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Heather Townsend

The Excedia Group


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Why you need to worry if your values don’t match your firm’s values…


I was talking to a highly respected and long-serving partner from a top twenty accountancy practice a few weeks ago. It was with great sadness that he told me that the firm’s values seemed to have changed for the worst, and they no longer matched with his. At this point, I knew that he was plotting his exit from the firm.

So, how did I know that?

The biggest drive of success, for any professional in any type of firm, is not whether they are naturally brilliant or technically amazing, but how well their personal values closely align with the firm’s values. If there is not alignment then it results in high levels of compromise – sometimes from both parties, and is not a match made in heaven. If you are going to have a successful career within a firm AND still have a life outside of work, then your firm’s values and culture need to be closely aligned to your own values.

So, what do we mean by culture?

In ‘how to make partner and still have a life’, Jo and I defined culture as:

culture is the way we do things around here.

Each firm has a distinct character, look and feel, which is shaped by the people who work there, its history, external and internal relationships, clients, and the market it serves. Together all these things define your firm’s identity. From your viewpoint, you need to feel, not just know, that you are working in the ‘right’ environment for you – if you are comfortable in your practice and your partners are comfortable with you, you are more likely to ‘fit in’, thrive and perform well. When you consider how much time you spend and will spend in the office, you must respect what your firm stands for, like and be liked by your partners and your colleagues.

Why is this important? Your firm cherishes and seeks to preserve its unique identity, culture and core values, and this affects every aspect of how it does business. Therefore, it will be looking for its future partners to be committed to these. Anyone who doesn’t ‘fit in’, or isn’t seen as ‘one of us’ is unlikely to be considered as a future partner for the firm.

It's not just professional services where there has to be an alignment between an employees personal values and the firm's values. I was recently speaking to a good friend of mine from university, and she was telling me how much she hated her work. (She's a teacher) After some exploration, it appears that it wasn't the work, or the children that was the problem, it was the staff who she was working with. They were not her kind of people, and unfortunately these members of staff were both her peers and the senior management of the school. I.e. there was a values mis-match between her and the school she was teaching in. After I heard this, I advised here to get the hell out of there. 

After all, life is too short to be unhappy in a job.

One Response

  1. Life’s too short

    I totally agree with you Heather, life is far too short to be unhappy in a job. Some time ago, I was talking with a friend about how unhappy I was with the job I was in. After I told her that I felt I didn’t "fit in" and that I felt I had been "mis-sold" the job, she said to me, "Ah yes, but at least it’s paying the bills, isn’t it?" My heart sank further – I really wanted her to support me. I explained that money wasn’t the be all (even though I am the main earner in the family); I needed to feel valued and be able to respect for my peers and managers and have that respect for what I do for the company in return. Unfortunately, all my friend saw was the money I was earning – though I also craved job satisfaction, but she couldn’t see that.

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Heather Townsend


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