Building Your Company Culture Upon Core Values

Kathleen Henson  |  
Founder & CEO, Henson Consulting
Kathleen Henson


Does kindness belong in the workplace? As a mother and entrepreneur, I not only believe that it does, but I have come to learn it’s a key quality for building a thriving culture and becoming a successful leader.

After 25 years in the Public Relations industry and 16 years of running my own PR agency, I’ve worked with a range of personalities. I’ve learned over the years what motivates people and what kind of brand I wanted to cultivate in my own company. I knew all along I wanted to create a different environment, and that meant taking a fresh approach to business, one that is not always commonplace in the corporate world: leading with kindness.

The first step in establishing my firm’s brand was to identify my own core values. These seven values translated flawlessly into what is now our agency’s culture. My company culture is paramount because it’s what keeps my employees thriving, happy and joyful at work. I’m proud to say that our agency has been named a Top Place to Work by PR News for the past three years, and in 2015 we were recognized by Entrepreneur magazine as a Top Company Culture.


So, what has made our culture an industry leader?


Here’s a look at what our seven core values mean to for our team:


Be Kind – Kindness at the office means showing each person we encounter (clients, media, vendors, colleagues and more) respect, positivity, support and compassion. Here’s what I’ve learned over a 25-year career: If you lead with a kind word or a thoughtful gesture, you are squarely better off than if you bark a command or send a terse email. Not only will kindness make your business associates feel a sense of trust and comfort, it will actually benefit the bottom line. My firm has become known as a “One of a Kind” agency for this unique approach to our business.


Be Passionate – My team and I have a love for the story we’re telling and clients we’re working with. I often tell my team that if they aren’t passionate about what they’re working on, we need to make a change in their role so that they can find their joy. I enjoy ongoing conversations with my team about their passions so I understand what drives them and how we can keep them motivated.


Hustle Hard – When hiring, we look for self-starters and those who have a “get it done” attitude. Our team doesn’t push things off for tomorrow, but rather we’re about pushing the limits of awesome every day. That means returning phone calls swiftly, answering emails quickly even if it’s just acknowledging that you’re working on it, meeting deadlines and working efficiently. In this fast-paced industry, hustle means productivity and productivity means a sense of accomplishment.


Show Your Smarts – I don’t believe in how old or experienced a person is, I believe in what they show me that they can do. We expect our interns to speak up in brainstorms, and I’m comfortable having a junior staffer lead a client meeting if the person has proven to me that he or she can take on the challenge. Our team is made of up people who can think on their feet, solve problems rather than be paralyzed by them, deliver a strong strategy and even stronger ROI.


Offer Creativity – We don’t settle for the obvious. The benefit of being small and nimble is that we can offer unique ideas and approaches that differ from the typical large agency mentality and bureaucracy. Our team is highly collaborative, working across diverse teams and expertise areas to deliver the most novel concepts for our amazing clients.


Hold Accountability – When employees feel accountable and invested in the work they’re doing, it shows positively in their work outputs. My team sets personal and professional goals, and they create strategies to meet them. They take responsibility for their work, actions, expenses and commitments to others. And when a goal isn’t met, my team rises to the challenge by providing a solution, not just a problem.


Maintain Your Authenticity – With everything my team does, I value their authentic selves and want everyone to feel celebrated and appreciated for their uniqueness. My team embraces and leverages the talents they were born with to further our clients’ business and agency’s goals. We are genuine, honest, transparent and real with each other, even when we make mistakes.


I challenge all employees to define their personal set of values, and evaluate whether the company you are working for aligns with what you stand for. Happiness in the workplace will surface when your internal values are aligned with the values of your employer.

Company leaders, I challenge you to define or refine what your company stands for, and ensure whatever those values may be, that they match the culture you want to nurture. 


– Kathleen Henson, Founder & CEO of  Henson Consulting


Kathleen Henson