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The Enduring Advisory Firm by Kimberly G. Dellarocca, Mark C. Tibergien

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Chapter 11 Culture Wars

There are transformative events in every business that imprint an indelible mark on employees, clients, and vendors. The way in which each of these parties is treated will cast your image as either a mercenary or a missionary.

In this context, a missionary is someone who has a strong belief in what they are doing and why they are doing it, and will strive to convert people to their way. A mercenary, on the other hand, is one who is acting or doing something purely for money.

Now we recognize the danger of segregating an entire industry into two overly simplistic categories. Obviously, there are shades of gray. And one should not infer that mercenaries are inherently evil or that missionaries are necessarily good. They are just propelled by a different kind of fuel. Simplicity in this case allows you to examine whether you are creating the environment you admire and desire, or whether you are encouraging a different way of acting by your partners, clients, and associates.

For example, companies that value production over all else encourage mercenary behavior. So too do organizations that consider shareholders more important than clients or employees. Firms that have an overly stingy attitude about expenses and resources would also fall into this category. The common denominator is that all behavior in these cases is driven by immediate financial results tied to short-term acts.

Those who behave like missionaries tend not to be “me-first” or “money-first” ...

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