Contrary to popular belief, the biggest battleground for modern-day small business owners and entrepreneurs isn’t competing in the realm of the client experience. That’s merely table stakes for becoming a successful business. What most leaders overlook is the importance of serving their greatest asset and number one audience: their own team.
Think about what happens when the brand companies present to the outside world isn’t aligned with the culture you, as an investor, experience.
The curtain drops on your whole facade, leaving you feeling disillusioned and deceived. That’s because the way a business is perceived is heavily dependent on what happens within the walls of an office. Simply put, internal culture drives external brand.
Wells Fargo knows this first-hand. In February 2017, the Brand Finance Banking 500 cited Wells Fargo’s fraudulent customer account scandal as the reason the bank lost its top global ranking.
But large brands and corporations aren’t the only businesses subject to reputational damage when alignment is lost between company culture and the client experience.
Yes, the concept of culture is a driver of business success, but it's also a reflection and extension of what you buy into when purchasing a product or service, especially in financial services.
In 2003, Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., the former IBM chairman and CEO who brought IBM back from the brink of bankruptcy famously wrote: “I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn't just one aspect of the game; it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.”
The ability to leverage a company’s culture to create greater value is the reason why organizations of all sizes are increasingly investing in their company culture.
In fact, a 2017 Duke University study found that over half of senior executives believe that corporate culture is a top-three driver of firm value and 92% believe that improving their culture would increase their firm's value.
But surprisingly, only 16% believed their culture was where it should be. The study also found that 91% of executives consider corporate culture to be “very important” or “important” at their firm, with 79% ranking culture as at least a “top 5” factor among all of the things that make their firms valuable.
Executives surveyed also believe that culture influences a wide range of decisions and actions:
- 85% believe a poorly implemented, ineffective culture increases the chance that an employee might act unethically or even illegally, and
- 70% believe effective culture is an important reason why their firm takes on the appropriate amount of investment risk.
- Cultural fit in merger and acquisition (M&A) deals was considered so important that 54% of executives say they would walk away from a target that is culturally misaligned, while another one-third would require discounts between 10%–30% of the purchase price of the target.
These are among many reasons why looking for that inside-out, continual investment in a firm is a key indicator of both its future success and it's ability to authentically connect with its clients.
Take a close look at your advisor's team.
Beyond the salaries and surface-level compensation.
Team member "compensation" comes in many forms and begins with working in an environment of inclusiveness and respect. Is the team you're working with excited to hear from you and passionate about their work, whether you're in their office or on the phone?
Are they going above and beyond to solve challenges you didn't know you had or reduce risks you didn't anticipate?
Take notice of their growth trajectory in the firm.
Are they stagnant or moving into larger roles that best leverage their skill set?
Does the team have long-standing tenure?
Are they loyal to the firm because of what the firm is doing to support them, or are you seeing high turnover because of cultural misalignment or lack of investment in their personal growth?
Taking note of these things may not seem like the standard responsibility of an investor/client. After all, shouldn't your advisor be the one serving you?
Yes, both are true. Your advisor should be investing wholeheartedly in the growth of their firm, and you should be holding them responsible to their brand promise.
More services available, growing expertise, well-rounded support, and more value delivered to you, the end client.
There are countless examples of brands, big and small, that fall short of this responsibility, especially in financial services.
Wells Fargo, Bernie Madoff, and many others are just examples of how greed and selfish interests took a front seat, while the best interests of their clients were shoved aside.
The question now is, do you know if your advisor has your best interests at heart?
One of the best ways to know is to look at their "other clients" and see what the firm/advisor/owner is doing to invest in bettering the team.
If you aren't providing feedback to tell your advisor how they can improve their service model, seeing growth in their internal "client" (their team), or pushing for better ways to demonstrate their value in helping you pursue your financial future, you're not truly receiving the value you deserve.
It's time for a candid, straightforward, honest conversation. You can be the one to start it.