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Investing in people Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2008

There was a time when Rodger Riney interviewed each and

every person that came to work at Scottrade Inc.

“I had the privilege of being in on the hiring of probably the

first 500 or 1,000 people that we brought through here,” says

Riney, the company’s founder, president and CEO. “I could be

very careful and use my intuition as to whether I felt someone would fit in our culture.”

One of his most important qualifiers is the type of ego that

a job candidate brings to the table.

“There have been people that I interviewed where I just got

this feeling that they felt somewhat superior or had maybe a

little bit too much ego to fit in,” Riney says. “We succeeded in

the early years maybe on who we failed to hire as much as

who we did hire.”

These days, with nearly 2,000 employees and 2007 revenue at

$1.03 billion, Riney no longer interviews everyone who comes

to work at Scottrade. But his culture of teamwork and family

remains a key component of the online stock brokerage firm.

Your ability to convey the importance of a consistent and

healthy culture and identifying people who fit that culture is a

key factor in achieving lasting success. Riney still has a large

role in defining the culture to every one of Scottrade’s new

employees. At least once a month, he meets with a new batch

of employees in a session that allows both parties the chance

to get to know each other on a personal level.

“We have each new associate tell a little bit about themselves

so that everybody can get a feel for the type of people that

we’ve hired, their previous experience and the job they do now

for us,” Riney says.

He returns the favor by talking about his own background

and the early days of Scottrade.

“We really try to set the cultural tone early in their employment,” Riney says. “After you get the person in the door, we

have not just ‘meet the president,’ but we also have (an orientation program) that gives the associate a nice first few days

with the firm. We tell them a lot and go over a lot of stuff about

how the firm works and try to give them a good insight as to

what Scottrade is all about.”

By focusing on bringing everyone together and promoting a

sense of teamwork, Scottrade was rewarded with being

named to the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For List

for the first time.

Bring everyone together

One of the biggest challenges to maintaining a consistent and

healthy culture during a time of constant growth is the distance that often exists between the home office and other locations in the company.

“When you have 200 or 300 offices around the country in 47

states, it’s a real problem to keep quality evenly distributed,”

Riney says.

An intranet site where company news and new procedures

and policies are posted can be an effective starting point to

helping everyone feel like he or she is part of the same company and are working toward a common goal.

“Our intranet is a major conduit of information that we use to

keep people up to date on what the firm is doing and how we

think,” Riney says. “I think that helps in distributing the culture

over a period of time. We have daily input that gives us an ability to let people know some things they might otherwise not.”

Intranet technology can be a great way to offer your employees continuing education opportunities. The advantage of

doing the courses online is that everyone has the same opportunity, regardless of their location.

“We decided to either purchase or develop our own classes

that we can host on the intranet, and our employees can take

those classes either in our branch offices or they can log on

from home,” Riney says. “We encourage them to take as many

classes as they have an interest in or feel would further their

personal career or their Scottrade employment.

“It’s over 200 classes. While there will be classes we feel people in certain job categories should study and take, for the

most part, it’s voluntary. They pick and choose what they think

would be of value to themselves at the firm.”

It’s important to track which employees are taking what

courses in order to gauge the knowledge that your people are

getting through the training courses and what they still need to


However you choose to do it, whether it’s continuing education or just regular correspondence, it is critical that you keep

employees throughout your company current with what’s

going on in the organization.

“We have a quarterly newsletter for employees where we try

to make everybody aware of new employees and new things

we are doing,” Riney says.

You should also have regular training sessions at the home office

and bring managers in from the satellite offices and have a face-to-face meeting to go over any major changes in company procedure

that have been made. They can then take back that information to

their employees and pass it on in a face-to-face manner.

“Our brokers in the branches are brought in periodically to

do the same thing,” Riney says.

One tool that Riney does not have a lot of faith in for promoting a team-based culture is a suggestion box in which

employees anonymously drop in their thoughts on the company.

“Most people here, if they have an idea, if they have something that is going to make us a better and stronger firm or

result in higher associate satisfaction or better customer service, they’ll tell somebody,” Riney says. “They’ll be happy to go

to someone and give them their ideas and feelings. It seems to

work better for us that way.”

Promote a sense of team

When people think of culture, they most often think of the

atmosphere or environment at the office or the way that

employees interact with each other.

But Riney is a firm believer that culture has an impact on

employee interactions across the board.

“One of the main glues that holds the culture together in the

firm is the emphasis that we put on our customer service and

our customer satisfaction,” Riney says. “If you hire people that

can embrace that culture of customer service, you’ll find that

not only do they practice that with your individual customers,

but that same care and feeling of giving great service and great

satisfaction extends to their fellow workers, as well.”

And that’s where making sure people with big egos aren’t

hired in the first place can really help your cause.

“When I interview people, I look for their ego, and if there

is too much ego, I tend to run for the door,” he says. “I think

a modest ego is important to me in the people that we hire,

and it’s always been important. By screening out the huge

egos, I think I’ve saved myself a lot of heartache and perhaps made the company successful.”

If the job candidate does have an oversized ego, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to change the person at your company.

“They either have it or they don’t,” Riney says, referring to

team-focused employees. “The value proposition, the caring

and professional pride, is either built in or it’s not. If it’s not, I

don’t think we’re going to be able to be very successful in stimulating it or creating it.”

For those that do have it, constant interaction is a key to reinforcing your culture on a constant basis. At Scottrade, Riney

promotes continuous communication between his company

and its clients.

“We do things all day through our branch network where we

call customers, and we advise them of things that are happening or reorganizations that are taking place with securities in

their account,” Riney says. “We’re being proactive advising

them when events are occurring with their account. We’ll try to

make sure the customer has a great experience with us.”

While this is obviously good for client relationships, it also

pushes the culture just a little bit further into the mindset of

the employee.

“It’s not just for the end customer,” Riney says. “It’s how you

treat and interact with your fellow employees. That’s why it’s

extremely important that we continue to hire individuals that

can embrace a true customer service emphasis.”

Riney says a human resources department can play an important role in finding and keeping the right people for your culture.

“It’s an integral part of decisions and communications with

our associates,” Riney says. “It’s embedded in every area of the

firm. It’s not just a department off in the corner that you go to

deal with problem employees or ask a technical question about

health benefits. It’s a department that cares very much about

all the employees here.”

Riney handled HR duties for the first seven or eight years of

Scottrade before turning it over to Jane Wulf, his chief administrative officer.

The philosophy remains the same under both leaders: Treat

employees individually and do not look at them as a whole.

“You’ve got to treat them like family,” Riney says. “We will go

way out of the way to be sure we treat associates in a fair and

respectful way. They take great care to try to hire good people

that will fit in and to make sure we are paying our people competitively. Sharing the wealth is an important aspect of having

a healthy company culture.”

If the success is to continue and the culture is to be maintained, Riney knows he will need to continue to work at it.

“If a CEO is smart, they will try to continue to obsess with the

details and make sure that the company doesn’t start cutting

corners and try to take the easy way out — trying to deliver

less value for more money [and] less satisfaction for more

profit,” Riney says. “If you are on top of that and you make sure

honesty and integrity are a priority and the customer-comes-first ideal continues to resonate, I think the culture probably

takes care of itself.”

HOW TO REACH: Scottrade Inc., (800) 619-7283 or www.scottrade.com