In our latest installment of the Leadership Series, we sat down with V2 founders Maura FitzGerald and Jean Serra as they reflect on V2’s culture.
Since its start, V2 has earned itself a number of awards in recognition of not only the unmatched PR work it produces for its clients, but also the admirable workplace culture its leaders foster for their employees. Most recently, V2 had the honor of being named one of PR News’ Top Places to Work in PR for 2019!
So, besides staffing the agency with a cast of PR rock stars, what goes into creating a winning agency? We asked Maura and Jean how they define the agency’s culture and how this roadmap influences the company’s overall success.
What kind of culture did you want to create when you first started V2?
Maura: Having worked with so many startups, we understood the key role culture plays in determining the success of a business. For us, the company culture needed to be collaborative, nonhierarchical, and hardworking. We wanted a place that was encouraging of the proactivity needed for a person in PR to be successful, and a place that in turn rewarded initiative.
Jean: A culture of excellence was part of [Maura’s former PR firm] FitzGerald Communications. Particularly at the time when it got acquired, there was the idea that if you worked there you must be good. There was a shared mentality of “We can do this!” Similarly, when we started V2, we were clear about wanting to build an agency that was known for the great work we do and seen by our clients as a strategic business partner. We wanted to be the premier agency clients would look toward if they wanted stellar work and a high caliber of professionalism; the premium brand in the market. That has never changed.
How has V2’s culture evolved?
Jean: We’re really focused on how we think about bringing new people along, and the processes and mechanisms that go into that. A big thing for us is the development of our mentorship program. In addition to having a manager, each employee is paired with a senior member of the company with whom they have monthly check-ins to discuss their work and professional goals. We want the people who work here to not only be great at what they do but also get a ton out of the experience and advance their careers.
Maura: The mentoring program is designed to help the most ambitious people get ahead quickly under the professional eye of senior people. We work to understand our employees, presenting them with fitting professional challenges, and we reward them when they meet them. As the company grew, we thought of perks and incentives we could offer that supported the culture we wanted to create.
We’re an agency focused on strategy. Did the same strategy process go into creating the V2 brand?
Maura: Yes, we were very strategic in the type of brand and culture we wanted to create. We started by defining what our company values are, because then the hiring process becomes much easier when you know what type of people you want to work with. Likewise, clarifying our values influences the client roster because it gives a sense of who you’re willing to work for.
In your experience of starting agencies, and advising clients on their brand strategy, what does it take to build a solid brand and culture that can last?
Maura: It takes consistency and commitment. You have to be serious about creating the culture, evolving it as the company grows, and incorporating core values into reviews and rewards.
Jean: Companies need to make it clear from the start that employees are all in this together. Our firm’s culture is built on collaboration; rather than form cliques around their respective accounts, our staff members are first and foremost V2 people who are proud of the agency and its overall accomplishments.
What’s your advice for sticking to the core of a company’s culture while also shifting with times?
Maura: If you want to attract and retain the best employees and clients then you have to know what competitors are offering and innovating in order to differentiate yourself. One thing I think made us successful is that we’ve been able to come up with new ideas for perks. For example, we provide V2ers with the option to rent from Rent the Runway for our company holiday party. It’s not an insignificant investment but it’s fun.
Creating culture is one of the most important things for a successful company. A company has to be willing and able to adapt and change its culture quickly, recognizing when there’s a need for change and acting decisively to enact it.