By DAVID MILLER
Employees may come and go, but culture is forever. That might sound harsh, but the reality is that some of your best team members will eventually leave. They may receive a better offer at another company, or relocate due to their spouse’s career. They might leave the industry altogether, through no fault of your organization. The bottom line is, no matter how excellent your team is, you should expect to lose some team members at some point.
Yet, while the face of your company will change, literally, your culture can remain constant. At least, the core of it should. How you govern the organization and the strategies you use for bringing people together may evolve. The values and ethics on which your organization was built remain at the center of your culture.
Culture Is About People, Not Perks
Creating a great corporate culture doesn’t depend on one person or department. It’s not just HR’s job to ensure that you make great hires. Every person you bring into the company should embody your cultural values from day one and everyone involved in the hiring process bears some responsibility.
Any business can claim to value great culture. But living up to your mission statement means more than slapping a few nice phrases on the wall of the office. It’s about baking the founding ethos into every aspect of the company’s DNA and only hiring people who will hold the organization, and themselves, to that promise.
Today, Netflix is one of the most successful companies in the world, but few people realize that the foundation for that success was forged in adversity. Back in 2001, Netflix was poised to conduct its IPO. But the company’s plans were derailed following the dot-com crash and 9/11. Not only did Netflix’s decision makers postpone the IPO, they let a third of their staff go.
This obviously created a burden for the staff that remained. Their workloads increased, but not the number of team members with whom to share it. When then-Chief Talent Officer Patty McCord reassured one employee that the company would hire new engineers to replace those he had managed previously, he told her there was no hurry. He said he’d rather work alone than with people who weren’t 100 percent committed to their jobs and the company.
That conversation contributed to the development of Netflix’s famed culture deck “Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility.” Netflix set a tech industry standard by affirming that what matters more to employees than fun perks is working alongside other “A” players. People don’t work for companies because they offer free beer and nap pods. They work for places that stand for something and that offer them opportunities to grow.
The Compound Effect of A Players
Hiring A players matters now more than ever, especially in the financial advisory industry. Not only are you competing with other firms, you’re also up against robo-advisors and online platforms disrupting the status quo. The only way to distinguish your firm from the competition — both human and bot — is to offer world-class service and expertise.
You do this by hiring exceptional people. Clients pick up on employee happiness and motivation. If you hire highly talented people who really want to be at this job, your client base will respond to that. You’ll earn a reputation as a company that hires winners and keeps them happy. That will speak volumes to your current and prospective clients.
Most importantly, that reputation will endure even as employees turn over. You’re always going to be bringing in new people, but if you choose them wisely, your culture of high-performance and employee-client satisfaction will stay intact.
Talk is Cheap, Actions Speak Louder than Words
I’m willing to bet that somewhere in the offices of Wells Fargo, there is a shiny platitude on the wall touting the importance of “serving the customer,” or “delivering value.”
But the message seems not to have resonated with the Wells Fargo managers and employees who fraudulently opened more than 3,500,000 accounts under existing customers’ names without their permission, resulting in fines that could reach as high as $1 billion.
Any company can claim to have a lofty mission. But unless you recruit and hire people who will live that mission, those words don’t mean much. From the C-Suite to the lowest level employee, every single person should know what your company stands for and enthusiastically live out those values.
When a customer associate gets on a call, she should be well-versed in the company’s policies and empowered to help people however she can. When a sales representative meets with clients in the field, he should articulate exactly how your company can help them and how your culture makes you different. Culture forms not just around what we say, but what we do. How you run your company counts.
The Secrets of a Great Culture
Connection is at the core of great cultures. From customers to employees, developing a sincere and honest understanding of who people are, their strengths and weaknesses, and what their goals are is critical to creating a successful company culture.
Clients should be more than just the amount of assets they have invested with your firm. Financial advisors should be about more than just their AUM and accounts they manage. Every person in your company’s ecosystem should be treated with respect, and their unique needs and attributes should be recognized.
Building this type of respect into your culture requires deliberateness and emotional intelligence. Financial advisories can become quite focused on the numbers, but you need the human element to build lasting, meaningful connections.
Developing your team’s emotional intelligence will help them understand one another better, not to mention better empathize with your clients. These employee and customer relationships will form the basis of your culture, and set the tone for whether your company will thrive.
David Miller is founder and CEO of PeachCap, a financial services firm that specializes in helping registered investment advisors and wealth management firms to offer white glove financial services to the mass affluent at low cost. David may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.