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What Wells Fargo Gets Right: Know Your Employees, Customers and Business

Recognize This! – Knowing your business, defining your culture and – critically – ensuring every employee understands both are fundamental to success.

Banks and bankers have been much in the news the last few years, usually taking the heat for poor or questionable business practices that have inarguably hurt the economy at large as well as the average homeowner. Yet Wells Fargo’s story is different. A recent Forbes magazine cover story highlights what makes Wells Fargo different and worth more than any other American bank (with the largest market capitalization of $161 billion).

“Let those [other] banks trade wantonly and race to beat each other to marginally profitable investment banking business. Wells does what banks are supposed to do: take deposits  and then lend the money back out.”

But Wells Fargo does more than just focus on its core business. It does so by focusing on the needs of its employees and customers – not its shareholders (of whom Warren Buffett is the largest). A sidebar in the Forbes article notes several elements of Wells Fargo’s Vision & Values, including:

“We believe shareholders come last. If we do what’s right for our team members, customers and communities, then—and only then—will our shareholders see us as a great investment.”

Shareholders will suffer if customers aren’t happy. Your employees are the front line in making your customers happy. You must start with your employees. You must create a culture in which your employees can thrive – which leads to this Vision & Values statement from Wells Fargo:

“We define ‘culture’ as knowing what you need to do when you get up in the morning without having to be told what to do.”

But being able to do that means every employee has to know what business you’re in. Wells Fargo defines its primary business this way:

“At Wells Fargo, sales and service are inseparable. More sales do not always lead to better service, but better service almost always leads to more sales. Money is a commodity. We’re in the service business.”

A service business with a culture of serving fellow “team members” and customers, which turns into shareholder value — it’s not hard for me to understand from that why Wells Fargo is the most successful American banking institution today.

Do your employees and customers take precedence over your shareholders? Does every employee know what business you are truly in? Can they articulate your culture in how they perform their work every day?

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