What does it take to get voted Best Place to Work in Pennsylvania for six years in a row? To find out, we spoke with a well-respected industry colleague and leader, Lisa Davis, Managing Director, 1847 Financial, a Penn Mutual company. Together with Jim Meehan, Managing Partner, they have created a thriving business and winning culture.
Meryl Rosenthal: Congratulations on creating a thriving and collaborative culture! In what ways has this helped drive your business?
Lisa Davis: Thank you. We are very proud that in terms of growth, we have been Penn Mutual’s #1 firm for three of the past four years. Retention is one example of how our positive culture is paying off. Our four-year retention rate is 52%, higher than both the industry average of 12% and the average among Penn Mutual companies of 15%, and it’s growing. Our 1847 Financial advisors have become our greatest ambassadors. We are proud that 70% of new recruits come from referrals from our own advisors. It’s gratifying to read the survey results and to hear that our positive work environment has increased colleagues’ engagement and commitment to the firm.
Meryl Rosenthal: What changes have you implemented that account for the positive culture in your agency?
Lisa Davis: The most significant change was how we approached functional contracts for managers. Instead of structuring compensation in a way that a manager gets a piece of the business that their advisors personally bring in, managers now share responsibilities and therefore are equally invested in the success of all new hires. It’s the single biggest shift. Now, there’s a greater feeling of buy-in without the feeling of competition. We have also created an environment that we refer to as “talking the line.” This means that we value upfront and honest conversations, allowing colleagues to feel heard.
Meryl Rosenthal: What types of support do firms like yours need to drive and support a positive culture?
Lisa Davis: There is a big need for leadership development, because it pays dividends in the future. There are different skillsets and tools needed to succeed in today’s world – skills like strategic decision-making, culture building, and effective communication. There are different competencies needed for a sales manager vs. an agency leader. This is something we are working hard to develop, and we could use more education and training support around this critical area.
Meryl Rosenthal: What action steps have you taken to build an inclusive and flexible culture, and what challenges remain?
Lisa Davis: Jim and I created a Millennial Board of Advisors, which has been very useful in guiding us and providing valuable feedback. And while we have a large number of women in the firm, we still need to do a better job at matching our market. We are working on outreach and messaging, because we know that a more diverse organization will provide business benefits. We consciously strive to provide flexibility for our employees. For us, flexibility at work is not a gender issue. Rather, it’s about families. All of our employees – not just women – need flexibility. Our mentorship and teaming programs are another important component of our culture and have helped to drive productivity. I believe strongly in teaming, but it requires buy-in to succeed.
Meryl Rosenthal: Tell me about your general philosophy in running your organization.
Lisa Davis: Jim keeps a beach ball in his office with everyone’s signatures on it to demonstrate our leadership style. The idea is if you stick a pin into any name on the ball, the ball will eventually deflate. This philosophy applies to our culture at 1847. We work as a whole – as one team. There is no top or bottom, and everyone plays an essential role in keeping us inflated.
Lisa Davis, Managing Director, works with individual advisors and teams to develop business strategies that help cultivate client relationships. Prior to becoming Managing Director, Lisa was responsible for the development of marketing and branding initiatives. She was also the Director of Practice Development. Lisa’s areas of expertise include practice management, business planning, and team development.