Let's talk about diversity.
Through my travels, I’ve met many people from various ethnicities, ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. This has given me a great understanding of how diversity can play an important role in your company’s successes and failures.
I’m an excellent case study for the importance of diversity in your business success. I grew up in a conservative, predominantly white part of north central Oregon. My understanding of diversity had to grow by leaps and bounds when I entered the industry. For most of my life, all I knew was the white, small-town, conservative experience – which of course meant I could relate mostly to other white, small-town, conservative people.
I could either choose to market to white, small-town, conservative people – effectively limiting my business reach – or I could make connections with people of various ethnicities, genders and economic backgrounds, and learn how to market and work with just about anyone. I chose the latter. In doing this, I also made the decision to build my practice with employees from all walks of life. This has provided my business with many advantages, and it can help your business as well.
Let’s talk about race, since that’s generally what comes to mind when people say ‘diversity.’ As I mentioned, my past life experience was built out of a white, small-town, conservative neighbourhood. In my town, we had two African-American families, a handful of Samoan-American families and two Native American reservations nearby. Visible minorities weren’t commonplace. While we shared some similar trials, I could never understand the racism, bias or struggles any of these families might have endured in their lives.
How can I expect to offer solutions tailored to these people if I don’t understand their cultures or past experiences? The truth is, I can’t. However, if I employ a Native American agent, he or she might understand the challenges that come along with growing up on a reservation, for example. There’s no way I could ever imagine what that’s like – and, quite frankly, I’d never want to be so disingenuous to try.
I find it not only beneficial to hire diversely, but imperative to my business’s long-term success. Sure, I could hire only white, small-town, conservative types, and conversely market to that group of people. But not only is this small-minded, it’s also extremely limiting to my practice in the long run.
Most of us prefer to work with and be around like-minded people, which is probably why your clients work with you in the first place. Aside from your service, they probably like you based on some common ground you share – be it race, gender, age, or possibly that you’re both veterans or grew up in the same neighbourhood. In the end, that client chose you for something you are or something you represent. It only makes sense, then, to make your business as diverse as possible. The return on the so-called investment of diversity is a stronger and more profitable business that can relate to a diverse set of clients.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “the riches are in the niches,” but you should think of diversity in your business as a way to appeal to multiple niches. When your business appeals to a broader set of people, the result is a broader client base from which you can pull. And it’s that broad client base that affords you the ability to build a more successful long-term business. Just look at the makeup of the United States – our population is becoming much more diverse. For your business’s long-term success, it makes sense to reflect this by hiring a diverse range of employees. It means you will be able to relate to people from a broad range of ethnicities, genders and socioeconomic backgrounds.
In the end, deciding to either hire diversely or stick to what you know is up to you. I’ve made the decision to hire diversely, and I know my business will be here for the long haul, in part because of it. I feel it makes my business stronger and better suited to handle the changing makeup and economic concerns of our existing and future clients.
Eddie Besaw is the founder and CEO of Timberline Wealth Strategies. He and his firm provide solutions to pre-retirees and retirees, including retirement income, Medicare, social security and legacy planning.