Thursday, July 3, 2014

National Professional Mortgage Magazine - June 2014 - Fostering the Intangible Asset by Cal Haupt

Fostering the Intangible Asset: Corporate Culture

Every organization strives to be highly efficient, effective and achieve better results.  Meticulous business strategies, created through endless hours of meetings, brainstorming sessions, emails and research help to define and align those strategies with a company’s objectives.  Studies show, however, that many businesses oftentimes fail to see the big picture. Quite often the intangible assets of a firm such as employee loyalty and engagement, shared values and beliefs, internal relationships and problem-solving are passed over as either unimportant and irrelevant or given moderate attention only to be pushed aside as more pressing issues take priority.  The fact is, these intangible corporate assets, defined as a culture, have a profound impact on a company’s success. 

Some reports suggest that happy, engaged employees lead to increased success and even profits.  Though the subject is debatable, there’s certainly enough evidence out there to suggest that happy employees, in fact, do correlate to increased profits.  Last year, revenues increased by an average of 22.2 percent for the 2014 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For. If happy employees really do foster success and improve profits, how can an organization establish an interlocking set of goals, values, attitudes and communication that are actively encouraged and reinforced? Sometimes you have to throw the rule book out and get back to basics. 
      1.)    Refrain from outside influence

Defining and building a winning culture sounds pretty simple right? Just pick up a book, read an article or seek outside advice and you’ll be an expert in no time. The truth is there isn’t a book out there that can specifically define the best culture that will work for your firm.  A great corporate culture is masterfully blended from within a company.  And, because each firm is unique with diverse management beliefs and styles and employees from entirely different walks of life and skill levels, it would be nearly impossible to “cookie cut” a corporate culture. Sure, there are always a few lessons to be learned from the experts, but to be truly effective, a culture must be defined by its management, its people and the systems and reinforcements put in place to foster the corporate values and beliefs. 

2.)    Believe in your employees

One of the first steps to create a winning culture in any firm is to believe in your employees.  Establish a level of trust that begins at the top. Engage with employees, encourage them and, most importantly, empower them to make a difference and become a part of the vision of the firm.   Make a point to always recognize and reward employees for their input, insight, effort and contribution.  Humanize your approach to business and make your employees feel connected, important and valued. Make employees feel that they can talk and relate to management and clearly communicate what is expected of them and encourage their voices to be heard. 

3.)    Foster the character of your firm

Have you ever walked into a company and clearly felt upon entering the character (personality or temperament) of the firm?  Right off the bat you could tell employees seemed engaged and happy or, conversely, particularly detached or serious. Our employees seem happy and engaged is a statement we here from most who visit SEM for the first time.   Depending on the nature of your business and demographic make-up of your firm, the character of a firm will oftentimes be defined by its employees.  The culture (way of life, traditions), in turn, will reflect the character of your firm. Therefore, to foster a winning culture, a firm must first strive to understand and embrace its character and cultivate a way of life that is in sync with its personality and people. 
4.)    Respect one another

Clearly, the fastest way to break down corporate culture is to disregard the importance of respect within an organization.  Regardless of status, position, title, wage or salary, employees must respect one another’s opinions and contributions to the firm – no matter how insignificant they may seem from the top. Expectations for employees respect and interaction must be clearly defined and communicated with employees being held accountable for a breakdown. As Albert Einstein was quoted as saying, “Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized.” 

5.)    At the end of the day – have fun

It’s time to walk away from office politics and the corporate rat-race and make work fun again.  Companies need to find ways to reduce stress and build passion back into in the workplace and that strategy may involve a few non-traditional ideas of “employee engagement.” What makes a company fun to work for involves not only understanding what your employees need, but also what they want including such things as flexible schedules, great employee benefits, unique perks or services or opportunities to enhance and develop their careers.  Taking a step back and viewing “fun” from an out-of-the-box perspective may help you better strategize ways to put the passion back into your organization.
Cal Haupt, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Southeast Mortgage of Georgia, Inc.
Cal Haupt founded Southeast Mortgage in 1993 with the vision and goal to fill the void between banks and mortgage brokers for clients who want competent advice and great service from a direct lender.  Today, Southeast Mortgage has eleven office locations throughout Metro Atlanta and is licensed in Georgia, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. Cal is a regular contributor to the Atlanta “Home Mortgages” section of SaportaReport where he reports on major changes in the housing industry and is the brainchild of Atlanta’s newest residential real estate index, The Cal-Culator.  He may be reached at  Page 87

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