One of the most difficult aspects of creating and expanding a new company is identifying and maintaining a good company culture. It impacts every aspect of the business: recruiting, onboarding, marketing, client interactions, performance, and more. Ultimately, your bottom line is determined largely by your culture. Ignore it at your peril.
YPO member Enrique Quemada knows good culture, and made it a point of emphasis from the very beginning of his firm. Fluent in English and Spanish, Quemada began his career as a language teacher before using his language skills in a transition to banking. He became a Managing Director at Santander and Fortis Banks, earned his MBA and AMP, and graduated from Harvard's Presidents Management Program.
Today, Quemada is the Founder and Chairman of ONEtoONE Corporate Finance Group, which advises on M&A transactions in the middle market. ONEtoONE works on four continents and has participated in over 1,000 transactions. Quemada is also Chairman of the Board of a number of industry associations in Spain and around the world, and serves as a Professor of Corporate Finance at IE Business School
On an episode of my podcast 10 Minute Tips from the Top, Quemada shared his tips on how to build a winning culture:
1. Transparency is key.
Quemada is emphatic in his demand for transparency. "We want the client to see exactly what we are doing, so we are 100 percent transparent," he states, continuing, "[The client] can monitor what we are doing at any time." While some businesspeople may find that worrisome, Quemada finds it invigorating. He says, "That's an amazing pressure for us, and at the same time, it's fantastic for the client." It also helps ensure that everyone is on the same page. "When you're transparent, [clients] know what you are doing, and they can interact," Quemada says.
2. Surround yourself with good teammates.
From employees to clients, Quemada wants everyone to know they're on the same team. After all, says Quemada, "Business is not relevant - it's just a way of life. For me, what is relevant is people." This begins with hiring candidates who share the same beliefs. He says, "I want people who want to collaborate, and want to work in teams to serve a client and put their egos aside." Emphasizing team play also helps ensure client buy-in, and can even reduce conflict. He explains,
"[Clients] participate and are members of the team. And when they are members of the team, they don't complain that much, because we may make mistakes, but we make mistakes with them, as a team." Having this attitude permeate everything is critical because "The organization has to work like a machine," Quemada asserts. It's personal for him, sharing, "With clients and employees, I want to make them better every day."
3. Have rock solid core values.
Quemada has a great metaphor to describe the ethics in his company: "We are Jedi Knights, and we are on the good side of The Force. We don't want to know anything about the dark side. We don't want clients with the Dark Side. We want to work for good people. We're radical with that," he says.
Instead, Quemada is inspired by something deeper: "Money is not the real thing. I want to change the way they're doing investment banking," he explains. He puts this to good use inside the company. He explains, "We have the seven rules, which everybody knows by heart," which are ethics, confidentiality, tenacity, excellence, commercial latitude, discipline, and team spirit. "Whether they are in Dubai, Bulgaria, or Dusseldorf, everybody knows we will not accept behaviors that are against those rules," Quemada emphasizes.
4. It's not about knowledge -- it's about attitude.
Quemada doesn't want to be like some other businesspeople. When a client hires him to sell their business, "We're not looking or a buyer -- we're looking for the best buyer in the world," he says. To identify that buyer requires empathy for the client: "For us, the critical thing is to be him -- to feel his pain. I want to understand him, and I spend a lot of time trying to understand what is real problem is. Sometimes he doesn't even know what motivates his actions," Quemada explains.
When it comes to negotiating, similar rules apply. "It's not a matter of convincing -- it's a matter of understanding," he says. Quemada applies this inside his company, too. When asked how he knows when an employee is valuable, he immediately responds, "Because of his attitude...I don't want to motivate my employees -- I want employees who motivate themselves."
On Fridays, Kevin explores industry trends, professional development, best practices, and other leadership topics with CEOs from around the world.