For more than 5 years we have been building the cultural touchstones of our business. For most of that time, those touchstones came from the ownership down to our team. But something changed in 2017. At first, it was a comment here and there, then it grew into discussions, and, as I found out last week at our 4th quarter meeting, our cultural touchstones are a now firmly held beliefs about who we are and how we act as a team and business.
What happened that made 2017 special? Nothing in particular. Like jello that is taking the form of the mold, our culture was congealing into a discernible, intentional, shape. Our team was sharing how the cultural touchstones inform how they deal with each other, our strategic partners, our clientele, and even our opposing parties. No longer was this a top-down directive on our culture, rather it has become professional philosophies. As an owner, it was one of the most satisfying moments of my career.
Here are a few things I have observed during our journey:
There were more than couple times since the founding of our business that the resolve of our vision and values have been challenged. When you know who you are and what you want your business to be, then you persevere through those challenges.
Our team knows and understands our values because our values are constantly being communicated. We communicate our cultural cornerstones in our meetings, in our business by-line, and in our advertising. Keeping those values in front of our eyes keeps us focused.
We believe in our values. They are not just hokum or nice ideas. Our values are how we believe we are supposed to act towards others both inside and outside our business. They inform our actions, especially in the hard situations. Nice ideas are discarded during stressful times, but beliefs are held to.
It would seem obvious to say, but we make sure that our actions are in line with our values. Nothing undermines value statements like actions counter to those values. If we as owners cannot act according to our values, then we are undermining the message to our team. It is the responsibility of the owner to set the standard.
We expect each member of our team to act in accordance with our values. Without expectation, there is no accountability. Without accountability, the desire to act according to our values is fickle. We stand side by side with our team in each situation, expecting and encouraging them to act in accordance with our values.
We trust each other to fulfill our commitment to our values. Without trust, there is no opportunity to own the values. With trust, there is a risk, but it is a risk worth taking. We as owners undermine the embedding of our cultural values by not trusting our people to act in line with those values.
We have not arrived. One of the reasons we will go further is because it isn’t up to any one person to carry forward the culture of our business. It is a team effort. Values are a business’s guiding star, but they can be a burden (especially when acting outside those value may be easier). Many hands lifting a common burden make it much lighter. As we finish 2017 and enter 2018, I am proud of our team and grateful that they have willingly embedded our culture into their professional lives. Here’s to what’s next!
Christopher M. White
Managing Partner/Mediator/Title Agent