When Rick Bennett and Ken Thrasher decided to team up back in 1980 they were very clear about the values the firm was going to live by: Integrity, Family, and Clients. The management of the firm revolves around these values and monthly meetings are used to reinforce values.

And because company values were so important to the partners, they had to make a difficult decision to spin off the consulting side of the business because of a misalignment in values. And, during this transition most employees wanted to stay with Bennett Thrasher because of the strong company culture, which was a sign to the partners that their decision was the right one for the company’s future.

In 2002 with 8 partners, the firm was 50 strong and unlike the early years of rapid growth, the partners decided that a more controlled growth path would insure that their culture remain strong and allow all professionals to be well trained using an audit system second to none.

As they brought new partners on, their recruiting process focused on uncovering the values of potential partners, a lesson learned early on. To this day, the big question is always “Do they fit culturally?” And because family is a core value most interview questions revolve around “who they are” not “what they do”. Partners listen for what drives a potential partner and ultimately spouses become part of the interview process.

Now in 2013, they have 23 partners with over 150 professionals. Their growth continues with a focus on values and employee needs. Partners have three primary goals: business development, culture support, and community involvement. They are encouraged and measured on each of these components annually.

The firm has instituted a number of programs to support their values over the years. And one of the foundational programs is DOHC- Direct, Open, Honest Communication. During the onboarding process, new employees are introduced to the DOHC process of communication, which is designed to create a safe working environment.  Once trained on the process, all firm employees know that when someone makes the statement ”I need to have a DOHC with you” it means that a crucial conversation is about to start. Not only does DOHC encourage open communications it also fosters collaboration amongst professionals.

Additional programs that have been added or changes have been made to include the formal feedback process. It is now delivered right after the busy season for employees so that timing is closer to actual performance.

For women with children, part time positions are now available aligning with the company value of family. This shift has helped with retaining many female professionals who might have otherwise left the profession because of problems balancing work and family. 

Lessons learned: when making decisions stay true to your core values, choose the right team members who align with your values, and integrate these values into the performance management system.