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E16 | Great Company Culture Equals Success: Meet Nikki Gatenby

Nikki Gatenby is the Managing Director and Co-Owner of Propellernet, a marketing agency that has consistently been named as a top UK workplace by the Great Place To Work Institute.

On today’s podcast:

  • How to spark innovation
  • Their five key values
  • Why they keep a close eye on their team’s wellbeing
  • The importance of staying adventurous
  • Why they value regular check-ins with their team
  • What’s in Nikki’s recent book, Superengaged


What makes Propellernet stand out

Propellernet is well known for being an amazing place to work at. They even have a Fun Ministry, which is a monthly fun fund which they get to spend on team building activities.

Nikki is working hard to enable her team members to be as creative as possible and to enjoy their work. She believes that once your team is satisfied, they will bring innovative ideas to the table and the whole business will thrive.

Wellbeing is one of their key values. Nikki fundamentally believes in putting people first and giving them the freedom and tools to grow. If you put people first, the money will follow. If you put money first, people tend to leave.

Why it’s important to keep an eye on our wellbeing

Besides wellbeing, the other values that guide them are innovation, creativity, fun and adventure. The purpose is where you’re heading, and the values are how you’re going to get there.

In the advertising industry there is unfortunately a burnout trend. In fact, most of the cerebral careers end up in burnouts, and Nikki can’t quite get her head around the fact that so many people are negatively impacted by long, stressful hours and bad management.

It’s really important to her that people take care of their physical and mental wellbeing, otherwise how can they be expected to do a good job?

Corporate culture done right

In their business, they are constantly living on the bleeding edge of technology. It’s important for them to stay adventurous. If they become scared of adventure, they’ll eventually shut down.

At Propellernet, they only have 60 employees. They offer flexible working conditions and encourage their team members to have side projects that spark their creative thinking.

They don’t have a blueprint for their business, it’s more of a road map. They prefer to have fun trying new ideas and ways of doing things.

If one of their employees finds a better opportunity, Nikki is very supportive. She would never try and turn that person’s head. If they do change their mind in the meantime, she sits down with him or her, and they both look at what wasn’t working in the first place, trying to see if it’s valid for them to come back to the team.

They also have regular check-ins with their team members and they encourage people to speak up all the time. The questions Nikki always asks are:

  1. What did we do well?
  2. What should we do differently?
  3. What did we learn?
  4. What still puzzles us?

Book recommendations

Nikki’s recent book, Superengaged, is a bit of a Rough Guide for anyone who is running a business. She’s sharing her tough experiences, as well as her positive ones, in order to shortcut the learning curve for entrepreneurs by giving them practical tips and advice about how to keep their employees as well as themselves engaged.

Here are Nikki’s book suggestions for anyone who is interested in making the most out of their business:

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