How do we maintain our culture principles?

The biggest thing that any company can do to maintain their culture principles is to have them be understood. We have several ways of keeping our culture goals at the forefront of what we’re doing:

  • The company values are baked into our mission and vision statements.
  • We include our values in our bi-annual performance reviews - each team member has to give examples of where they have demonstrated the company values in their work.
  • We have a very open and active chat system going, where all things are discussed on a daily basis (from the latest bit of client work to what happened with a team member’s vet appointment the previous day). This encourages connection and easy access to a wide variety of valuable information. We use the whole Matrix ecosystem; thanks to our friends at both the Matrix Foundation and Element for being amazing.
  • Decisions are discussed with the whole team as often as possible. No business can make 100% of their decisions by committee, but we try to make sure that everyone has the chance to voice an opinion on the work where we can. This can range from helping to design new branding, to how we should price an event sponsorship package.
  • A company newsletter is sent out once a week that encompasses all aspects of who we are trying to be. It includes highlights of the week, work priorities for the coming week, a celebration of any personal successes for team members, recommendations on new content to consume in personal time and a good news story for the week to help everyone start off their Monday in the right frame of mind.
  • A dedicated chat channel within our comms system where the team can share fun things and personal stories without distracting from the main work chat.
  • We look for regular opportunities for us to get together as a team in person, including a Christmas party and a dedicated team-building day at least once a year.

There are more things we could list, but we’ll save those for another time!

Follow the Nimble Ape culture journey

Hopefully, the main takeaway from this blog is that we are serious about our culture as a business and we want our culture to be respectful, inclusive, dedicated and fun. As I mentioned earlier, ideally we want to be working on all four culture types at the same time to reach the ultimate success. We are big on innovation and bringing fresh ideas to the industry’s table, so adhocracy culture is already fairly well embedded. We are working on including components of hierarchy and market culture (in the most positive senses) to give us more structure and competitive advantage in our offering and making these things core parts of our company’s DNA, without compromising who we already are and what makes us as successful as we’ve managed to be so far.

It’s become clear as we’ve started to do some work around our culture that there are absolutely some parts of how we work that are non-negotiable as we look to grow, but it’s also helped us to highlight some key things that we do need to address and adapt in order to enable us to expand in the way we want to. It’s been a really valuable lens to look at our company through and we encourage anyone reading this to go through the same exercise - the answers you get might surprise you.

- Alanna and the Nimble Ape team