Our new office has mid-century charm. The building used to be one of many depots of an old train station; there are oil stains on the slatted hardwood floors from skids used to load and unload the trains. We painted in vibrant colors and got a little better at interior decorating, and the many windows let in a healthy dose of sunlight.
Lemler Group experienced several sudden changes after the move to Fort Harrison. Right before the move, David finally joined the John Maxwell Team — he had been growing increasingly jealous of all the great things Suzanne had been learning and doing as a Team Member — and began a journey that would transform the way our firm works.
Later, we expanded to bring on our first intern and our team grew deeper in our appreciation for personal growth. During this time, our team would grow from three members to seven, which challenged David and Suzanne’s new leadership perspectives in practical ways.
One goal quickly arose when we starting bringing on additional team members: we want people to want to come to work. David and Suzanne would have to design ways to encourage growth, vulnerability, and ambition in ways that would grow with the firm.
David already had a certain style of doing things, which gave the firm a foundation for helping to keep team members intentionally engaged. But the habits and atmosphere David and his team picked up early on would need to be adapted and expanded if everyone were to feel truly happy to be at work.
Real work-life balance only happens when work and life cease to be opposing forces and become complementary ones.
— Simon Sinek
First, David learned to repurpose the weekly meetings. With increasingly more team members, the old model of chatting around a whiteboard became less and less efficient. Instead, we began to use these meetings to talk about personal growth through the challenges at work that week.
We also started reading books together in the fall of 2014, a year after moving to the Fort Harrison office. Since then, our team has encouraged each other through countless titles, including some of our favorites: QBQ!, The Go-Giver, The Ideal Team Player, and Developing The Leader Within You 2.0.
It’s not the books themselves that make this weekly study worthwhile; it’s the conversation, encouragement, inspiration, and socializing that matter. Our culture’s grown not because we’ve constructed it from the top down, but because the people who joined Lemler Group contributed their unique strengths to it.
Finally, defining our core values helped our diverse team focus their efforts to serve clients in tangible ways. Each team member approaches tasks in a different way, so grounding ourselves in a few key areas helps us provide excellent service consistently through every step of the process.
All this internal growth welling up inside the firm had to go somewhere, so our team began to spread value into the community.
Lemler Group first hosted Live2Lead in 2014 and has continued to provide this rebroadcast of an annual leadership conference every year since. Suzanne stepped out in a more personal way, leading mastermind groups with women in leadership in our city. They meet regularly, study together, share goals, solve problems, and have fun as they grow.
Reaching out in this way was impossible when David first began the firm — in fact, he wouldn’t even develop a passion for serving others in this way until much later. But as Lemler Group grew in both size and character, it seemed natural for our service-oriented minds to find new and creative ways to add value to others.
One of the main ways David had to adapt his leadership was to learn to delegate tasks. As the workload grew, the other responsibilities of running a business grew as well. Not only were there more audits to complete, there were more pieces of mail to package, sort, and send; there were more cultural issues to address; and a greater need for marketing material.
As the roles in our firm began to specialize, David found it difficult to get his head out of the weeds. More people could complete more audits, but the variety of service styles meant it was difficult to maintain a consistent level of service that was easier with only a single team member.
One solution to this catch-22 came through a series of personal insights and others’ teaching: strength zones. Ideally, we want every one of our team members to spend a large majority of their time doing the tasks they’re most comfortable with. With a diverse team, this would allow each member to complete their part of the overall process efficiently before handing it off to the next stage.
As our team members’ strengths and interests fluctuate, we have to learn to push and pull in different ways as leaders; when to say, “Go for it!” and when to say, “I need you here, instead.”
In a recent meeting, David pointed to a large building across the street from our office. It stretches the width of four restaurants and stands four stories tall. “Wouldn’t it be awesome to buy that and fill it?” he said.
We’re not satisfied with the way things are; we want them to be better. We’re committed to reflecting, changing, failing, growing, and doing it all over again to help our team members do the same. As our team grows, we can serve more people. In turn, the clients we serve can pass the same commitment on to the people they serve, ad infinitum. The tide of growth lifts all boats.
Whether our firm grows to 10 auditors or 10,000, David’s committed to taking care of as many people through financial statement preparation as he can. His heart still beats for serving others; maybe even more intensely than it did that day nearly 10 years ago when he stood on his neighbor’s porch in his pajamas.
This post is part three of a three-part series celebrating Lemler Group’s 10-year anniversary.