Jax Teller & Jan Gusich.

Bobby Munson & Ben Brugler.

Gemma Teller Morrow & Jessica Forrester.


The crew of SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Originals) and the crew of AKHIA (not an acronym for anything) may be in slightly different forms of business. They’re into gun running, extortion, vehicle repair, exotic film and even opened an ice cream shop. We’re into PR and Marcom, and love free ice cream.

Now if you’ve never seen Sons of Anarchy (SOA), here’s a quick summary: California motorcycle gang led by Jax Teller (his dad and stepdad were two of the founding members; his mom Gemma pulls strings behind the scenes; his doctor girlfriend Tara is his conscience) engages in aggressive business practices and the occasional felony to open up wider revenue streams for their club. Drama, danger, murder, jail time and killer musical interludes invariably ensue.

Now with that description, it’s safe to assume the SOA and AKHIA are quite different. What could we possibly have in common with a bunch of thieves, murderers and literal backstabbers, albeit with hearts of gold?

A lot, it turns out. In fact, upon closer viewings of the show and closer observances of our work lives at AKHIA, it turns out we both share the EXACT SAME VALUES!

AKHIA’s mission of service (“Exceed client expectations in everything we do”) has always been based on the following 10 core values: Acceptance, Authenticity, Balance, Believe, Collaborating, Connecting, Kindness, Surprise, Thinking and Transparency.

Why do those values exist? To drive a culture of hard work, energy, dedication, smart thinking and staying ahead of the competition. (Senior Account Executive Kasey Bertolino wrote a recent Brew post on culture, which makes this point and many others.) And staying ahead of the competition is what SOA and AKHIA do. Ask SOA, and they would say so. But with more grunts, mumbles and profanity.

So let’s take these values one by one to prove that we both share them. The ones for AKHIA come directly from our values statements. The ones for Sons of Anarchy are not “official,” but feel accurate based upon a recent binge-watching session.

  1. Acceptance

AKHIA: Acceptance is found in unconditional love and understanding. We welcome everyone and hear all viewpoints.

Sons of Anarchy: Once you’re in the brotherhood, there’s absolutely no way out. They will defend you against anyone. And you’re still welcome in the building even if you haven’t showered in 10 days.

  1. Authenticity

AKHIA: You be you. Celebrate who you are and share it with others.

Sons of Anarchy: You be you. Or else. No lies. No BS. Ever. At least around each other. If it’s with competitors, use deception and subterfuge when necessary. Celebrate who you are, with beer. Lots and lots of beer.

  1. Balance

AKHIA: All work and no play makes us…boring. Plus we have Balance Days.

Sons of Anarchy: There’s always time to ride. Always.

  1. Believe

AKHIA: Believing we can succeed is why we will.

Sons of Anarchy: We believe we will get what we want, or die trying. If you don’t believe what we believe, you’re wrong.

  1. Collaborating

AKHIA: There is no “I” in “collaborate.”

Sons of Anarchy: Ride together, make decisions together, no one goes rogue. If necessary and for the greater good, we can play nicely in the sandbox with our competitors.

  1. Connecting

AKHIA: Connecting with others is where we get our energy.

Sons of Anarchy: Build relationships with each other and with other gangs who share our vision (for the time being). Also good at connecting enemies with their final resting places.

  1. Kindness

AKHIA: Because people will always remember how you made them feel.

Sons of Anarchy: Because there will inevitably be a new job opening in the club, be nice to each other and you can get promoted. Also, don’t piss off Gemma.

  1. Surprise

AKHIA: We only believe in good ones.

Sons of Anarchy: Surprise! Someone is shooting at us!

  1. Thinking

AKHIA: Our vision is to make our clients better by challenging the conventional thinking with some of our own.

Sons of Anarchy: We think many steps ahead in order to thrive and survive, literally. Also, our labyrinthine plans have many layers of alliances, betrayals and diplomacy, so thinking through all these is important. Otherwise you may, umm, die horribly.

  1. Transparency

AKHIA: No glass doors. Only open ones.

Sons of Anarchy: Our glass door was shot out and shattered. But no one keeps secrets in the club for fear of a reprisal in the form of a potentially violent peer review.

The main point here is that many companies, clubs and organizations can share the same values. AKHIA does not own “Authenticity.” Hundreds of other companies have it as a value, I’m sure. But how you live those values is what makes your values “yours” and your culture unique.

That means the values must be more than buzzwords. If Moses came down with the tablets and said, “Here are the 10 rules,” but then tucked the tablets away in a desk drawer where no one could see them, what a different world this would be.

At AKHIA, one way we keep our values top of mind is with monthly “Values Awards.” Any employee can nominate a colleague for exemplifying one of our 10 values (leadership and management has no say in who earns a Values Award). The fact these are peer-nominated makes them even more special. The winner gets a gift card, and a Values Award placard he or she puts on the desk or wall. With so many winners, the office is full of these visual reminders of our values on display. It’s kind of like a patch the Sons of Anarchy put on their jackets.

It’s one more way our values are reinforced rather than forgotten, and it becomes second nature to utilize them in decision-making and an overall approach to our work.  “Does this fulfill our values? Yes. Then do it.”

And from there, we just let it ride.

Mike Lawrence is creative director at AKHIA.