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The 10 steps to the perfect family office hire

When hiring for your family office you need to think family first and office second. Can this person take your husband to hospital appointments? Can they jump on a plane without notice to manage your international holdings? Can they watch your daughter’s recital if you are stuck at work or if you can’t make it in, can they take your seat at the table?

When hiring for your family office you need to think family first and office second. Can this person take your husband to hospital appointments? Can they jump on a plane without notice to manage your international holdings? Can they watch your daughter’s recital if you are stuck at work or if you can’t make it in, can they take your seat at the table?

In the world of family offices, anything is possible and the professionals hired to do the unthinkable have to be problem solvers, agile and absolutely committed to the cause. Most importantly, they have to be the right cultural fit.

That is why Agreus has created The Complete Guide to Cultural Fit—offering the 10 steps you can take to finding the perfect hire. We help you to determine your family office culture, who is best suited to that environment, their key competencies and where to find them. We explore the part emotional intelligence, compensation and personality plays in the conversation while outlining best practices in achieving and attaining a productive culture.

Here is a summary of the 10 steps you can take to finding the perfect family office hire.

Defining your culture

When trying to establish cultural fit, you must first think about your own culture. Defining your own organisational beliefs and the ideal qualities the ideal hire might possess.

It is important to look at the gaps missing in your current resources, not simply from an academic and skills perspective, but also think about emotional intelligence (EQ), personality, diversity of thought and how you might require each in a future hire.

You need to then think about your purpose, beliefs and behaviours. From investment banks and compete-orientated cultures to smooth-sailing family foundations,purpose dictates culture. An investment-driven family office, which incentives aggressive risk-taking, cannot host the same culture as a family office focused on philanthropy. Bringing your objectives into the culture defining process will help you, as will looking beyond the jurisdictions of the role and focusing instead on how this hire might also fit in with the family behind the office.

We help family offices define their cultures by using the Organisational Culture Assessment Instrument, theorised by Cameron and Quinn in 2006. We have interpreted the quadrant to reflect the family office environment and help you reach a conclusion of which of the four top cultures your family office falls into. The Clan Culture, The Adhocracy Culture, The Hierarchy Culture and the Market Culture.

Today vs tomorrow

Does the culture you have today match the culture you want tomorrow?

In order to help you achieve the culture you want tomorrow, today, we have devised a list of the advantages and disadvantages of each as well as tangible next steps in creating them.

Take the Clan Culture for instance. It is the most common structure found within family offices and offers a highly collaborative environment with less bureaucracy and low turnover. They can, however, be hard to maintain with growth, lack direction and cause clashes due to the overt promotion of individuality.

The Adhocracy Culture on the other hand allows its employees to be fully creative and make high profits, but not all risk leads to reward and its highly competitive culture can lead to employee rivalry.

You need to not only think about your ideal culture, but it’s good days and bad and how it may impact the success of your business. Equally, you need to at times perform a ‘reality check’. Does your perception match your reality?

While hiring an exceptional professional based on their ability to fit perfectly into your ideal culture might be a great start, if your current culture does not correlate with your ideal culture, your ‘perfect cultural fit’ hire might not either.

When identifying your culture, be honest and really contemplate whether it is the culture you have or the culture you want.

Finding the right people for your culture
Once you have an understanding of the organisational culture you have today and the one you hope to achieve tomorrow, you can think about what the perfect cultural fit hire might look like and the list of requirements your ideal culture might need.

For instance, a Market Culture requires an analytical mindset while an Adhocracy Culture requires highly entrepreneurial go-getters. Equally, a Hierarchy Culture requires unparalleled loyalty and a Clan Culture relies on independence.

Think about your ideal culture and then think about the ideal qualities it might require. Do you want to promote risk-taking? Maybe think about searching for go-getting, entrepreneurial spirited professionals from a competitive and innovative environment. Do you aspire to create a hierarchical culture with boundaries and a clear chain of command? Seek professionals from benchmarked and corporate environments who respect both the ladder of inference and climb to leadership.

Personality testing

The hiring process often includes psychometric testing, competency quizzes and open-ended questions, but something that is often forgotten, is personality.

Aligning personalities during the hiring process does not require online testing, but rather an understanding of the characteristics, behaviours and cognitions of your employees, present and prospective and utilising them to ensure you have a great culture.

Each and every person has a different personality, from those that are loud, powerful and decisive to others who are perhaps more peaceful, agreeable and diplomatic. Each of us possess a different personality and something we use to measure them is “the people test.”

The Hartman Personality Profile as it is officially titled focuses on four colours. Red, Green, Yellow and Blue. Each colour represents a personality type with Reds typically striving for leadership positions, Blues being analytical, Yellows the life and soul of any party and every office and Greens, loyal and compassionate.

