News Article

8 November 2008

Another great example of a company’s best defence against economic meltdown!

Last month our Chairman wrote an article on this website about a great Northern Ireland company called Lunn’s the Jewellers [“Lunn's Create the "Best" Defence Against The Credit Crunch”] and a great leader, the Chairman and MD, Peter Lunn. Lunn’s are managing to resist the worst of the ravages of the current global meltdown because they have built an organisation climate based on employee engagement – so everyone is working for the good of the company and its customers.

Implicitly, the article suggested that a company which, in terms of the overall global economy is not a major player, could help us understand and apply some of the basic business lessons and principles to (a) resist the hard times and (b) flourish during the good times. In short, the article was intended to encourage business leaders, who are reeling currently as Wall Street and the City of London struggle to keep our global economy afloat, to keep focused on maximising the contribution of their people. One of the thrills we have in Value the Person is that we get to work with (- and learn from) great leaders such as Peter Lunn. We have recently completed a visit to another of our business friends in America called the Financial Consulate run by another great leader called Drew Tignanelli. This company has managed to resist most of the recent ravages of the economic downturn and we were interested to see how they had achieved this.

The Value the Person ‘Health Check’

The Financial Consulate
Our task during this visit was to undertake a ‘health check’, to monitor the progress of this incredibly successful company – even in the face of a pending meltdown. The Financial Consulate is a Maryland-based company, who have enjoyed unprecedented success in recent years, and who have a unique corporate philosophy built around their objective to free their clients from the burdens of money management so that they may focus more of their energies on developing strong relationships with family, friends and all other key individuals in their lives.

Our health check revealed that, even though the company has grown significantly over the last year, they have managed to maintain an incredible level of motivation which has resulted in the company bucking all the downward trends in their financial investment sector.

For example, one senior manager reported during the workshop that at a recent lunch with friends in similar roles in other investment companies she was quite embarrassed. Her friends were reporting the adverse situation their businesses were facing from clients but she, quite to their surprise and her slight embarrassment, reported how well the Financial Consulate’s clients were coping under the current pressure primarily because of the trust clients had in the business and their people.

What Are Drew’s Secrets?

The Financial Consulate
Over the years, Drew has developed and applied very, very similar leadership principles to Peter Lunn despite them developing their leadership philosophies independently thousands of miles apart. Drew’s leadership philosophy was best described by himself when, towards the end of workshop, he espoused a couple of his quite unique views on leadership:-

1. Servant Leadership - Protect, nourish and honour Drew reminded all employees that he viewed his obligations to employees as the President of the company:
● Protecting – ensuring that FC employees’ personal interests are protected during their time with the company, and even beyond. Drew believes that an important element of his role is to ensure that FC does all it can to look after the livelihood of each employee.
● Nourishing – taking this interest in each employee one step further, Drew believes that his role is to identify the talents of each employee and to develop these for the good of the individual and the company to create a ‘win-win’ scenario.
● Honour – finally, as if protecting the interests of each employee and identifying and developing their talents weren’t enough, in his leadership position Drew believes it is his role to respect the personal decisions of everyone who chooses FC as their place of work. This specifically involves treating people as individuals and not as resources available to the company. For example, if an employee wants to pursue a particular aspect of the work of FC, Drew will honour their decision and, furthermore, encourage them as much as possible.

2. Free To Come & Free To Go – Both Clients and Employees As the company leader, Drew believes that it is his role to set the standard for the treatment of all FC’s clients. At the core of their approach to looking after every client is the philosophy that they are “free to come and free to go”.

The Financial Consulate
What he means by that is that, unlike other financial investment companies, the FC will do their very best to understand and meet the needs of every client, but if the client wishes to leave, FC will assist them to do so with no penalties. On the contrary, FC will give their clients every assistance to transfer to other advisors.

[N.B. It is worth mentioning at this juncture that the current meltdown is something the FC have talked about to their clients for many years and, therefore, are not surprised about in any way. They have warned about the leveraged games of Wall Street for many years and the complicity of the Fed. However, their significant amount of cash and bonds has helped to insulate a good portion of their portfolio. None of their portfolio is exposed to financial securities and their cash is in TBills and FDIC insured banks.]

Concerning Drew’s responsibilities to employees, he similarly believes that as a servant leader, he adopts a similar approach. For example, a previous employee had wanted to establish her own business - a dream she had long nurtured without discussing it with anyone. When he learned about the employee’s dream, Drew engaged in practical discussions with her and actively encouraged her to pursue this dream, even though her departure would seriously adversely impact the performance of the FC.

Today that employee is well established in this new venture!

Learning Points from the Workshop

As often happens at Value the Person workshops, we learn as much as the client!

We learnt much from Drew and his exceptionally talented people about effective leadership and creating an engaged organisation climate. Thank you.

We hope that all our friends at the FC were able to assess where they are currently in their ongoing journey to create a great company and, also, developed a few actions which, if they delivered diligently, would enhance even more their engaged organisation climate – the key to a really great company and the best defence against economic meltdown and beyond!

The Financial Consulate
Drew Tignanelli (right) and Tim Maurer (the FC’s Financial Planning Director and radio programme co-host)