Small Business: Company culture - Christina Wedgwood

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Christina Wedgwood, founder, Intelligent Ink, a written communications agency, established in April 2011 with the mission of providing targeted, well written and error-free content to anyone who couldn’t find the right words, or the time to slave over them

Verity Craft, Angela Lees, Christina Wedgwood and Sarah Hitchings of Intelligent Ink.
Verity Craft, Angela Lees, Christina Wedgwood and Sarah Hitchings of Intelligent Ink.

Her husband Logan is general manager. Intelligent Ink's clients come from a range of different industries through the provision of professional copywriting and editing, marketing planning and strategy, public relations and event management.

What sort of company culture did you have in mind when you were setting up?

I always envisaged that Intelligent Ink would grow to be a big, inclusive family of people who were passionate about words, cared about our clients and delivering quality outcomes, and had fun while doing it. We wanted Intelligent Inkers to be excited to come to work.

For all intents and purposes, we have achieved that, building a small niche team of staff that consider each other and many of our clients, friends. Intelligent Ink is supportive of each person's hopes, dreams, hobbies and obligations outside of work too.

What did you want to avoid, given your experiences of working for other companies?

I think if I was to sum up what I was trying to avoid, it would be "disempowerment". I have always tried to make sure that employees feel like they are in charge of their roles and how they develop, their achievement of work-life balance and the outcomes they deliver, day to day, to clients.

We're not interested in clock-watching and micro-managing and respect each person on the team and their commitment to driving Intelligent Ink forward. We want to give them the tools to make decisions, further their skills and develop to their monthly goals, so the Intelligent Ink team is motivated, engaged and working well together.

How much has the company grown since starting up? Has this put a strain on your intended company culture?

From our humble beginnings as a one woman show, the last year has seen the team swell to a total of four in the office, as well as several casual contractors. At times, the intended culture has been challenged, but it has been a priority to get the right people and the entire team, at any given point, is consulted throughout the recruitment process to ensure a good fit. Merging different personality types will always have its challenges, but we pride ourselves on working to our strengths and respecting how each person best operates.

If the company were double the size again, what sort of company culture
would you want and how would you achieve this? Do you think it would be harder?

We hope to see Intelligent Ink grow this much in the next two years, and a huge priority during this time will be maintaining the culture we have created.

It will definitely be more challenging to do this as we grow, because the consultative and inclusive decision-making gets more complicated with more people involved. To this point, everyone has met a new recruit before they start and been a part of the hiring decision. There may come a point when this can't be maintained 100 per cent.

One of the things that will help us though are our values, which are the foundation we are built on and remain the reason we're all here. All prospective Intelligent Inkers are shown these values, given the opportunity to question them and buy into them if they join the team. This way we ensure that we're getting the right people, here for the right reasons - because, after all, culture comes down to people.

What if you set up an office elsewhere, how would you transfer the company culture then?

Intelligent Ink has recently relocated to a larger space in central Auckland , going from 10 sq m to 100 sq m. Funnily enough, our desks are still so close that they're touching, despite the huge room we have to work with. We enjoy the proximity though, which allows collaboration, creativity and bouncing off one another.

In terms of a second location, I think that would definitely be more difficult, so special effort would be made to ensure the space itself fits the brand and that the values still drove the recruitment process, so that we get the mix of people right.

With a second office we would look to adopt the same flavour, with a slightly different personality, taking its local surroundings into account.

Have you helped other businesses try to pin down what their company culture is?

We have to some extent, as any communications tasks require the witnessing and translation of a company's culture, as part of telling their story. So often organisations have no conscious idea of what their company culture really is, instead taking it for granted as just "the way we do things around here". Having a third party person, external to the organisation can help with an objective view on this.

In one client's case, we were able to transform their fractured communication model and silo business units, into a cohesive and functioning communications 'dream team'. The establishment of this team pointed to a need for internal communications support, which they have recently recruited for. With increased cooperation and the affirmation that comes from seeing tangible marketing and PR successes, positive cultural shifts and ROI are increasing exponentially.

Next week: So often, small business owners tell me about the support they have had from family to get their new companies off the ground. Sometimes it's financial but often it's them rolling up their sleeves and getting in there and doing the donkey work too when numbers are tight in the early days. Tell me of the times your family - wife, mother, brother, father - have stepped in to save your bacon. It's an opportunity to say thanks for everything.

- NZ Herald

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