The Insights Discovery four colour model provides an effective way of understanding your existing and future employees while ensuring you know how best to interact with them for an efficient and inclusive workplace culture. A workforce requires every colour. This model is not a way to screen or reject potential hires, but rather a tool to enable you to learn how to embed them into your business.

EQ and its place in the hiring process

Once a buzzword in the hiring process and often coupled with the topics of workplace culture and gender diversity, EQ is one of the most important parts of the hiring process when recruiting into a family office.

Professionals in any scenario are expected to carry themselves professionally, but in family offices, there is an additional prerequisite of interacting with a family.

Prospective hires will often work alongside several key members of a family who despite holding equal authority, have opposing opinions and requests. We see this often with matriarchs and patriarchs who have equal vetoing power. Professionals must be empathetic and compassionate enough to listen to their requests before making an accurate assessment and forming advice based on both evidence and emotion.

They must be confident, but obedient, use initiative and influence, but adapt and be continually aware that they are an adviser and not a decision maker. Professionals may form a poor opinion of an idea at times based on data or a gut feeling, but have to accept that they may not be a change catalyst and the wealth they are generating does not belong to them. They have to be trustworthy, able to communicate and often, manage conflict.

When making a hire and considering EQ, consider the components of emotional intelligence that are missing in your current resources and look for them in your prospective hires.

Cultural Fit vs Mirror Image Hiring

Cultural Fit Hiring does not and should not translate to Mirror-Image Hiring, the process by which a principal or hiring manager recruits an individual based on their almost identical characteristics. This can include characteristics such as, thought-process, beliefs and at times, education or culture.

To make matters confusing, there are many similarities between this definition and that of cultural fit, but there is an important distinction.

When hiring a professional based on their ability to fit perfectly into the culture of your family office, you do so in an attempt to create a harmonious and efficient workplace culture. You can rest assured that the individual is aligned with your values, beliefs and behaviours and is working towards the same goals as the family office.

Mirror-Image Hiring however can often, but not exclusively, relate to a physical likeness, with many recruiting a ‘mirror-image’ professional which not only hinders physical diversity efforts, but jeopardises diversity of thought, key not just for an inclusive culture but commercial success. Ensure you keep the distinction in mind when hiring for cultural fit.

Competencies vs qualifications

Something else to consider is when not to compromise.
While a workforce made of perfectly aligned professionals allows for a robust and well-balanced team that is also dynamic and amenable, competencies are still key.

During the hiring process, family offices can run the risk of following one of two dangerous paths. The first is to search for cultural fit in their next hire and treat competencies as secondary. Then there are those who in the hunt for the most-competent professionals, forget to consider culture as part of the hiring process.

You do not have to sacrifice skill-set to make a cultural fit hire and equally, you do not have to hire the same type of person over and over again to ensure you find the right profile. They are not mutually-exclusive so long as you stay open-minded and challenge your own concept of the ideal hire.

Exceptions to the rule and the role

The family office environment requires different needs from different people. Each of those people have different personalities, cognitions, characteristics and behaviours. Above all, they have different job descriptions and each description may well require a different personality.

We use a family office with a Clan Culture as a prime example. They have a small and dynamic team and require their employees, present and prospective, to understand the importance of collaboration. They are required to help each other for the collective success of the family office and so being a team player is a non-negotiable requirement in all hires. However, Clan Cultures can be hard to maintain with growth and often expansion leads to the creation of subcultures.

Take the position of an in-house lawyer for instance. This person while friendly, approachable, dynamic and possessing almost all key ‘Clan Culture’ requirements, must be a solo player. He shares the collective objective of success, working to protect his colleagues and leaders, but he cannot be a team player. He cannot work with his team members or help his team members from an everyday capacity and instead must act alone.

In every family office there are subcultures and when it comes to hiring, while professionals must fit in with the culture of your family office, there isn’t a ‘one culture fits all’ box to tick.

Interview questions

While in the world of recruitment, candidates are often primed and prepped ready to make the perfect first impression, rarely do clients receive the same treatment.

At Agreus, we believe the questions asked are even more important than those answered and to best prepare you for the interview, we have formulated a list of questions for you to ask your next prospective hire.

Focusing on culture fit and competencies, core values and challenges, we believe an interview is about determining whether the professional we present to you will fit into both the culture and dynamic of the family office.

Our Cultural Fit Interview Questions will not only help you find the right person, but they will also help you eliminate the wrong hire—a vital part of the interview process that is often overlooked.

Here’s an important example: Do you prefer autonomy or guidance?

To summarise.

Write out your values and make them present.

Map out your vision.

Map out the requirements.

Undergo a reality check.

Interview the professional and the personal side of a candidate.

You can download The Complete Guide to Cultural Fit here.


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