By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
Building a Virtual Company Culture
An Interview with Steven E. Brady, Partner & Practice Leader, Transaction Advisory at Withum
Last year, Withum, a major advisory & accounting firm, needed to expand its mergers and acquisitions (M&A) transaction advisory division. It was a difficult time for businesses as the U.S., like the rest of the world, was under lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic, causing severe respiratory illness across the globe.
To help the company achieve its goal, Withum hired Steven E. Brady, a man who had been a leading transaction advisor for nearly two decades for global and national firms. “Steve is the perfect person to lead Transaction Advisory for Withum,” wrote Jim Bourke, Managing Director of Withum’s Advisory Services, in a statement introducing Brady as the market leader for his firm’s transaction advisory in September 2020. “With all of his experience across global and national firms, he is the perfect fit for our practice,” he added.
But despite his vast experience, Brady found himself in a new work environment, where he faced unprecedented challenges. He had to quickly adjust to working remotely and build his team nearly from the ground up while still managing clients. How did Brady manage to expand the practice from four people to twenty-one employees in a year? How did he cope with the challenges of remote work? How can company culture be built remotely?
I recently spoke to Brady to get his insights on these questions.
Master Virtual Communications
Brady started by explaining how remote work or some form of “hybrid work” is here to stay, and leaders must learn to adapt. His views align with a recent Microsoft study titled “The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready?” The survey found that more than 70% of global workers want to maintain their flexible remote work options even after the pandemic. To successfully navigate the new work paradigm, Brady says mastering virtual communications is essential.
“Communication is always key, in my opinion,” he told me recently via a Zoom call. “You really need to over-communicate because you don’t have that personal touch of being able to sit down across the table from someone, shake their hand, have a meal or a cup of coffee, and build relationships that way.”
Building A Virtual Culture
Brady said he largely depended on Microsoft Teams for day-to-day communication with colleagues at home or on the road. He has highlighted two things that have helped him cultivate a virtual culture at Withum.
The first was to ensure he constantly communicated with the team members regardless of where they were located. Brady found that this would help maintain a sense of camaraderie and keep the team on the same page.
“Reaching out to everybody on the team certainly several times a week so that they know they’re important,” he said, adding that the team members need to feel “that they are being listened to and part of that certainly builds that culture of teamwork.”
Finally, Brady said that building an inclusive culture, which motivates all employees in a virtual work environment, requires more than just holding work-related meetings. He said that his team held regular virtual happy hours such as bingo games and wine tastings, allowing employees to have the kind of water-cooler moment that used to happen in a physical office.
“We sprinkled in. It wasn’t just talking about business every day. Sprinkling in some gatherings, again it was all virtual because of the pandemic, but we were able to create it create that bond that is a lot easier to do in person,” he said.
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