After attending a recent conference and thinking about the company culture we’re striving to build at Shepherd Financial, this quote from Richard Branson kept running through my head:
‘Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.’
It’s true. All the things we’re passionate about here (for our clients!) – creating financially healthy individuals, retirement-ready participants, and responsible plan fiduciaries – happen when we take care of our team first. While we are a young company, our growth has been rapid, and keeping this conversation about culture in the front of our minds is essential to our continued success.
Our leadership team at Shepherd has used the following questions to help guide our planning process. As you craft your own benefits package and design the structure of your retirement plan, consider asking yourself these same questions.
What is your company identity?
In other words: who are you? How did you get here? Why are you doing what you’re doing? If you can clearly articulate the answers to these questions, logical decisions about how to care for your team will follow.
What is the tie-in?
Benefits for your employees should align with what you’re trying to accomplish as a company. Consider your environment and what’s appropriate for your team – from a financial perspective, think about what you can afford, both right now and in the future. If your desire is to offer a more robust package over time, share that vision with your team.
Why do these benefits matter?
When selecting plan specifications (automatic features, vesting schedule, etc.), consider how they will be used to both recruit and retain your employees. Do your benefits meet the practical needs of the people you’ve hired? Are you putting your team members in a position to retire well? Is their hard work going to pay off in the future? How are you financially sharing corporate success with each person?
Ultimately, your retirement plan and benefits package need to reflect how you want to be seen by your employees and the community. Don’t segment your decisions – instead, consider how they impact the whole landscape of your employees’ lives. This process won’t happen overnight, but if you’re not deliberate, it won’t happen at all. Remember who comes first, and act accordingly.
The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been making waves, urging corporations to be – as you may have guessed – socially responsible. In other words, deliberately conducting business in a way that creates a positive impact in the community, environment, and society. The goals of CSR include the following:
- Developing innovative practices that create sustainability and minimize our carbon footprint
- Implementing fair and ethical practices with regard to our products, employees, and clients
- Caring for others through our philanthropic efforts, whether a donation of money, products, or services
As both consumers and prospective employees more highly prioritize the CSR of the businesses they choose, corporations would do well to develop relevant policies for their teams. However, CSR established merely as a public relations ploy will lack the heart needed to make a legitimate impact in the world.
But employees long to be engaged with things that matter; even smaller companies can begin to integrate CSR tenets within their culture. (Key to the conversation? A firm understanding of and commitment to the general purpose and values of the company itself.) Focus on making this concept of giving back, which can encompass all the goals of CSR, a regular part of conversations with your team.
For greater employee buy-in, ask individuals to identify businesses, causes, and projects that align with their personal interests. Highlight the importance of CSR by clearly communicating its value to your company. As an example, at Shepherd Financial, we have committed to serving together as a team every quarter, and our employees are provided with two paid days each year to volunteer where they choose.
While we are providing a benefit to someone else, these team service projects have also been a gift to us. We are able to step away from a fast-paced, demanding schedule, spend time together, and realign our priorities. Top of the list? Helping people. And whether it is through a service project, creating a plan to eliminate debt, or helping successfully usher someone into retirement, we know that genuine relationships matter. So we continue to emphasize the importance of investing in others and giving back.
Do we have room to grow in our CSR efforts? Absolutely. And we’re dedicated to continuously looking for ways we can help people, strengthen relationships, and positively impact our world.
A special year-end note from Leah, partner and Director of Retirement Plan Services at Shepherd Financial:
I should preface this by saying I am not at all a blogger – my degree is in Mathematics, so I don’t claim to have a way with words. But I am obsessed with people who do – my newsfeed is full of great writers talking about the things I love – like food, fashion, and Notre Dame football, just to name a few! So I hope I do the blogging world justice with this post, because I have something important to say.
Our industry moves fast, and our team at Shepherd is constantly running at breakneck speed to stay ahead of the curve. It seems as if each year goes faster than the one before, and December feels like it’s gone as soon as it starts – between work deadlines, holiday parties, and a million errands, I often find my head spinning. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a joyful time, full of celebrations and things to be happy about. But because of our frenetic pace, I sometimes have to force myself to pause and reflect on the past year.
And when I do, I am just in awe. 2018 was a really big year, both personally and professionally. I have some wonderful trophies to remember the year by – I was published and made partner – and I am so grateful for them! But the biggest accomplishments, in my mind, are the relationships I have built or deepened this year.
I have been here since the beginning and gotten to see Shepherd Financial grow right in front of my eyes. We still have a long way to go and are always trying to innovate, but we are doing so many things well. The level of service we are able to offer to our clients has increased exponentially. The success stories we hear from helping plan sponsors and participants show we’re making positive contributions, and I’m so proud to be part of those experiences.
This was a pivotal year for our team – we adopted a new branch and have experienced the growing pains that come along with opening our arms to more people. We are still in process as we figure out how to improve, learn, and grow together. While we have good and bad days, I believe we will ultimately come out better than before.
And that’s largely due to the fact that I am blessed to be surrounded by really good and extremely talented people. The makeup of our team is so unique, and I am consistently impressed by each person. I believe I am part of a truly special group, and if we’ve come this far in four years, there’s no telling what we can accomplish in the future. In the grand scheme of things, we’re really only in the beginning of our story.
So from the bottom of my heart, whether you are a client, service partner, or one of my team members, thank you for sharing in this with me. I’m in awe and so, so grateful.
We work in an industry focused on finances and future planning – two areas that can cause great stress. Our team strives to minimize worry, provide resources, and help each client feel equipped to achieve success, but that can sometimes mean working in a state of hustle and bustle. As we enter November and turn our eyes toward Thanksgiving, we’d like to slow down and highlight a few of our many blessings here at Shepherd Financial.
We are thankful for one another. Knowing how much we need each person’s skills and gifts, we feel so fortunate to work together. Each team member cares deeply about our clients, each other, and producing consistent, high-quality work. In the three years that Shepherd Financial has existed, we have experienced tremendous growth, and it couldn’t happen without the whole team giving their all every single day. We continue to challenge and encourage one another as we take on new roles and responsibilities.
We are thankful for our growing pains. As our partners moved from solo practices into a true team practice, we experienced our share of struggles and setbacks. Each problem, though, has allowed us to learn more about one another, strengthen our team bond, and produce creative solutions – such as customized videos, extensive fiduciary training, and e-newsletters designed specifically for either plan sponsors, participants, or individual clients. Moving into our fourth year, we are seeing incredible fruit from our hard work together. Because we have been through these storms, our successes seem that much sweeter.
We are thankful for our role in the industry. Our work has been noticed and lauded by several elite industry magazines and organizations in the past few years, a testament to the many ways Shepherd Financial seeks to innovate, implement best practices, and lead the charge for retirement readiness and financial wellness. Our team depth has really allowed us to see particular needs and move quickly to meet them. We are also thankful for both our partners and competitors in the industry – we are seeing positive momentum in bringing awareness and resources to underserved participants.
And, of course, we are thankful for our clients. We simply would not exist without you. Because we have the opportunity to work with corporations and individuals across the nation, representing a wide variety of industries and demographics, we gain new knowledge every day to better serve each of you. Our team has adapted how we communicate with specific groups of participants, figured out how to navigate different challenges, and interacted with many amazing people. We are truly blessed to partner with you!
Here’s to a season and spirit of gratitude.
–The Shepherd Financial Team