AA 99 | Corporate Culture

 

A great corporate culture always starts with the owner. The owner is the person that gets to decide what kind of culture they want for their business. And if you want to keep retention high, you want a good culture. Join Michelle Weinstein as she talks to the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Profit First Professionals, Ron Saharyan. Ron has over 15 years of experience in managing organizational growth and built multiple companies in the staffing industry. Learn how he establishes culture in his business so he can keep employees happy and productive. Give your employees gifts, bonuses, time, and purpose so that they know they are doing something great. Start increasing your retention rates today!

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Building A Corporate Culture To Keep Retention High With Ron Saharyan

We have a very special guest. Our special guest is the Cofounder and Managing Partner of Profit First Professionals. Our special guest is Ron. He has over fifteen years of experience in managing organizational growth. He has also built multiple companies in the staffing industry prior to launching Profit First Professionals in 2014. Ron lives in New Jersey with his wife, Mary, and their daughter. I’m very excited about our topic because it’s about building corporate culture, which then leads to retention, which also leads to a decrease on the hiring side and more of investing in the long-term, which ultimately helps revenue and profitability.

Before we invite Ron onto the show, I want to also let you know that as an accounting professional, I know that some of you may be really frustrated and stressed trying to get the right type of clients, having no control over who you’re working with, how much you should be charging, and you probably don’t believe that people will pay high monthly fee engagements based on what you think the client can pay versus what you think they can afford.

It’s not your fault. I know that nobody is training you on how to really fix these problems and connect the dots. If you are looking to figure that piece out, I am offering a one hour call for those of you that own a firm who have been in business for at least two years if you head on over to TheAbundantCall.com. On this call, we’re going to get to the truth of where your firm is at right now, and where you want it to be, what does the dream client look like, and how much you should be charging to hit those goals, and a bunch of other things. You’ll have massive clarity on the vision that you have for your firm. If that’s you, then head on over to TheAbundantCall.com. You’ll book a call with myself or my partner, Denise. Now, let’s welcome Ron to the show. Welcome, Ron, to the show.

Michelle, thank you for having me back.

I am so excited to have you back. I am so grateful I get an hour of your time every year.

You get more than that. Come on.

I know, between our phone calls, but I mean for the show, we are very grateful for your presence here. For those that are reading that don’t know you, and I’ve done your intro, but I always think it’s better to hear from you directly. Can you share with everyone what is it that you do and who you are?

I’m Ron Saharyan, Cofounder of Profit First Professionals, along with my business partner, Mike Michalowicz, who wrote the book, Profit First. Profit First is a limited membership organization of elite accountants, bookkeeping, and coaching firms.

We’ve worked with many Profit First professionals. Ron, I got a puppy. We were talking a little bit about that earlier. I was like, “What am I going to do about pet insurance?” I’m not kidding you, there are a hundred pet insurances. I have gotten quotes from all of them. None of it makes sense. Ellen, one of your Mastery members, she goes, “You should just do this Profit First style. Open up a bank account, make it for the whatever you were going to pay in insurance, and put it towards that. You’ll probably end up with way more in the long run.” I was like, “That’s a great idea.”

One of the things, Michelle, that we’re talking throughout the community is everybody is experiencing the pain of inflation and shrinkflation. One of the advices that we’re giving our members to give their customers is to set up a gas account. It is so expensive that gas is going to be there. It’s almost as important as a profit account if you will. Also, getting back to grandmother’s envelope budgeting methodology, one of the accounts that my grandmother had was a food account. This stuff is getting very expensive out there. Accountants and bookkeepers, they should be always busy in making good income, but this is advice that they can be sharing with their customers who may not be in such a good position.

With inflation, just set up a gas account. It's going to be almost as important as a profit account. Share on X

Ellen’s feedback for me on my post about dog insurance was great. I was like, “I never thought about it, but way to go. Go Profit First.” I know on this episode, we’re going to talk about something for firm owners a little different on, even if you’re a one-person show or two-person show, or even a small firm, but how can that corporate culture make an impact on your revenue? Being able to do Profit First in our firms, you have to also have revenue, otherwise, there is no profit. This is always talking about ways to increase our revenue in our firms. I think this is a great topic.

