This is a guest post by Todd Reding, the Chief Operations Officer and Vice President for Investments at Charrette Venture Group.
Some design firms have a culture of secrecy. Few people outside of the partners know anything about the finances, the vision or the ways in which the business is run. “They didn’t want us to know about the business because they felt they would be training their future competition,” said one architect. Ironically, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because the younger employees do not feel engaged, informed or a part of the larger picture, they eventually leave and launch their own firm or join a competitor.
Building a culture of transparency will create stronger bonds between firm owners and employees. But many owners ask us what information should be shared. Here are a few suggestions:
Profits and Losses
Break down the profit and loss statement into an abbreviated version that makes sense to everyone. Focus on EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) and narrow the expenses into three or four basic categories. Combine payroll taxes, benefits and wages into one number and be certain to explain that this includes everything associated with employee costs. Share this at least quarterly and always be open for questions. There is no need to discuss compensation in an open forum unless it applies to a firm-wide policy.
Hopefully you have a clear vision of where you want the firm to be in five years, and you know what achievements need to occur to reach that point. If not, invest the time in planning so that this path is clear. Discuss the vision regularly. Address obstacles that threaten your path. Ensure that everyone in your firm understands where you want to be at some point in the future.
Regardless of whether its just you, or you’re in a firm of fifteen, you are running a business! Discuss the business with everyone involved. Talk about your prospective customers, your key challenges, changes in the marketplace, competition, processes, etc. etc. A regular review of the business and its, basic functions, will ensure everyone feels involved in the overall health of the organization. They will be more engaged in helping you strengthen the organization.
Question: How much do you share with YOUR employees?
Charrette Venture Group works with new and growing design firms to build stronger businesses by investing resources and applying proven concepts. Contact the CVG team any time to discuss your firm and learn how a CVG partnership might work for you. Contact Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock / STILLFX