How can employees be more important than clients? This notion feels counterintuitive. After all, your clients pay your bills and fund your growth.
Most advisory firms operate with a “client-first” strategy, meaning that pleasing clients comes before everything else. While serving clients with great care and attention defines your firm’s mission, the health of your enterprise depends on employees. Without them, you would not have the capacity to grow, the ability to deliver an exceptional client experience or, in some cases, the technical qualifications to perform vital functions.
Every employee represents a point of leverage for your firm. The single biggest inhibitor to growth in the advisory business is a lack of capacity for more clients. Technology helps, of course, but in the end this is a people business. Even the great technology companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft and IBM don’t operate with robots alone. They employ thousands of talented people to help them innovate and execute on their plans.
Most advisors we know have a “go-to” person in their firm, someone they turn to for an opinion or to get things done. Certain key people know the details of the business and where to look for important pieces of information. Others have a finger on the pulse of the rest of the staff and are able to guide the leader in relating to employees.
Regrettably, these are the very people many leaders take for granted. Like the much-used dominant hand that opens doors, picks up the telephone and twists off a bottle cap, these people often get treated like dependable appendages rather than irreplaceable and respected individuals. Imagine how hard it would be for your firm to function without your valuable employees.
Don’t Tell Me, Show Me
It’s easy to give lip service to the key people in your firm. You thank them publicly at different events, wish them a happy birthday and send them to conferences. But how do you treat them throughout the days, weeks and years?
Let’s role-play a few scenarios.
Imagine that you are in the middle of a serious conversation with a frustrated and overwhelmed top employee when your biggest, richest client calls to speak with you. What do you do?
Imagine that your largest client is verbally abusive to your staff. One day, he comes into your office and lets loose on your best employee with a stream of vulgarities and insults. What do you do?
Imagine that your valued employee is planning to take his kids to see their favorite performer and the date has been in the calendar for months. When the day arrives, a major client needs something from this employee by the next morning. What do you do?