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Archrival successfully grows company culture by taking risks

Archrival’s newly renovated HQ. All photos courtesy of Archrival.

Archrival moved into Lincoln’s Haymarket ten years ago and quickly established itself as the cool kid on the block––not surprising since the creative agency specializes in youth brands and culture.

As the firm’s client base grew all the way to the coasts, their headquarters grew too. Archrival co-founder and Managing Director Clint! Runge said they took over square footage in the building as it became vacant over the years and while their office got bigger, it fell behind in functionality and expression of who and what the company is all about.

“Who we were 10 years ago is not the same company we are today,” said Runge. “I felt our space was aspirational when we first built it. It was almost cooler than we were, but somewhere along the way we caught up and surpassed it. […] It was time to re-up and bring those things into alignment.”

The Archrival team believes strongly in their own company culture and wanted a renovated space that reflected that. When it came to choosing an architectural firm to handle the renovation, Runge put another one of Archrival’s core values into action. He wanted to hire a local firm to keep the work close to home, but he also insisted on hiring a young designer.

“Because Archrival started when I was 22, I’ve always had that chip on my shoulder that young, inexperienced people can have great ideas,” said Runge. “That’s translated still today and that philosophy only makes sense when we think about redesigning an office.”

Runge believes that the best idea for a job can come from the most experienced creative director or it can come from an intern. He said that since they’re in the business of youth culture, Archrival always has to be challenging the status quo and seeking out young, fresh ideas.

“Those things are highly valuable for our clients and thus are highly valuable inside of Archrival. We never want to have a system of ideas, or a hierarchy of ideas, where it’s all about the creative director or the founder’s ideas,” said Runge. “To solve brand problems for youth culture, you’ve really got to be open to all ideas and that’s where that flat hierarchy comes from.”

BVH Architecture handled the redesign of the space. Runge said their young architects all submitted different ideas. They listened to everyone and chose one they thought was the most in-line with where they’re headed as a design company.

“Architects can help us build the construction elements of it but the things that really bring it to life, the clever ingenuity, that’s something that Archrival does. We’re good at that,” said Runge. “Once we teamed up our creatives who challenged status quo thinking, that’s what led to a really great collaboration with the architecture team.”

Believing in the value of inexperience to the degree that he would put the future of his headquarters in the hands of a young designer could be seen as a risky move on Runge’s part. But repeatedly taking that type of risk is what Archrival is built on.

“I think 20 years ago we stood for something that wasn’t embraced widely,” said Runge. “Now I think that there are a lot of young entrepreneurs, a lot of young startup businesses that do embrace that idea of inexperience having value.”

The company’s willingness to take risks and belief in a flat hierarchy are what continues to drive their own company culture forward.

“You certainly walk into spaces where the company was dictating the culture from the top down. But when you walk through the space, it’s not real,” said Runge “We’ve always believed pretty strongly that culture, in any company and any brand, truly is bottom up. You only are the collection of what your people think and believe, and the way that they express those thoughts and beliefs.”

Runge said Archrival actively seeks out employees who will add to that culture and allow it to grow and build organically.

“While we’re very conscious about not making mistakes that take away from that culture, we haven’t tried to outsmart ourselves and guide that culture or tell that culture where to go,” said Runge. “We’ve tried to hire people that add to it and make it more interesting. Not that we’re all the same. Their diversity, the way they approach the world, their point of view––they’re adding to the culture.”

A midwest headquarters is something that Runge said will always be a part Archrival’s culture as well. The firm has strategic offices in Portland and L.A. so they can work closely with two large clients in those cities, but the bulk of their work will always grow out of Lincoln.

“When we go and present our work and [clients] learn where we’re from, it’s almost a shock to them. In that way, we’re interesting,” said Runge. “The fact that we’re doing this from Lincoln, Nebraska gives a sense that there’s something going on here. There’s something magical, there’s something about the culture and the people. I think we’ve championed that.”

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Christine McGuigan is the Managing Editor of Silicon Prairie News

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  • Bryan Kearney

    Great article, I really enjoyed it. Is Clint! (with an exclaimation point) a typo? Or am I missing something?

  • Mike Kuhl

    I always thought Archrival was a used bookstore. Nice to see them branching out.

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