Your Firm’s Culture—Why it Matters and How to Build it
Your culture is important to your practice. It grows out of the day-to-day behavior of you and your staff. It is the driver of relationships outside your practice—responsible for the quality of partnerships you form, the type of clients you attract and the excellence of the hires you make.
A great culture attracts, nurtures and inspires. And, it is not a static thing. What works well today needs to be codified and cultivated so that it remains strong as your practice grows.
Here’s what great advisors do to define and develop their practice’s culture.
In our last post we talked about the importance of creating a Vision Statement for your practice. One of the key benefits of crafting that statement is that it describes the culture you want to grow over time. Your Vision will guide decision-making in terms of the types of people you hire, the types of clients you take on, and how you treat them—all key aspects of your evolving culture.
One way to define your culture is to identify how you choose to work, and why you do the work in the first place. And, really, those questions are addressed in your Mission statement for your practice.
Your Mission is a short statement that describes what you do, why you do it, and what sets you apart from your competitors. If you don’t already have a Mission statement, sit down with your staff and try to describe those three characteristics of your practice. If you already have a Mission statement, review it to make sure it addresses the criteria listed above, and decide it if reflects your culture.
Your Mission statement should be a proud statement of why you come to work each morning. It describes what motivates you every day. It’s should be a compelling shorthand for your culture. So share it with the world. Give it a prominent place in your website, marketing materials and social media communications.
Values are not the abstract notions many advisors think. Your firm’s true values are expressed by how you spend your time and money. It’s one thing to say, “Our practice values innovation,” but if you don’t invest in education, training and new technology—if you don’t spend time keeping up with new developments in your industry—then it’s not really a company value.
When you and your staff sit down to generate a list of values that represent your firm’s culture check that each one passes the time-and-money test. Your true values describe how you will consistently treat each other, your partners, prospects and clients. They act as your roadmap to creating the culture you aspire to.
To make sure each of your values play important roles in the day-to-day expression of your culture, create operating principles for each one of them. An operating principle is a simple statement of policy that governs how your practice behaves. For instance, if you value responsiveness you might create an operating principle that says something like, “We respond to client questions and requests within an hour.” Creating your operating principles is a great way to codify the behaviors that make up your culture.
Broadcasting your culture
Your practice’s culture is communicated in everything you put out in public—not just your marketing materials, but also every email you send, all your social media exchanges and each job listing you post. Everyone, from prospects to prospective hires, forms opinions about how your firm works and what it would be like to deal with you based on those communications. So keep an eye on the message you are sending—make sure it reflects your culture.
Your culture is critical to hiring the right people and finding the right clients. To define what your culture is and to continue building towards the culture you want sit down with your staff and define your vision, mission, values, and operating principles. And be aware that everything you do transmits your culture into the market. Sharing your compelling culture with prospects and clients will set you apart from your competitors. A great culture can be the foundation of a vital and growing practice.