H&H Financial was founded in 1997 as a local insurance and investment consulting firm specializing in financial, estate, and retirement planning. The business started as a part-time consulting practice given Mr. Blakeâ€™s dissatisfaction with his full-time job working for a franchise office affiliated with a large insurance agency. Mr. Blake found that his agencyâ€™s focus on productivity and numbers precluded his ability to do what he really wanted to do for his clients: provide personalized service that they could trust. He wanted his clients to be faces, not names and numbers. He wanted to offer them the optimal products and services that would best fit their needs, not just the selling needs of a corporation hyping their latest product through their franchises.
Mr. Blake bid his time and learned â€œthe ropes to skip and the ropes to knowâ€ about running an agency. He obtained several key financial and insurance licenses and professional certifications (CFP, CFA, CFT, CTEP, etc.) as well as financial product suppliers. When he had developed a sizable private client base, he opened H&H as an independent agency to replace his consulting practice.
The firm started with just Mr. Blake operating out of a cheap storefront, and he was quickly overwhelmed with the paperwork side of the business. Mr. Blake was great at selling and knew the product lines in and out, but he was not an expediter or comfort- able with details.
Mr. Blakeâ€™s solution was to hire a part-time administrative assistant to handle phone calls, deal with foot traffic (what little there was), and do some light computer work. Times were not easy, and Mr. Blake squeaked by on a very limited income.
Early Success Leads to Growth
Mr. Blakeâ€™s formula for success (personalized service) quickly caught on, and he found that he needed full-time assistance in order to help handle phone calls, process policies, and assist with claims. His office expanded quickly, and he replaced his one part-timer with three full-time employees who buffered him from the mundane paperwork and day-to-day office duties. He remained the sole agent providing sales and expert advice and counseling while the staff provided his clients with all of the support needed (processing bills or claims, answering questions about policies, etc.). His office staff consisted of one office staff person from Mr. Blakeâ€™s old agency (Ms. Jane Sutton) and Ms. Johnson and Mr. Hayes (two â€œrawâ€ college graduates: Jen Johnson and Kenneth Hayes). For the most part, they all worked independent of Mr. Blake.
Although Mr. Blake never gave any of them titles, job descriptions, or formal authority, it was clear to everyone that Ms. Sutton was the informal leader of the office given her expertise and prior experience in an insurance office. All three employees became flexible generalists, part of a self-managed work team. Work was parceled out through volunteerism and cooperation. Mr. Blake was proud that his team operated so well without his input.
As the business grew, Mr. Blake realized that he would need to bring in new agents (consultants) to help him deal with the increasing flow of customers, and there was just no place to put them in his small back office. Mr. Blake and his team moved into a newly renovated office complex, which had more offices, a main office area that could hold more employees, and a separate waiting area for his clients.
1 The name of the firm and the case characters have been disguised at the request of the firmâ€™s owner.
Mr. Blake hired one financial planner and one insurance agent so as to provide more sales and technical expertise to his consulting team. The new associates worked out so well and his business grew so quickly that within three months, three new staff people (all recent college graduates) had to be hired to help Ms. Sutton, Ms. Johnson, and Mr. Hayes manage the additional workload. Debbie Matthews was one of the three new employees hired.
The Birth of Departments and Continued Growth
The addition of these three new employees altered the structure of the company. As the office manager, Ms. Sutton still managed her two â€œold rookiesâ€ but made each one a supervisor. Jen Johnson became in charge of supplier relations and managed one new employee while Kenneth Hayes ran client relations and managed Ms. Mat- thews and another new employee (see Figure 1).
Ms. Sutton felt this new structure was highly efficient since it allowed Ms. Johnson and Mr. Hayes the time to develop their own expertise and familiarity with their specific focal group. These new department managers would handle the day-to-day work routine of their own department with their new staff while Ms. Sutton served as coordinator and in-house expertâ€”the answer person. This structure also made the assignment and training of new office personnel much easier since each employee was allocated to one of the two departments where their supervisor would then pro- vide them with basic training within the department.
Mr. Blake was quite happy with Ms. Suttonâ€™s work processes and procedures since it allowed him to concentrate on his clients and stay out of the office operations. He could now work with his other specialist consultants to help locate new clients as well as new products and services. This was often voiced by Mr. Blake as a critical operational strategy for continuing to grow the business.
ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE OF H&H FINANCIAL SERVICES, LLC
At the department level, Mr. Hayes and Ms. Johnson made the work environment fun, which Ms. Matthews greatly appreciated. Ms. Sutton, however, wanted the office to have a more professional demeanor since she felt that H&H was now an established firm with expert consultants on staff who also seemed to not appreciate the horseplay of the office workers. For Ms. Sutton, maintaining an expert image became everything, and therefore she went to great strides to minimize office antics (like wastebasket basketball) and excessive chatter. Mr. Hayes and Ms. Johnson were not happy with the new rules but went along with them since they spent most of their time in their own work areas and away from the back office where Ms. Sutton stayed and did most of her work. The change in rules did create tension between the newest employees (including Ms. Matthews) and Ms. Sutton. Ms. Matthews quickly learned that she could joke around with Mr. Hayes and Ms. Johnson when Ms. Sutton was out of sight but had to be on her best behavior when Ms. Sutton was around or when they went into the management territory area of the office.
The companywide informal monthly meetings with Mr. Blake, which happened early on in the firmâ€™s history, became formal monthly meetings just with Ms. Sutton and all of her subordinates. The monthly meetings consisted of discussions of new products, services, clients, new procedures, and any outstanding problems that either department could not solve alone. These were open meetings, but rarely did anyone but Ms. Matthews raise questions, and these questions were always about work processes and procedures. Everyone else, including the supervisors, only spoke when Ms. Sutton spoke directly to them or asked very general questions about the growth plans of H&H.
With sustained success, the organization continued to grow, adding several more consultants and back office staff while keeping the same basic organizational structure and work flow. Mr. Blake once again needed new office space to contain his firmâ€™s growing needs. Mr. Blake announced as part of his growth plan that he was conduct- ing preliminary inquiries as to a possible â€œnumber twoâ€ who would handle the ever- growing functions of finance, accounting, and Human Resource Managementâ€”a job that Ms. Matthews quickly aspired to.
As H&H Grows, So Does Ms. Matthewsâ€™s Frustration
As a recent college graduate and single mother, Ms. Matthews was excited when she got the job working for H&H Financial as their Assistant Case Manager in the Client Relations Department. In her first month she quickly and eagerly learned all of her required duties and executed them to the best of her ability and therein received more and more demanding work.
In her second month when they moved to a much larger office, Ms. Matthews felt that she had real opportunities for advancement and promotion. She thought, â€œAs the firm grows, so will I.â€ She felt that she had made an excellent choice in a very tough job market. She was aware of Mr. Blakeâ€™s preliminary search for an Assistant Manager and thought that after she finished her MBA she would be the perfect candidate once she had learned the ins and outs of the business.
Those dreams, however, quickly became a nightmare. Ms. Matthews found that after the first few months of working at H&H Financial, her learning curve came to a complete and sudden halt. Ms. Matthews realized that jobs were very compartmentalized, and the Office Manager Jane Sutton did not want the employees to learn anything more than the bare minimum of what their jobs in their own departments required of them.
Mr. Hayes, her immediate supervisor, was very helpful and supportive about the work in his department, but when Ms. Matthews asked questions about interdepartmental and organizational processes, he deflected most of her questions, saying, â€œIâ€™m really not sure why we do things this way; check with Ms. Sutton.â€ Ms. Suttonâ€™s response to Ms. Matthewsâ€™s questions was always the same: â€œIâ€™ll tell you what you need to know when you need to know it . . . just do your job, do it well, and youâ€™ll get along fine.â€ Ms. Matthews thought that perhaps with a few more months on the job Ms. Sutton would learn to trust her more; but she couldnâ€™t have been more wrong.
During her third monthly office meeting, Ms. Matthews became increasingly irate because her questions were still being answered by Ms. Sutton with â€œYou donâ€™t need to know thatâ€ or â€œYou will never deal with that situationâ€ or, worse, â€œThatâ€™s not your concern.â€ Ms. Matthews found that these were the answers to even the simplest of questions dealing with the most essential parts of the business outside of her department. This approach made it difficult for Ms. Matthews to properly do her job because she did not see how her job related to the other jobs in the firm.
Ms. Matthews thought there was a clear lack of communication between the owner, Ms. Sutton, the two supervisors, and the lower-level employees and that this created slowdowns and gaps that bottlenecked the flow of the entire work process of the business. She also noticed that not only was her job compromised by this lack of knowledge, but also, in her opinion, was everybody elseâ€™s. All of her questions regarding this matter were not only disregarded by Ms. Sutton but discouraged as well. Ms. Matthews thought that for such a small but fast-growing company, the operations would run much smoother if all of the employees were aware and informed about each otherâ€™s jobs for they were all dependent and interrelated. Over- all Ms. Matthews felt that Ms. Sutton was overly controlling and excessively formal.
After several attempts to learn more about her job, Ms. Matthews was starting to lose motivation. She felt like a robot that was programmed to do the same thing day in and day out, and it was starting to affect the quality of her work. She was surprised and disappointed to learn that she no longer cared about her performance, her job, and the firm.