I’m excited to talk about these tips on what you’ve seen work in other firms that you’ve consulted with. What can some of the firm owners do today to start a corporate culture, if they don’t even have one? Some people might not like the word corporate, so maybe there’s a different word we can come up with that and reframe it a little bit. That’s what we’re talking about, so I’m super excited to have this conversation with you.

Things are different. We’ve all heard about the Great Resignation, and then we’ve heard about Elon Musk and other people saying, “Get your butts back into these seats here.” The reality is that it is different. The owners of firms, companies, regardless how big or small they are, have to be understanding of this. Retention is the key here on what we’re talking about. Having a great corporate culture actually starts with the owner. It starts with them. What kind of culture do they want?

Here, we’ve developed what I like to call a Family First Culture, which is the fusion of work and life. What that means, Family First, is that I never want any of our staff or our team members to miss anything that they have going on with their loved ones. I don’t want them to miss a school event. I don’t want them to miss a birthday party. I don’t want them to miss an opportunity to do something. By having that family first mindset in realizing that a happy employee’s family is an even better employee. They’re more in line with what your corporate goals are, what you’re trying to accomplish as an individual, and that you realize that they are humans first instead of looking at them as resources first. We’ve been able to do that, and we lead by example with regards to that.

AA 99 | Corporate Culture

Corporate Culture: Start having a family-first culture. Make it so that your team never misses anything they have going on with their loved ones. Know that a happy employee makes an even better employee.

 

What are some ways that you’ve led by example that firm owners could do with their team or admin, or I’m curious too, if you can talk about this, for those that have a remote team? They’re outsourcing and stuff like that. What could they do?

Let’s talk about the fir first one, then we’ll get into the remote because we are remote, we have a lot of remote staff as well. The first thing, living by example, is I schedule time for my daughter. She’s a single child. I take her to school. I pick her up from school. I’m not doing work during those times. There’s nothing going on that’s more important. They see that on my calendar. I say to them, “You guys can do the same thing. If you have a regular reoccurring something with your family, whether it’s taking care of an in-law, whether it is picking up your kid at 2:30 from the bus stop, weave that into it. That’s okay.” We’ve proven that the work can be done almost anywhere.

I think that is important. If you’re like me and have a puppy scheduled time, you’ve got to take them outside, eat 3, 4 times a day. This is the schedule change in the last 24 hours, but how can you weave that in and implement that for your team? Those are the important moments.

We’ve got a COVID dog, Golden Retriever. My wife works corporate, and there was a time where she had to go and I had to go, so I basically blocked off my 1:00 hour because I have to go home and take care of the dog. If you guys got a COVID dog, you’ve got to do that too. If you just had a baby or coming back from maternity leave, it’s okay to have the baby crying. It’s okay to have the dog whimpering. It’s okay because we are humans first, and we’re all going through this stuff. That’s the good thing that COVID resulted. It actually opened up corporate to the more human side of business.

The good thing that COVID brought was that it actually opened up corporate to the more human side of the business. Share on X

It definitely did. There were good and a lot of not so good, but I think the human first element in realizing the areas that are important to us. If we’re not treating our staff with Human First, and if we’re going in with Resource First, and I think a lot of companies realized that in the last couple years, those people didn’t come back, “I’m better off not working.”

The executives are realizing that, “I’m not the only one that can just have all these perks. Everybody should have all these perks.” With remote staff, we have staff in California. I’m in New Jersey. We have staff in California, Oklahoma, Michigan, Atlanta, and the Philippines. We have a meeting every single morning, and everybody participates. During that meeting, we call it a huddle, but it’s an accountability meeting and a get-to-know meeting, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s very structured.

