As a boutique corporate finance firm, we have a relatively small team of around 25 people. It includes senior directors, managers and executives with up to 30 years' experience, as well as junior staff who may have completed their degree and accountancy qualifications overseas, on the mainland or locally.
The company, our clients and various regulators expect the highest professional and ethical standards. And because many of our assignments are project-based, requiring various skills and experience, it is important for individuals to have a clear understanding of their respective roles and to co-operate with colleagues.
Approach and policies
Like other employers, we look for potential, right qualifications and distinct skills. Since we operate in a tightly regulated environment, where staff will be advising clients on acquisitions, deals and investments, everyone has to understand and comply with the relevant rules and codes of conduct.
They should be able to manage clients' needs and expectations. At times, this can present a real challenge if there are commercial elements involved and they are pressed for time. Thus, we give individuals a clear framework to follow. These guidelines cover modes of operation, ethical behaviour, skill sets for dealing with clients, and reporting requirements. Having such a framework helps staff learn the business and contribute effectively to each project. Senior executives are expected to provide guidance to younger colleagues and ensure that each person feels part of the team. Progress is assessed on a regular basis.
We take negative comments from clients very seriously. For example, a client might object to the way recommendations are given. New recruits need to learn soft skills the hard way. Therefore, we ask senior staff to review all official outgoing documents. This on-the-job training is really the best way to improve written communication and tell them how to be polite, tactful, or a bit more forceful.
We use management meetings to discuss individual conduct and any complaints we receive. It can be embarrassing for those concerned, but they will definitely learn from the experience. There is no harm in reminding staff they must be customer-oriented and that they are trained to conform to certain standards of behaviour. Organising special team-building activities is quite taxing. It tends to overload the administrative staff. But we do have some off-site strategy meetings, the occasional golf day, and more light-hearted social events, which allow people to have a different kind of interaction and not feel they just work together.
Results and feedback
Some people have difficulty meeting reasonable requests. They may think a bigger company will give them more independence. That's not always true. Because we work on a project management basis, colleagues team up with different senior leaders and get involved in a wide range of assignments. They appreciate the chance to develop new skills and see that good teamwork grows from common goals and mutual respect.