By Anke Janssen, Group Managing Director, Carmichael Fisher
Having joined Carmichael Fisher 10 years ago, I’m in the privileged position to have seen the company flourish. At the time, Justin Hobday, our CEO, had just taken over an existing small business which was completely British in nationality. I was the first non-British employee of the business – now I’m one of many – and the first non-British and female member of the board. But that’s jumping ahead in the story.
When Justin began to discuss his new business with me, I was already established in Executive Search. I’d worked at global companies, and wasn’t really looking for the opportunity to take the chance on a business that was still finding its feet. But Justin created a vision for Carmichael Fisher that I was able to buy into, and this formed a huge part of the company culture which still exists today.
The definition of company culture which bears the most truth for me is Edgar Schein’s. He posits that culture is a shared set of assumptions that allow the individual, team and organisation to problem solve. It’s not something that is defined in a single moment, but instead developed over time. And that’s why Justin’s vision was so important to me; because in sharing his vision for the future of the business he created a set of values and beliefs that aligned to my own and, a decade later, these are still at the heart of all our organisational decisions.
Placing these values at the core of decision-making is key to creating company culture. It’s no good having a set of shared values if these are not ever tested by putting them into practice. Becoming a value-driven organisation is a vital factor in the creation and influence on culture. It is also pivotal in ensuring that the culture remains in place as the business grows.
The values instilled by Justin were more than a set of required rules and behaviours, instead he created a culture which we could live and breathe as members of the business. These are trust, openness, collaboration and diversity. Since I joined Carmichael Fisher, we’ve grown from a small British team to an international business, with European offices in London, Paris, Hamburg and more, as well as a growing presence in the US with New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Philadelphia locations. It can be difficult to hold on to the company culture as a business grows, but if your shared belief system is used to drive decisions, those beliefs become ingrained within the very structure of the organisation.
So how has our culture changed as we’ve grown? For me, it’s moved from a transformational vision for the future, to something which is instilled in every employee and in every corner of the business. Our goal is no longer to create the company culture Justin envisioned, but to use the culture we have already created to achieve our business goals. In a way, our culture has come full circle.