We actually have people coming in from other organizations that actually video and watch us how we do our morning meetings. That’s a really cool way to get an understanding from a corporate perspective. Everybody gets about a minute to say something. It starts off with, “How was your day yesterday?” Then we talk about, “What was your big one?” Then we talk about, “Did you get your big one done? Who impacted you positively?” Then personal update, “How did it all go?”

For me this morning, it went, “Yesterday was a great day. My big one was to conduct my GMAP Podcast. That was awesome. Our guests were great. My big one today is to crush my podcast with Michelle Weinstein. Shout out to Justin. Justin helped me get these books in the mail. I really appreciate that. Personal update, my wife has been in New York City. She’s been working on some stuff here. I can’t wait for her to get home.” Everybody goes through that. If you notice, there are a couple of things happening. One, status updates. One is the one big thing that you’re doing today that is going to move the business the furthest? Did you do it or did you not? If you didn’t do it, why not?

Many people are on your call every morning, Ron?

Fifteen.

Everyone has a turn to say all of these in the group?

Yes. In the beginning, we had to use a stopwatch.

I bet because people would talk over time.

Especially me. You get in a rhythm, and it’s good because it’s a 15, 20-minute meeting at the most. I know what everybody’s big one is. I know what’s going on in their lives. Somebody might say, “My husband is this, or my kid is celebrating that. My kid is going to a lacrosse championship, or I’m putting in a bathroom,” a lot of stuff, so that way, I’m able to take a temperature of the staff and be more personable and understand if somebody needs a hug, somebody needs a hug. Also what we do at the end of the meeting, we have a prize wheel. Whoever gets the most shout-outs gets to win the prize wheel. They spin it. On that prize wheel, we have some funny stuff. We have a dollar jar. Every day, we put a dollar in regardless, and then when somebody spins the wheel, they win the money jar. That’s pretty cool.

The next one is pick an office snack. They pick an office snack. Another one is high-fives, another one is a six-pack of beer. It’s various different fun things. Then at the end, we all put our hands in and say, “On 3 profit. 1, 2, 3, Profit.” We’re trying to make things fun. It’s goofy. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but that’s okay. Not everybody is going to be right for every culture. What is the culture that you want to have in your business and champion that culture?

AA 99 | Corporate Culture

Corporate Culture: Try to make your company fun and goofy. It might not be everybody’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. Not everybody is going to be right for your culture. As the owner, find what culture you want to have.

 

I’m curious, for those people that were not on board with your morning huddle up meeting every day, depending on where they lived in your team, has anyone not wanted to participate and they just left the company because it wasn’t a good corporate culture?

Yes and no. The yes is they hated it every single day. Two, they participated in it begrudgingly. Three, we ended up letting them go.

There is a time where it’s not going to work out, and those people were let go. They didn’t meet and fit with the company culture. Even though it sounds like a really great time and there are prizes and you get to know what your teammates are doing, if they’re not on board with it, then they’re probably not a good fit.

We hire for culture and we teach, but sometimes you get into the rhythm and it just wasn’t her cup of tea. A lovely person, but hated some of the things that we did. You could tell, because when we do our Zoom meetings, everybody has to have the camera on. Cameras are always on. Why? Facial expressions are important. I want to see if people are engaging. I want to see if people are rolling their eyes, and it’s okay to roll your eyes. It’s fun. Video’s on, and this was just so difficult for this person that it really sucked the energy out of her and sucked the energy out of us.

You’re trying to create this culture and fun, and updating everybody on what everyone’s doing, and you have a prize wheel, and if they don’t appreciate that, then it’s definitely not a good fit. I know, Ron, you did some other cool things too for your staff and your team with the sneakers. I’d love it if you could share that, because I think that was so unique. It goes along with how to improve your corporate culture and what unique things you want to do for your staff and your team.

A couple of things. When there’s gift giving, and that can be in the material things, and there are also bonuses. A lot of companies give bonuses at the end of the year, and that’s nice. We don’t do that. We give quarterly bonuses. It has a lot more staying power. They look forward to it. That’s one thing. The material gifts, we like to give our staff and our members quality that’s going to last, but also something that people aren’t just going to throw away when they get it.

