On Culture, Croissants and Crates

“We do that too.”

Four very simple but often very important words as companies come together, and words that I’ve been hearing a lot in the past few days.

It has been a strange but exciting time. Having announced the marriage of Zeno and 3 Monkeys to create 3 Monkeys | Zeno in the UK on Friday, we’ve since moved into the same office, made our introductions, figured out where the teabags live and shared some bubbly drinks. We’re already working on clients and new business together. All in the space of a few days.

As the dust begins to settle, it can be easy to lose sight of the one thing that was top of the list of concerns when we first started courting, and that has been a central ingredient in our shared belief that the two teams would be a great match for each other: culture.

3 Monkeys didn’t want its culture to be subsumed by joining a global group. Zeno has equally prized its culture for years, and we even have a Chief Culture Officer overseeing it, so important is it to the business and everyone who works here. So with culture so precious and stubbornly guarded, how were we ever going to find common cultural denominators that worked for a merged company?

The answer has turned out to be incredibly simple: the cultures are so similar that there hasn’t needed to be much adjustment.

So much of the language, of the approach to client work and the general attitude to life is the same. Not just amongst the UK teams, but internationally (though of course with the usual dose of US vs UK English differences that confuse and amuse any global business). The merged UK team has been in one office for less than 24 working hours, yet already the conversations about how we do things, who does what and what our little quirks are tend to start with a quick exchange of facts and then end with “oh right, we do that too”.

This morning, the former 3 Monkeys team came into work with a bunch of new faces around them for the first time, having started to move in on Friday afternoon. The former Zeno team came into a whole new office. Then we ate croissants for a welcome breakfast and all got back to work.

It’s almost disturbingly easy. Aren’t teams supposed to size each other up with a healthy dose of suspicion initially? Isn’t a clash of cultures supposed to be one of the primary reasons why acquisitions fail, with tension palpable from the off? Not around here pal.

As we unpack the last of the removal crates (and why are there always about 400% more of those things that you think you’ll need?) and prepare to send them back, people are getting settled. The bar is stocked. We’re beginning to remember each other’s names, helped by a brilliant lookbook containing biographies of every member of the team (mine below).

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Culture isn’t something we pay lip service to, it’s a tangible, strategic asset, and it has just merged with another culture just like it. And we think that by bringing two such similar teams together, we’re only making the combined culture better.

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