A Winning Culture

It's About More Than Costumes and Rodent Holidays

Today is the first day of Shocktober here at Fahlgren Mortine, and it’s the start of our holiday season filled with CEOs hiding in closets and prank phone calls from clients.  In fact, when Neil Mortine called to offer me a job as a senior account executive with his firm several years ago, luring me away from a corporate communications position, he warned me.

“You need to know, I’m sitting in my office in a blond wig and a pink prom dress with blood on it because we’re in the midst of our annual Halloween party, and a group of us went as ‘Carrie’s Prom,’” he said.

Years later, I’m glad I ignored the warning, but I must admit; it was apropos. During my time working with Neil, I’ve been cajoled into portraying a munchkin from the “Wizard of Oz,” Melanie Daniels from “The Birds,” and a host of others. I’ve been a party to pranks on co-workers where even clients got involved, and I’ve helped new associates find Neil lying “dead” on a stairwell somewhere.

For many, Shocktober has become the hallmark of the Fahlgren Mortine culture.  It’s truly one of the best times of the year.

But as much as I enjoy this month, I’ve come to realize that it’s not our Halloween party or even Squirrel Appreciation Day that keep Fahlgren Mortine at the top of the best places to work list time and again.  The kind of culture we have here is about much more than costumes and rodent holidays.

Building a great culture really is about more than just having fun. It’s good business. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, culture can account for 20 to 30 percent of the differential in corporate performance when compared with ‘culturally unremarkable’ competitors. Many business leaders can nod to the importance of culture, but few leaders embrace it and build it as Neil Mortine has at Fahlgren Mortine. He has always believed that a great culture attracts great people, which attracts and retains great clients.

A culture like ours is built – by how we hire and how we manage. It’s built by having leaders who believe that doing the right thing for employees and for clients is the cost of entry. And it’s built around a culture of strong values that permeate the business and guide us in decision making.

And what that culture delivers is a place where ideas flow freely, where people feel free to fail, where people challenge each other and learn from each other. It delivers teams who come together to celebrate wins and understand losses, who get curious about clients’ businesses, who invite different points of view and who trust each other to do the right thing.

Until very recently, many in business believed that culture was a soft and non-measurable business investment. As a company that has grown more than 200 percent in the last five years, and that was just named Bulldog Reporter’s Agency of the Year for the fourth year in a row, I think we’ve seen the data support the strategy. So as I begin my search for my all-important Halloween costume this Shocktober, I couldn’t be happier to be a part of the company that believes and demonstrates that you win with culture.


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