This year 2022, what we decided to do is give the staff their choice of custom sneakers. Literally, we went to Nike, and anybody can go do this, Nike.com, and you can customize your sneakers. We customized them with the Profit First branding colors. We have brand standards. We were able to put PFP on them, and the staff got to pick whether they wanted a cool retro flat or a running shoe.

 

I love that. When you told me that, I’m like, “Wow.” That’s unique. I think there are a lot of people, including myself, when it comes time for material gift giving, one of the corporate cultures I did with my team this year 2022 is we went to Seven Story Mansion in Cabo. We had a little retreat. Part work and part chill. Don’t do anything. Don’t work. Just relax and be served. It had four butlers at the house. It was nice.

When it comes to material things, sometimes we do want to give gifts if it’s not going to be a trip or an excursion or financial, like you said, your quarterly bonuses. What other gift-giving have you done in the past, or maybe even some of your Profit First firm owners, that you’ve heard were really unique that maybe could spruce up some ideas and brainstorming right now for those reading?

One of the things that I would recommend is in order to be able to give gifts, you have to have money. Whether that gift is taking care of somebody who’s down on their luck, whether that gift is a reward of some sort, my recommendation is to open up a gift-giving account. We call it a family account. Some of the things that we’ve drawn out of that account for have been to pay for landscaping. One of our guides or coaches who works for us when COVID first hit, her husband is on the frontline here in New Jersey. He’s an ER nurse. We’re like, “He’s working 80-plus hours. He’s not going to be able to do his yard work,” so we paid for their landscaping to get done.

AA 99 | Corporate Culture

Corporate Culture: Reward your employees with gifts and prizes. But in order to be able to give gifts, you have to have money. So start opening up a gift-giving account and draw all your gifts from there.

 

Another one was one of our staff members was looking to adopt. She’s living in an older house that had steam radiators. You can’t have them. She didn’t have the funds. It’s expensive, so we ended up hiring a contractor to box all the radiators. Another one is one of our bookkeepers’ kid broke his arm. We sent some nice, cool gifts over there to them.

We have different types of cards. We work with a local crafter who makes custom cards. One, we get by her, it keeps her going and gets her income. It’s local, it’s cool. We can then send these cards to various people, whether it’s a welcome card, a sorrow card, a congratulations card. We are big givers because that’s part of the culture that we want. Everybody here has the opportunity to give up to $100 in a gift without necessarily asking permission. We have checks and balances in place, and we keep that card very low balance, and they have to check to make sure there’s money on it. If somebody hears something that’s going on with one of our members, maybe they’re sick or their whole family is sick, we’ll send them a DoorDash gift card. We’ll get nice backpacks.

It focuses on quality, but it’s also the fact that you’ve allowed the team to even have, “Here, you have $100 budget,” now you’re listening for, “How could I support somebody? What would be a good gift for them?” I think a lot of times, and I’ve found this in myself even in the past, we’re reactive. Now, you have put in a corporate culture of proactiveness on the giving side, be it gifting or even on the landscaping or DoorDash. I think those are really great.

It’s nice to be nice.

I love gift-giving.

Think about this. Most of your audience are probably accounting firm owners, bookkeeping firm owners.

Everyone here is tax, accounting, bookkeeping, Profit First. They own an accounting firm where they’re in a job run, and they want to get out of that job and they want to start their own.

Keep in mind that most of the people that are coming to see you are nervous. They’re anxious. Chances are their financials aren’t that good and they’re embarrassed. That’s an opportunity right there to give a welcoming gift, “Come on in. This is going to be fun.” There’s so much the accounting and bookkeeping professions can do with their customers to show a little bit of appreciation.

It goes a long way. It’s so unique, and most people don’t do any of this.

The really large corporations do. One of the things that my wife’s company did for their executive staff, and that’s also a caveat though, most of the executive staff gets their perks here. Everybody gets them. They mailed out those solo fire pits. Have you seen them?

No.

