Put Your Right Foot Forward: Working hard at company culture

Coming into work today, I donned my new yellow converse! Not everyone’s choice of office wear, but I’m lucky enough to a) Work in a creative industry b) Set the dress code. The shoes are relevant I guess, because they complement both the colour and the spirit of the agency I help run; hug.

Already smiling, after leaving the lift that ferried hot and bothered grey suit-clad, black brogue-wearing professionals, I dropped a Whatsapp to our company team group;


‘Morning. Running into the office with my hug clown shoes on…’

Before I’d reached our office floor, my partner and co-founder, Oussama immediately responded on the whatsapp group with his own picture, having also donned some delightful yellow trainers.

So it’s 8.30AM and I already feel like we’ve set the tone for the day. Bright, optimistic and personal. It’s not pre planned. It didn’t involve HR. I doubt it will change what any of our team are wearing today. But ultimately, it reflects a culture that we have worked hard to create over the last 8 years. If it means even one of our team have a little more ‘spring’ in their step today, then I guess it’s worth it.

It’s fair to say that 2018 has tested business and staff across all industries. We’ve all had to get sharper in the way we conduct ourselves in our daily business operations. We’ve had to take ‘accountability’ very seriously. In doing so, I believe we have also had to work even harder at not losing either our own personal spirit, enthusiasm or drive, that ultimately translates to how our staff feel and ultimately deliver.


Whilst good for the long term health of all companies, this ‘tightening effect’ can feel like a grind. Mid month finance calls. End of month consolidated numbers…calls. Quarterly planning meeting. Weekly update meeting. Daily problem solving meeting. These things won’t be changing in a hurry. The new world of communication demands we work harder and faster for less. We are OK with that (and actually built our business around that anyway). But with this renewed focus now the norm, we need to challenge ourselves to maintain or even reinvent our corporate culture to keep our people engaged.

The last few weeks I’ve seen lots of Cannes Festival pictures from friends in the industry peppering social. As I battle the 42 degree heat of Dubai, it’s hard not to be envious of the ‘Google beach’. Who’d have thought that a tech search business from 1999 would be hosting all major brands, clients and agencies with such authority in such a short period of time. But Google have always been a benchmark of defining company culture. Whilst not the main driver for their bulging bank balance, I can’t help feeling that their commitment to company culture must have contributed to their bottom line and success.

I’m a realist. I understand that my Yellow Converse will not change the world. But I am also happy that we have worked hard to drive our company culture. From the small things (like cakes on Birthdays), to consistent gestures of appreciation such as ‘breakfast on us’ every Thursday. To creating an open culture with 17 nationalities who are all respected, fairly rewarded and can debate or discuss any aspect of their careers with us. This year will be the third year we take our entire agency away to celebrate our hard work and collaborative efforts. 140 of us will be descending on Tblisi, Georgia in September. The objective…to celebrate, to recharge, to meet and praise our colleagues. Yes, there will be a quick recap on where we are headed as a business for 1 hour. But our primary driver for the trip is to smile, to laugh, to hug and to celebrate our company culture and those that are integral to shaping it…our team.

So in closing, company culture is not an accident. It requires energy and investment and a pulse on how to connect and inspire your people. It’s a commitment that we all need to make…every morning we wake up and tie our shoe laces.


1. hug digital is a WPP owned leading Digital agency with 180 employees across UAE, Egypt, India, Saudi Arabia & Kuwait.
2. Visit hugdigital.com or follow our social channels to feel the impact of our efforts around company culture.

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