Social Chain: A Fantastic Example Of Culture As Competitive Advantage!


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The welcome you get when you visit a business often says a lot about its culture. As I stood outside the door of a business building in Manchester looking to see which button to press, I was asked by two guys who I was looking for. ‘Social Chain’ I said. “We work there” came the reply “Come on in!”

They took me upstairs and their lovely warm welcome was then enhanced by being greeted by Louie and Pablo who came running up to see me when I walked into reception – they’re two little bulldogs who are clearly part of the Social Chain team.

Social Chain is a dynamic fast growing business who you might not have heard of, but I’m sure you will soon.  They own and manage social media accounts that ensure that they understand and influence the ‘youth market’ (and others) and help brands market themselves to these customers.

The business was founded by Steve Bartlett and Dominic McGregor a couple of years ago and now employ around 90 people, nearly all of whom are under 25! It’s clear that it’s a business that’s going places and a key ingredient of their success is clearly the ‘culture’ that they have established, reinforce and ‘live’! We define culture as ‘the way we do things around here’ and our research suggests that winning businesses Create An UBER Culture.  It’s 3D Characteristic #5 in the 7 Characteristics of 3D Businesses.

Although in the short time I spent with them it was clear that they ‘Demonstrated’ all 7 ‘Characteristics’ there are some particular lessons in there for all businesses when it comes to the 4 key ingredients of ‘Creating An UBER Culture!’ which are…


3D Businesses ensure that everyone Understands what is expected of them when it comes to living ‘the culture they want’ and it’s clear that this is something Steve and Dom have worked hard on. The ‘principles’ that they ensure drive the business and its people are:

  • ‘Emotion is at the heart of everything we do.’
  • ‘We’ve not re-invented the wheel, but we are questioning the method in which it spins.’
  • ‘Understanding your audience is the key to overcoming indifference.’
  • ‘We take what we know about millennials and Gen Z to evoke reactions and inspire movements’

It’s clear that these are the principles that they live by and ‘demonstrate’ in everything they do, and the results are impressive – the company has grown rapidly since its formation.

Build Systems And Processes…

3D Businesses establish and Build systems and processes that help shape and reinforce the culture they want and need. These guys have completely embedded this into their premises – The Social Chain’s amazing offices completely reflect and reinforce the culture they want – it’s fun, it’s stylish and it encourages creativity: from the slide and ball pool, cool hanging seats, meeting room pods (that have beds in case anyone is working late), a kitchen with free food (it was ‘National Popcorn Day’ when I was there, so a plenty of supply was guaranteed)… there’s even a bar and that’s free too!!!

There’s a big image of Steve Jobs on the wall with his quote “Ideas don’t happen in the boardroom, they happen in corridors.” Dom explained that they wanted to build a place that people were happy to ‘live’ in (He and Steve did originally ‘live’ there when they first started as they had no money for ‘digs’!).

It’s not just about buildings – they recruit people for attitude and ‘culture fit’, not ‘technical skills’ and this is reflected in the CV’s they receive – DON’T even think about simply sending an A4 nicely printed document! They want people to be creative and imaginative in their approach.

Katie Wallwork who is one of their team, explained that they are always open to ideas and views and their ‘open door’ policy reflects this – it encourages visitors to just ‘pop in’ (which is what I did!)

Engage, Empower and Enable …

3D Businesses proactively establish clear guidelines, policies and procedures that help people ‘deliver’ and Social Chain are no exception! ‘Official’ working hours are 9.30 to 5.30 but there is a lot of flexibility – lots and lots of people come early, stay late and work weekends – that’s why there are beds in some of the meeting rooms! However, as Dom explained, if someone comes in at 9.45 there’s usually a good reason for it – he clearly has trust in his people and this is reflected in the approach. People can have as many holidays as they want, which again, might seem a bit strange, but the reality is that they have to encourage people to take their holidays, as many don’t take enough! People have clearly ‘bought in’ to the ethos of the business.

Everyone has regular personal development meetings and set goals and targets for their own personal development – it’s very much left to people to do what they think necessary to further themselves and the business – this includes people spotting business opportunities and creating their own roles to maximise those opportunities. Social Chain looks for, and encourages people, who want to grow and develop and take responsibility for that – this is no place for ‘plodders’!

Reward and Recognise…

3D Businesses Reward And Recognise the behaviours that they WANT! It’s clear that at Social Chain this is contributed to by everyone in the team whether that’s at the weekly Friday update meeting attended by everyone (who’s in that day!) or via Facebook Workplace which Katie explained is a great tool for encouraging communication and collaboration. It’s clear they proactively ‘Champion their Champions’, encourage and support them, and where appropriate, highlight them to others in the business – they create real ‘role models’!

Does it all work? Well, the business has seen significant growth in their early years and there are ambitious plans to expand worldwide in the coming years.

OK, so you might not be in the social media world so what does this mean for your business. Well, if you are looking to employ bright ‘twentysomethings’, this is what you’re up against – They’ve set a benchmark!

I know if I was in my younger years, I know where I’d like to work!

So, 3 questions for you….

  • What’s the culture you want / need in your business?
  • What steps do you need to take to make it happen in your business?
  • What’s your first step? (tip: ‘drop in’ to Social Chain if you’re Manchester way!)

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Andy Hanselman
Hi there! I help businesses and their people create competitive advantage by 'Thinking in 3D'! That means being 'Dramatically and Demonstrably Different'! I research, speak about, write about and work with businesses to help them maximise their sales and marketing, their customer service and their customer relationships.


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