They’re really cool fire pits. They’re smokeless fire pits, but they use wood. Every year, their executives get these nice corporate gifts and then $300, $400, which was pretty cool. The big companies do this stuff for the executives. Why? Because they have the money. Smaller firms, like everybody reading here, you should have a personal development account, no doubt about it. You should have a family account. You can call it a gift-giving account. That way, you can actually help.

Otherwise, it’s like you’re not setting aside the funds for it, then you’re like, “Where’s this going to come from?” Where if you have the account, you have the funds in there, now you’re more ready to go and spend it because it’s also with purpose. Every month, you put up the money away. It is with purpose, and it’s not just fly by the seat of your pants. It was thought through, and it was set aside for contribution.

One of the things that we also do is we have quarterly meetings. We fly our remote employees in. Not from the Philippines because you couldn’t get here, but we fly our employees in. We have a one day working session for a couple of hours, maybe a four-hour working session. Then we do something, we do an activity. Some of the activities that we’ve done are bumper ice cars. That was fun. We’ve done hatchet throwing. We’ve done bowling. We’ve done glassblowing. We did ceramics, making pottery. On our next one, we’re going to a Raptor Trust where the birds of prey are here and they’re captive and are maintained, which is all unique fun things to do with the staff.

Who’s planning all this, Ron? I bet there are a lot of people thinking like, “It’s a lot of work what you’re doing.” It’s well thought out. You’re a team of fifteen. What is the process on the behind the scenes on coordinating the quarterly meetings, the every morning meeting, the huddle up, the gift-giving, just all of it? What does the behind-the-scenes process look like? If you could just sum it up and share what you would recommend for a firm owner who’s wanting to implement and put this into action.

You nailed it, process, system. We have a documented process for how we run our morning huddle. Everybody gets a copy of it. Everybody is familiar with it, everybody understands it. There is a system and a process. For the quarterly events, my assistant Sue manages that. She knows when the dates are. We’ve already been doing these, so there’s already, “This is where you park. This is the closest airport, this is the Uber, these are the hotels, everything that you have here.” All the logistics are all taken care of. Then when it comes to the event, it’s, “Sue, find something cool for us to do. Provide me with three options. Ask some of the local people if there’s anything cool that we could do, then let’s figure it out.”

Have processes and systems for everything you do, from your morning huddle to your quarterly events. Share on X

We have four quarterly to plan this so we figured, “What else is out there?” I think the next thing that I’d like to do is there are abandoned railroad tracks around here, and you can ride bikes on them and stuff like that. You go on Groupon, look at cool team building things. It’s not hard, and it’s not expensive. The most expensive bit is the airfare.

Especially nowadays.

Everything that I’m sharing here is with retention in mind for staff, retention in mind for employees, and customers.

Can you share a little bit about your success on the retention side? Like a little case study, you’ve had people around how many years. One of the biggest challenges right now in the industry is finding good people. I hear it all the time from every firm owner that I’ve ever talked to.

The reason is those firm owners have too high of expectations. They expect people to come on in and perform at a level that they would perform at. That’s not reality. Most of the good ones, if they are exceptional, are eventually going to have their own business. The people that we’re working, we have to make sure that they’re coming in and it’s our job as owners to ensure that they’re successful, not it’s their responsibility to be successful.

It's your job as the owner to ensure that your employees are successful. Share on X

I was curious if you could share a little case study at Profit First? You have a team of fifteen. How long have they been around? How has this made a difference on your retention and also on your revenue? I also know that revenue is probably up, but also with retention, it costs a lot more to hire people than it is to keep them around.

We started in 2014. Erin was our first employee, and she’s still with us. I’ve had the pleasure of watching her raise three children in that time. That’s pretty cool. We have Liz. Liz is going to be celebrating her third year with us. Charlene, third year. Billy Ann, fourth or fifth or sixth, I’m not even sure. Angie, the same. We don’t have turnover here. We have people that are asked to leave, if you will. We had two people resign. One of them came in from Texas, realized they hate New Jersey, went back to Texas.

