Culture? What culture?

This is part 3 of a 6 part series

Vision, Values and Accepted Actions

The culture of your firm is defined by the vision, values, and accepted actions. The synergy between these three elements will identify the type of people who will thrive in your practice. Having clarity around your vision will help you steer the firm in the right direction. The values you uphold will define the behaviours you encourage. And your practices are what hold everyone accountable.

To really define your culture, everyone needs to be held accountable. People buy into the culture of a practice and are easily discouraged when there is a two tier system. This could mean a disconnect between Management and staff, or between different teams. A unifying culture is powerful and helps firms retain their people, and win business.

Vision, values, and actions work hand in hand. The actions that you support should correlate to the values which are lived, which drive you towards your vision.

Culture is more than just words on a piece of paper. It’s the environment that you’re creating. It should be everything from the way that people answer the phone, through to how they dress for work, through to the marketing material you supply.

Your culture is your firm’s voice and flows through every aspect of your firm

If your culture is more ‘approachable’, the language in your materials should demonstrate this. Once again, we come back to having a uniform voice to all prospective targets. You want clients and staff looking at you in the same light.

When people think “I want an approachable accountant who will cut through the jargon and explain this to me”, they think of you. You also want people who think “I want to work in a firm that has highly approachable people”, to think of you.

Conversely, there are teams that are fuelled by the competitiveness of their colleagues. For Partners building teams like this, it is in their best interest to enforce friendly rivalry. Having competitions internally around who can win a certain sum of work motivates and stimulates people in these areas. And if the team can congratulate each other afterwards and work together, you’ve created harmony.

The actions you encourage should support your values and work towards your vision

Employer Value Proposition

Your Employer Value Proposition (EVP) is what you offer candidates. It is the clearly articulated point of difference of your practice and it needs to be unique to you. Historically, firms have struggled with articulating this.

Big 4 firms are typically seen as large behemoths that impose long working hours. They are large machines that burn through people who buy into the glitz and glamour. Sidenote: This is general perception, not necessarily my personal view.

In recent times, PwC has fought this archetype. There have been a number of images on LinkedIn demonstrating the more human side of the firm. This has included pictures of people bringing children to work, and those working from home.

This has helped them shift their EVP to one that puts people first. The message they are now trying to articulate is that people can work with large clients and still have a life. They understand that their preconceived notions aren’t helping them attract the people that they need.

It is increasingly difficult to attract the right people to your business. What is unique about your firm that will attract the people you want? Is it the clients? The location? The flexibility? What is it that you’re offering that’s unrivalled? And how well can you articulate this? Is this congruent to what your staff think?

As firms move into the future, the importance of EVP will increase significantly. Think of the large brands; Google, Apple, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, and Facebook. What do people think of when they think of them as businesses and working there?

What does your brand say about you?



1. Write down three unique elements of your firm that you think contribute to your EVP, and three adjectives to describe your culture.

2. Ask a few of your longstanding team members, and a few newer ones, to do the same.

3. Compare and contrast the differences. Is there synergy?

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