By: Jim Downs
The term “values” is overused and frequently misused in business today. While values are certainly crucial to any company, too many organizations today spend more time talking about their values than making sure they are actually living them. We recently published our values on our website, and as such, I wanted to provide a little context around the values, as well as explain how we implement them in our company each day.
When I founded Connamara in 1998, I committed to running the business in the same way I try to live my life — ethically. It was the only way I knew how to run a business. The foundation of our values comes from my years on the Chicago trading floors –where honesty, integrity, fairness, and standing by your word were a badge of honor. The trading floors may have disappeared, but the importance of these principles has not diminished as trading has moved from the pit to the screen.
Having these values from the very beginning has been the biggest factor in our success. We generally break them into three categories: values for our clients, our team, and the capital markets community.
Our clients trust us with the success of their projects and, in many cases, the success of their companies, so it’s up to us to earn that trust by properly valuing these relationships. At the end of the day, our clients’ success is our success — so how do we ensure that success?
First, by spending time with the client at the start of any engagement, discussing their business goals. We need to be able to map our products and services to the business goals of the client — if it turns out we are not a good fit, we will actually turn away clients. Every client deserves a partner that with the appropriate domain expertise, engineering know-how and ability to meet that client’s expectations for delivery times and cost.
From there, it’s about being communicative. And we don’t simply make it a goal to communicate with the client — we have written best practices that state the frequency of communications and the project metrics to be reported to the client. To that end, we also are diligent about collecting metrics that will inform costs and delivery time for clients. For example, our development process requires us to estimate the complexity of each functional feature of the system, which we then use to measure the velocity at which the team can complete functionality. Knowing the team velocity allows us to calculate delivery dates.
Finally, there are a few ways we try to live our value of personal and professional integrity. Though such instances are rare, we report “bad news” as soon as we know it. We stick by project estimates and avoid “nickel and diming” the client. And no matter what happens, we own the outcome of any engagement.
In order to follow through on our commitment to clients, we need a skilled and dedicated team in place. For that reason, we strive to hire individuals who share our values.
This starts in the interview process. It’s one thing to say you want new hires to meet certain standards, but it’s another to strategically craft a hiring process to ensure that is the case. We’ve developed a very intensive process during which candidates spend time with most, if not all, of our senior managers. Since our senior managers have an average tenure at Connamara in excess of ten years, they have a real feel for whose values will best align with ours.
Once new hires are onboard, we work to create opportunities for personal and professional growth, building skill sets for greater responsibility and authority. We continually challenge employees and expect that they will challenge each other. We foster an atmosphere of collaboration and celebrate the “wins” of our team members, whether those wins are big or small.
Often those “wins” are outside of Connamara. We understand and accommodate the important family responsibilities and personal interests of our team members. To that end, we offer flexible hours and flexible remote working policies. We know that Connamarians have unique interests, hobbies, and personal goals , and we provide a work environment that encourages and celebrates these individual activities and aspirations.
Capital Markets Community
Finally, we recognize the importance of taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture: as a company, we have a responsibility to the larger capital markets community.. We know the importance — both to the industry and to the world — of fair, deep, and liquid markets. We work to foster innovation in market development as we have with EP3, but outside of our core work, we also seek opportunities to actively participate in initiatives that promote education and knowledge sharing for the community.
We do this in a number of different ways. Recently, we joined the Association of Futures Markets, an organization that aims to promote and encourage the establishment of new derivative and related markets, as well as to share information among its members. For almost two decades, we have participated in the FIX Trading Community and have made a continued commitment to open source. We created and have maintained the QuickFIX family of FIX libraries and have contributed to over 17 open source projects.
Why it Matters
Making a concerted effort to define and live our values is the reason that Connamara has been successful for over twenty years. Our client values are reflected in the lengthy list of current and past clients who happily provide references for our work (in fact, a large percentage of our clients are referred to us by existing clients. Our team values are reflected in the quality of the talent we attract, our retention rate, and the number of senior managers that have left us only to return in short order. And in the capital markets community, we are proud of the reputation we’ve built and the awards we have won from the FIX Trading Community.
As you can tell by now, everything we do as a company flows from our values. If you have any questions about how we’ve utilized our values, or how you can develop and live by your own set of values, I’d be happy to talk more.