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CEO Spotlight: Harry Blum

CEO Spotlight: Harry Blum

When you’re a CEO, moments matter. It's amazing how the little things you do can impact the culture. These don’t just affect the culture of your company but also how individuals in your organization feel.

Great CEOs not only connect with the minds but also with the hearts
and emotions of employees. Such leaders are able to communicate
a compelling and inspiring vision for their organization’s future.
The best CEOs understand that they’re always on stage and the mic is on.

In this CEO Spotlight, I sit down to chat with Harry Blumnational
managing partner at RSM Canada to learn all about how they’ve intentionally developed an award-winning company culture that has landed them a spot on the 2022 Best Workplaces in Canada list! Here’s how our conversation went: 

Lauren: High-performing organizations make employee communications a priority. They know that an engaged workforce contributes to the company’s success but oftentimes, employees have a tendency to move in the direction that they think the people in charge want to go.
At RSM Canada, how do you make your culture goals, objectives and priorities clear to everyone?

Harry: Five key characteristics we call the 5 C's (caring, curious, collaborative, courageous, critical thinkers) are fundamental to our culture and underpin not only what we do, but who we are. It’s beyond our brand promise, because they are actually our core values. They are key not only to our success, but our clients’ as well. We hold everyone, including – and especially – our leadership team, accountable to the 5 C’s every day.
As partners, managers, colleagues and client service providers, we all embody and model these attributes. It’s our version of the Golden Rule.

Lauren: Another pillar of successful culture management is the realization that your culture is always changing. Even if you ignore it, your culture will grow and evolve without asking you. So, how do you practice good culture management?

Harry: I like to think of RSM in the same way we think of Canada, as a mosaic. Canada is one of the most diverse nations on earth, and it’s constantly transforming. Understanding and embracing the spirit and energy of change is both a challenge and an opportunity. Since RSM has undergone so much evolution as a firm, we thrive on this. Our tagline is “the power of being understood,” and this applies to our colleagues, as well as our clients. Another principle we often remind ourselves of is that “different isn’t always better, but better is always different.” Being open to diversity and change is not only good practice in business, but also in life. I know this first-hand as a child of immigrants – like so many Canadians – and being inspired by my parents’ experience as “outsiders” (refugees, in fact) who had the innate ability to adapt and change. As a child, I may have wished my parents would be more “Canadian”, but I couldn’t have been more fortunate for the skills and lessons they imparted. After all, what’s more Canadian than the immigrant experience? This type of diverse perspective is what we strive to embody at RSM.   

Lauren: Culture becomes relevant when it directly connects to the business strategy. Ideally, your company's strategy should be informed by your mission and vision, which in turn guide your company's culture. How do you weave your mission and vision into your company culture at RSM Canada?

Harry: We truly are deliberate and intentional in how we demonstrate the values I mentioned previously, and there is rarely a conversation amongst leaders when we don’t level set what makes us special and unique. For example, at the start of each meeting, we connect back to our mission and vision through those 5 C behaviours (caring, curious, collaborative, courageous, critical thinkers) by sharing a “5 C Story”; an illustration from the team around how we are showing-up and demonstrating our values – to help move from the theoretical to reality. We promote and reward it because the common thread that ties us together is that we all believe in our culture and take pride in it. 

Lauren: It’s repeatedly said that purpose is the backbone of a strong culture. It binds people working together, in all capacities, to realize rewards beyond financial performance. What are some of the ways that you make work meaningful for your employees?

Harry: We want everyone at RSM to show up as their authentic selves. We believe that when we’re comfortable in our own skin we thrive – as individuals of course, but that energy transmits to everyone around us: our colleagues, clients, families and communities. We’ve become more creative and resourceful these last two years throughout the pandemic in how we support our people. Again, we turned a challenge into an opportunity and prioritized mental health and wellness, as well as a lot of flexibility, into our business model.

Lauren: Culture is reflected in both what people say and what people do. It’s shaped by how your employees talk about your company and the people connected to your company (e.g., customers, co-workers, managers, and leaders). Tell us what you do to strengthen your company culture?

Harry: The 5 C’s are not simply aspirational – they really are embodied. And we love to share them. Nearly one in ten people within our firm are partners, which means they’re both ambassadors and mentors. It’s a healthy cohesion. We attract and reward great talent for delivering on those values, not just a brand promise. We want people to feel great about their experience at RSM and that it is an important part of their personal journey.

About Great Place to Work®
Great Place to Work® makes it easy to survey your employees, uncover actionable insights and get recognized for your great company culture. Clients apply our insights, advice, and tools to fuel the vision, decisions and actions that drive business performance. 

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Lauren O'Donnell