Getting Down to Basics
Updated: Nov 29, 2021
Exploring the true foundation of any business
When I think of the foundation of any business, the strength comes from its people. This isn’t a conclusion I came to overnight, and in fact is one I probably would have argued against early in my career. But as time marches on and I evolve in my thinking, at the heart of any business growth strategy needs to be based upon the employees and how they can help take your firm to the next level.
To put your employees in a position to succeed and elevate your firm, to me there are three must have’s for any employee to reach their full potential:
1. Vision of the Firm – this is a leadership quality and it's critical the founder / leaders focus on this internally. This will set the tone for current employees and all new hires. Why is this so critical for any employee? First off, it will set the framework for any employees role. Not every leader needs to be a visionary in the sense of the word, however they do need to at the very least set a vision for their firm that employees can feel and sense. Employees will get a sense of what the future could entail and it helps paint a picture of how they fit into that future. In my experience, this is key for happy & engaged employees. This is also a good time to make sure a firm set’s and exhibits appropriate values to help lead to the team towards this future vision. Once the vision is set and presented, we can move on to the next key basic.
2. Defined job Description / Responsibilities – When I was hiring new employees or promoting folks internally at my previous RIA firm, I always told them that their job description covered approximately 70-80% of their normal day-to-day workload. I was fortunate that working for a small business (13 employees at the time) gave you some flexibility in terms of the projects and work you could assist with on any given day. I find this to be the beauty of small to mid-sized firms, you are never stuck in a silo. While this may seem like a pretty basic element of a business, it is absolutely critical that the leadership team is thinking about not only current roles within the firm, but also what those future roles look like. This lays the framework of how employees fit within the vision of the firm. Their also needs to be emphasis on roles you may not have within the firm so you can paint the picture of what a career path looks like and how you can differentiate between roles for future promotions. I always found it critical to think of your current firm as being 50-75% larger so your always thinking about that next position or hire – “think bigger” and so will your team.
3. Where Do Your Employees Stand – another basic element to any business, but one of the hardest to follow through on – reviews. In my experience, there is no right or wrong way to carry these out. Some may work better for certain employees, but what is key is that your organization has a defined process that works for them. I’ve found in my experience, and especially for certain roles, to be less “goal based” and more career focused – this puts the emphasis back on the employee and what’s important to them. It shows a level of empathy through what can be a somewhat difficult process. This last phase builds on the previous two basics – it shows the employee where they stand in the vision of the firm and their role within that vision. Are they pushing the firm forward to that vision? Are they on the career trajectory they expect? If an employee is unsure where they stand in the big picture, it can be a real deterrent to their career trajectory. Find what works for your firm and for your leadership style and try to execute in a consistent manner. It’s one of the hardest elements of a leader but one of the most important.
There are different philosophies when it comes to business and we’ve all heard “the client is always right” or many firms tagline of “we put our clients first.” While this generates tremendous growth and returns, my evolution through the years has brought me to putting your own people first and the rest will follow. At the end of the day client service is only as good as the people delivering it. Treat them right and good things will follow.
Written by: Ryan Bouchey