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Why do you do what you do?

By: Kari English

Culture drives behavior and behavior drives actions and habits,” according to David Dickinson, president of Banker’s Compliance Consulting in Central City, Neb. Speaking at the Nebraska Independent Community Bankers annual convention in Lincoln last month, Dickinson explained how he has created a positive culture at his company and how that positive culture is, in part, responsible for growing his company’s revenue more than 80 percent since implementation.

First, Dickinson said, people should not view themselves as employees. “I hate the word ‘staff.’ Staff is an infection,” said Dickinson. “Start referring to them as team members.”

Second, create a playbook for how the bank does business. “Why do you do what you do? It’s not to make money; money is a byproduct,” said Dickinson. He said everyone on the team has to know why they are there and what they are supposed to accomplish; they need a sense of purpose.

Third, Dickinson said his company has a no-complaint policy. If someone does come to him with a complaint, he expects them to have a potential solution to the problem. Similarly, Dickinson tells his employees that he will never criticize them for making decisions in an effort to better the company — even if it is not the best option — because it is a learning experience for the team member. “Empower your team to make decisions,” Dickinson said.

The five enemies of unity, Dickinson told the NICB members, are poor communication, gossip, unresolved disagreements, lack of a shared purpose and sanctioned incompetence.

“It’s everyone’s job to make the five enemies stay away and it will be a constant battle,” Dickinson said. 

Once the team is a happy, cohesive group, it may be a good time for some in management positions to consider retirement. Succession planning was the focus for speaker Dave Specht, president, Advising Generations LLC. “Whose responsibility is it to have a conversation about the path of succession?” Specht asked the members. Many just invite the younger generation back and say, “There’s plenty of work.” But that’s not enough, according to Specht. The older generation needs to communicate its wishes to the younger generation to avoid succession problems.

Specht asked the bankers to consider what questions various partners might have about succession planning. For example, what questions might a minority owner that is not family but works in the business have? Specht said oftentimes they are wondering if the owner is planning to sell. Or they are wondering if the next generation is capable. Are family issues, such as divorce, creeping into the business? Are family members being compensated appropriately for their work? Specht said key non-family employees are sometimes the most valuable assets during transitions because they can be the glue that keeps everything functioning.

He then asked the bankers what questions a family member who works in the business but does not have ownership might be wondering. Some common questions Specht hears from this group are: How do I get ownership? What is the transition plan? Why does someone who is family but doesn’t work in the business get ownership and I don’t?

Finally, Specht asked convention attendees what questions an owner who is family but does not work in the bank has about succession planning. Specht said they are probably wondering how they will fit in and where their children fit in. What about their dividend? Should they be patient if they do not get a dividend at some point?

Ultimately, Specht said the goal is to preserve Nebraska’s most precious asset: the family business.

Kari English is senior editor of BankNews.

Copyright (c) December 2012 by BankNews Media