In June 12, our firm is hosting Be Our Guest (, where a $1,000 donation to the Foundation for Financial Planning gives advisors like you a full day with the employees in our firm and a deep dive into how we approach all aspects of running a wealth management firm dedicated to improving the individual and collective lives of those we serve.

The day is hosted by my partner and next generation shareholder Becky Krieger. I was thinking about why we are excited about opening ourselves up to an expensive day of disruption and providing other advisors with access to our firm’s positive attributes as well as its warts. The only reason I could come up with was culture.

Every firm has a culture. Some firms describe it in an aspirational framework that isn’t always honest, leaving co-workers confused and frustrated. Understanding your firm’s culture helps with hiring and retaining the best advisors. Knowing yourself and your partners creates norms about how we treat our clients and each other. It leads to a sustainable business serving both clients and staff. And it is messy trying to stay in alignment when the siren call of temptation regarding business execution conflicts with the desire to do things the right way. Opening up our firm to Be Our Guest also recognizes the importance our culture places on representing the organization through community involvement.

For the last couple of years, we have worked on a cultural constitution developed by a task force charged with describing who we really are and what we value. We ended up breaking things down into our core values for the following areas: Mindset, Clients, Self, Team and Firm. Each of those values has descriptive behaviors and expectations around how we act. Rather than take you through each of these five values, I want to describe one as a way for you to accurately define your own firm culture. Let’s take “Self.”

Conspicuously absent from our final constitution regarding self was anything related to the popular concept of life balance.  “We believe in life balance” was eliminated, and replaced by “Own your personal development.” That is a consequential change and allows us to have meaningful conversations with those we recruit or manage.

We landed here because in a service business, life balance is not realistic. Clients have personal anxieties, perceived needs and expectations. Their needs may not lend themselves naturally to financial advisors with a nine-to-five job. On the other hand, if our advisors’ children are participating in sports activities, we want co-workers to be able to get there. Owning personal development means more than continuous self-improvement, it implies determining how best to create harmony among the competing aspects of our lives. Here are some of the things that we include in owning our personal development.

Challenging myself to lean in to new experiences and exhibiting curiosity to continually learn and experience more. Curiosity means asking more than telling. That is true whether we’re working with clients and interacting with each other. Leaning in to new experiences creates a willingness to explore possibilities and maintain an open mind set.

We recently had difficulty with an outside accountant replacing the previous accountant from the same firm. The new accountant was not collaborative with us because, in part, he needed to be the expert. Rather than creating room to work for the client behind the scenes to come up with the best solution, he pitted us against them. In a situation where a previously happy client has to choose, only the client ends up losing. Had the accountant had a more open mind set, the client would have been better served. And had we noticed the accountant’s behavior earlier, we could have more easily created a way to allow him to shine with the client.

Taking care of myself, including making use of paid time off and flex hours. While perfect balance may not exist, it may not even be desirable. We all go through periods where family takes precedence over work or work may need to be emphasized over family. Taking care of ourselves means that we are choosing to have authority over our lives, even if we don’t have total control.

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