Trust: The Foundation of Firm Culture

Four ingredients essential to team building.

Jason Blumer

Jason M Blumer, CPA, CFE, Blumer and Assoc. CPAs

by Jason M. Blumer, CPA, CFE
THRIVEal+CPA Network

Building culture used to be an esoteric activity the dot-com companies, marketing agencies and cool startups thought about.  But building culture is just as important for CPA firms as it is for the next Silicon Valley success.  Building culture takes a lot of work, is highly strategic at its core, and is done over an indefinite period of time.

CPA firms need culture just as much as any company.  In fact, if they are going to be culturally effective in 10 years, they must begin developing culture now.  I’ve found our own firm’s journey towards building our culture has taken a long time, has taken a vision with piercing focus and a team who believes in our future.

I see the culture in our firm having four parts.

Culture is:

1. a distinctive place,

2. where team members can belong,

3. where the creation of culture is set by the firm leader, and

4. where the entire company believes in their product.

And I believe trust is the foundation on which all pieces come together.

A Distinctive Place Where Team Members Can Belong

To belong to a distinctive culture, team members must trust one another.  All team members must know that the rest of the team is on the same page as far as their abilities to perform their respective jobs, and their commitment to doing those jobs.  If the team can’t trust each other, then culture can’t be fully created.  The firm will ultimately fail to become a place where everyone can belong.  And maintaining the culture is the ultimate responsibility of the leadership of the firm. When your team members feel like they belong, and can trust one another, they can make the growth of the firm their ultimate priority.

Creation of Culture is Set by Firm Leadership

To create firm culture, everyone must also trust the leadership of the firm.  The firm leader must have the foresight to lead the firm to become a distinctive place.  It must be distincitve in that there is not another firm like it.  When this become true, culture is growing.  Consistent leadership begets trust from the team members.  Then the team members will understand that the firm is a secure place to grow into the future, because there is not another firm like it.  Trust continues to grow.  To build trust, and ultimately the culture of the firm, the firm leadership must consistently display technical know-how, humble management skills and a commitment to building the superiority of the core services of the firm.  Firm leadership must be adept at developing the current team and the management team of the future.  Building real culture spans years in the life of a firm and trust can be earned by the visionary leader with an eye to the future.

The Firm Team Believes in the Product of the Firm

To build firm culture, everyone must trust the offerings of the firm.  The innovations of the firm and the resulting processes that support the services of the firm further build the culture that everyone believes in.  A team that knows the wisdom of the leadership in the development of its future services can daily support their offerings with enthusiasm and care for their clients.

Culture is a beautiful tapestry running through your firm.  It can be delicate and damaged when ignored and left unurtured, and yet as strong as a fortress against the onslaughts of change.  Place your focus on culture and begin building what will out-last your own leadership.

For a chance to learn how to build culture in your firm, join Jason and CPA Jody Padar as they visit Zappos in Las Vegas to learn about their journey to build great culture in their company.  It will take place just before the Accounting Today Growth & Profitability Summit on Tuesday, Nov. 16 at 3 pm.  Sign up at the THRIVEal.com blog here.