Building high-performing teams in a variety of industries has been the highlight of my career. I have learned plenty along the way about finding the perfect candidate for each unique role in each specific company that I’ve worked for.
During my time as an executive recruiter, I have successfully placed hundreds of mid-level to C-level executives. However, it is building my own companies that has taught me the most about culture.
As I discussed in my previous article, if you want to have a culture that positively contributes to the ROI and health of your business, you must be intentional about the process.
Great, momentum-building cultures can move the needle exponentially for businesses, and as we are no doubt all aware, accounting firms need to move the needle in the right direction more than ever, with the accounting profession facing the Great Resignation and the Great Retirement of seasoned professionals with far fewer new recruits coming in to backfill the talent exodus.
This means that more than ever, culture matters. It matters when it comes to recruiting across skill sets and generations, and it matters even more when you have a team and you want to retain them so they can continue to grow your firm.
To help you construct a firm culture that will help you attract A-players and unlock your firm’s true potential, I offer you these steps which I have used myself and I have seen work for many entities.
1. Don’t hope for a culture that helps you attract A-players. Take action! One thing I have definitely learned during the process of creating an intentional culture at my current company RCReports, and the others I have been affiliated with, is that the process starts with getting it out of my head onto paper.
2. Culture originates from the top and takes hold at the bottom of the org chart. Culture is something that, in my opinion, comes from the top. I sure do try to live in it. I also make it my job to make sure everybody else in a leadership role is living it, because if they are, it should trickle down and really take hold on the front line.
3. Cultures need to be authentic. Authenticity is contagious because it provides so many nonverbal signals and it drives elements of a successful organization. If you’ve got good morale it builds momentum.
4. Keep the momentum going. Although we’re very intentional about talking about culture when we’re sourcing talent as well as through the interview process and even in the first days of the onboarding process, what I would say we haven’t been doing a great job of is touching back on these as our team grows. That’s on me, and when your firm grows it’s going to be important to keep culture top of mind, otherwise it becomes that thing that people hang on the wall and forget about. I don’t want that to be the case at my company.
5. Build a culture to attract your target audience of employees. It’s important to understand that not every company culture is the right fit for every person. This is why you need to think about the personas of your ideal employees and what they are looking for, then work to create and maintain a culture that supports their success.
If you see yourself as wanting to build and run a different type of advisory firm, then you need to do things differently and be accountable for building a culture that supports this. Culture spreads across every demographic and type of worker, how can you build a practice that meets the needs of a diverse workforce? How can you ensure equality? Flexibility is critical as we’ll delve into later.
6. Address the cultural conundrum across the generations of workers you want to attract. In the accounting profession we see this conundrum more and more: How do I attract a 60-year-old seasoned employee versus a 23-year-old new grad?
Try and put together a workplace that supports people with different work styles, but still has a company culture that fits everybody top to bottom. This is why flexibility is essential. You can’t be so rigid, that you don’t have any flexibility, because people are going to value different things. Consider all of the different ways that flexibility can be incorporated into your culture:
Of course, flexibility only works if you have a culture of accountability. Again, this starts at the top – does your team have clear goals and understand what success in their role looks like? Once they do, they need to be held accountable for those outcomes.
7. Leverage the benefits of a remote firm to help your team thrive. I believe there are significant advantages to building culture virtually. And what I mean by that is, if you have a bad apple in a physical office, that person can infect a lot of people that they wouldn’t normally run into in a virtual sense. In a remote company culture, it’s more difficult for a bad culture to take root virtually. On the other hand, it’s challenging for a good one to spread virtually as well.
The accountability piece is so key here because if you are of the mind that there’s no way you can offer remote work because people aren’t going to do their job, you are making a culture statement there. That is a culture of micromanagement. That’s a choice that you’re making.
Use these keys to creating an intentional culture to unlock your firm’s potential.
From my perspective, one of the greatest lessons on corporate culture that I can share is that you need to define the company culture before you grow your business. If you haven’t thought about it ahead of time and haven’t been proactive about it, you’re going to have to wrangle it back into submission to get the company culture you want.
Paul Hamann is president and cofounder of RCReports, which offers cloud technology that determines reasonable compensation for closely-held business owners and is used by CPAs, EAs, tax advisors, valuation professionals, forensic accountants and attorneys when they need to determine a reasonable compensation figure for a client.