In the meantime, the new large sitting area required the firm to hire a reception- ist who then handled walk-ins and who would also orient the new clients to all of the services provided by H&H. The receptionist would also, on occasion, administer customer questionnaires that dealt with customer service satisfaction as well as desired additional services. Ms. Matthews was sorely tempted to take this job because the receptionist reported directly to Mr. Blake; Ms. Sutton would be out of her reporting loop. She quickly let go of the notion, though, since she would be devolving in terms of her career and personal development, not growing.
This is when she realized, after being with the firm for nearly a year, that by staying at H&H she was starting to compromise her work ethicâ€”her values of always striving to achieve and working to the best of oneâ€™s ability. Ms. Matthews also found out that she was not the only one feeling less motivated and interested. Both Ms. Johnson and Mr. Hayes confided to her that they felt the same way but never said anything to Ms. Sutton or Mr. Blake.
With all this negativity surrounding her work life, the decision to leave was still a difficult one to make. The company had some great employees in her department that made it fun to come to work every day. Since everybody was about the same age, people got along well. Ms. Matthews also liked the relatively laid-back environment in the department and the flexibility of hours the job offered, especially considering that she was now in graduate school. However, Ms. Matthews was not sure if that was enough; after 11 months of working at H&H she wondered if it was worth it for her to continue working there. On the one hand, Ms. Matthews knew that she had no future at the company. She was pursuing her MBA, and she now knew that that would not make a difference for her future at H&H. Ms. Matthews wondered, â€œWhat is the point in spending money and time to get a graduate degree if it is never going to be appreciated or add value to my career at H&H? Should I stay at a place where there was no chance for growth and no value given my curiosity and desire to learn? At the same time, is it a bad decision to try to change jobs right now considering the downturned economic climate, my need for a flexible schedule for graduate school, and my financial responsibilities? Should I stay simply for the money and my flexible schedule?â€ Ms. Matthews realized that she had an important decision to make, and she had to make it soon before she became completely unmotivated.
In the above case found at the end of this document and prepare a REPORT with no more than five pages, double-spaced, typed using Times New Roman (Font Size 12) with one-inch margin on all four sides. If you use more than 5 pages and/or use different font size/format, one letter grade will be deducted from your grade (10% point).
â€¢ No preference for format but it should include an analysis of the issues, a summary and recommendation.
â€¢ Include a cover page with your name and affiliation. Please note that this is not counted towards the five pages limit.
â€¢ If you want to include references, you can do so and they are not counted in the five-pages limit.
â€¢ Please do not RENARRATE THE CASE. I have read the case. What I am looking forward to is your analysis of the case by integrating the materials from the chapters (the case covers more than one chapter).
â€¢ In preparing your paper, you should use appropriate citations from the textbook. Please do not quote verbatim from the text (e.g. â€œAt its most basic level, strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a particular set of objectivesâ€ (Pg. 47). This is a verbatim quote and unacceptable. If you write â€œStrategy involves development of a set of objectives and a plan to achieve them (Pg. 47) it is acceptable.
â€¢ Show analytical mind and thoughts and application of the concepts in the case analysis. That is, simply repeating the various concepts from the textbook (theories) will only get you a grade of F. looking forward to an application of your knowledge of the theories to analyze the given situation and make recommendations.
â€¢ In preparing your report, highlight the important points (e.g., The firm follows a strategy of differentiation with a focus on upper-income group.).
â€¢ You should provide suitable headings/subheadings in the preparation of report. Being an upper level course,
USE THESE QUESTIONS TO FORMULATE YOUR ANALYSIS, THOUGHT PROCESS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
REMEMBER THIS IS A SMALL COMPANY.
1. Critically evaluate the organizationâ€™s strategy and structure ( complexity, formalization, and centralization) in your answer. How does this structure seem to affect Ms. Matthewsâ€™s behavior?
2. There are four primary approaches to job design: mechanistic, biological, perceptual, and motivational. How might each approach be employed to better fit Ms. Matthews with her job?
3. Using the Job Characteristics Model, describe the impact Ms. Matthewsâ€™s job design is having on her work motivation.
4. Suggest how the firm could redesign Ms. Matthewsâ€™s job so it would increase her work motivation. Ms. Matthews may decide to stay at H&H if a more flexible work environment is created for her. Describe some alternative ways her job could be redesigned for greater flexibility.
5. Describe how formalized training and/or employee development might help Ms. Matthews better fit her job at H&H.
6. How you would you assess Jane Suttonâ€™s need for training and development? What training methods you would recommend given her actions in this case?
7. If Mr. Blake hired you as a consultant, summarize your recommendations based on the above six questions for which you found answers.
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