The other one was a kid who just graduated. He didn’t graduate yet. He was about to graduate university with a degree in Accounting. We brought him on in before that, paying him $15, $20 an hour, got his degree, walked out to the Big Four, got a job for $70,000, $75,000, “Congratulations. That’s awesome.” There’s no way I’m going to be able to compete against that, but he’s going to earn that. How do you compete with that? You compete by necessarily not getting the number one student there. You look for other attributions where they’ve hustled, where they’ve overcome adversity. You incent them. You provide them with a great environment, a lot of fun, support them, give them another reason to get up in the morning other than a paycheck. That kid, the only reason he was getting up in the morning was for a paycheck.

AA 99 | Corporate Culture

Corporate Culture: You don’t always need to hire the number one student. Look for other attributions where they hustled and overcame adversity. Look for people who are willing to get up, not just for the paycheck.

 

I think this corporate culture is going to attract a certain type of person, and not everyone is going to be a good fit. I think from what you’ve said, the retention has been so high that this has had a very high payoff for you, a very high ROI. I was curious if you had any hard numbers?

What I can tell you is that when we first started doing this, customer retention was awful. We didn’t know what we were doing. Then we listened to our customers, and we built the systems and processes that they were needing and hired the type of staff that they were looking to need in terms of support. Over those years, our retention went from about 50% to 87% right now, which for a membership organization is probably very good when it comes down to it. All of that retention leads to stability, stable cashflow, and higher revenue.

The customer retention on your end is a direct reflection of the fifteen people on your team. The morning huddle up, the corporate culture, the four quarterly in-person meetings, four hours of work on there, but doing something fun and unique and experiences that they would never do on their own. I would never do any of that on my own.

I wouldn’t do half of the stuff that I’ve done if it wasn’t for this organization. Some of the things that I’ve been able to do has been everything from the Wim Hof stuff of Ice Bath to Fire Walking, you name it. It’s because we’re trying to be more experiential in this business that we call Profit First Professionals. It truly is an experience to work with us and to work in the organization itself.

Ron, thank you so much for taking out the time to share all this. There are a million gold mine gems that you shared for anyone who wants to create a c corporate culture or just ideas for what to do. I think you rattled off at least 20 to 25 great ones. Is there anything else that you want to share or any other tips on corporate culture on how you’ve seen it benefit you and also some of the Profit First Professionals that we didn’t talk about yet? Or do you feel we covered everything?

It’s not about me and Mike. It’s about our staff and our members. It’s about helping them achieve what they’re looking to achieve. It’s about being compassionate. It’s about no dicks allowed. It’s about being nice, and not being so self-absorbed.

Nice caring concern for others.

It starts with the business owner. Here’s the thing, if it’s not genuine, if it’s not the business owner’s personality, then they’re going to see right through it. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not. Be who you are.

Thank you so much, Ron, for being here with us. It is an honor. I’d love to book you again for next year 2023 to make sure that we can have you.

Michelle, it’s my pleasure. You know I love what you do. You’ve helped so many of our members and many non-members. Keep doing what you’re doing. The world needs it. Thank you for allowing me on your platform.

Thank you so much. We’ll have Ron back next year 2023, so make sure to subscribe. Thank you again for being here and taking out the time and sharing your gifts and wisdom and genius, and all these unique ideas. I love them. I made a whole list for myself, so thank you.

You’re welcome.

Thank you all so much for joining Ron and I here on the show. It’s a great episode on corporate culture and building retention, and coming from a place of service and gifting and concern, and just being ahead of the game with everything related to your team, your staff, and even on your client side. If you liked what you heard on the show, I would be grateful if you would leave a written review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. The written reviews really help the show grow and help more firm owners. That’s my request. It was an honor to be here with each of you. I look forward to seeing you in the next episode.

 

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About Ron Saharyan

AA 99 | Corporate CultureRon Saharyan is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Profit First Professionals. Ron has over 15 years of experience in managing organizational growth and built multiple companies in the staffing industry prior to launching Profit First Professionals.

Ron lives in New Jersey with his wife, Mary, and their daughter.

 

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