Most leaders understand how important it is to have a great culture. A company’s culture is the single most important factor in driving performance—it’s the only thing that consistently drives outsized organizational performance and long-term competitive advantage. But many people still struggle when it comes to shaping such a culture.

Most properly motivated leaders can create a world-class culture if they are willing to put the effort in, and the skills and capabilities needed to do so can be learned. Every leader should prioritize creating a great culture as a top individual objective. If your company already has a great culture, recognize that it requires constant work and attention to keep it there. If you don’t have one, you have a tremendous opportunity waiting for you to go after it.

Action leaders can take to build corporate culture

Here are seven ways to develop a fun, high-performing culture:

Walk the walk. Senior leaders set the tone for any organization. Your employees see everything you do—your work habits, the way you treat people, your consistency (or lack thereof), and the behaviors you demonstrate every day. While words matter, leaders’ actions matter far more. Culture is always set from the top and created by example—so strive to be an excellent one.

Be authentic. Nothing kills culture quicker than a lack of sincerity. If you are someone who can show you care about an individual and what’s going on in his or her life, you’ll build the relationships that will ultimately help your organization reach its goals. People are far more energized when they feel they are seen and valued as a person. However, nothing is more damaging than being disingenuous or insincere. Be true to yourself, and don’t force yourself into an inauthentic position. The more you can find real ways to connect with people in your organization, the better.

Play the long game. In the midst of the day-to-day, you may be tempted to hit the easy button or think about what’s needed immediately, especially if the short-term decision conflicts with the long-term. Adopt the mindset that you’re creating a company that will last for hundreds of years and act accordingly. Always try to do the right thing, no matter how painful it is.

Communicate, be transparent, and listen. Most senior leadership teams can do better at communicating with their employees. Almost all can improve their listening skills. When leaders are fully transparent about the good and the bad developments at a company, people are much more engaged and helpful because they know what and why something is happening. So why not tell them?

Recognize contributions. Recognition is important: It drives behavior by rewarding the good and discouraging the bad. People who feel appreciated end up experiencing more self-worth and positivity about their ability to contribute to the company. The result is a happier and more productive employee.

Be humble/admit mistakes. In a high-performance culture, leaders give credit and never take it, while also taking blame and never giving it. Admitting that you made a mistake (especially when it’s obvious) creates a culture of learning in which people are not afraid to try new things. This is imperative to helping an organization improve and grow. Successful leaders can admit their mistakes and see opportunities to anticipate the unexpected more quickly. They also share this wisdom with those around them. Don’t be too proud to recognize mistakes as valuable teachable moments for yourself and others.

Be accountable. As an accountable leader, you don’t blame others when things go topsy-turvy. Rather, you work to build an accurate understanding of where your organization excels and where it has opportunities to grow. Accountable leaders also step up to champion initiatives to help their organization succeed.


About the Authors


Edward Nathan Page is president and COO of Relation Insurance Services, an insurance brokerage that offers risk-management and benefits-consulting services through its family of brands across the U.S. He can be reached on LinkedIn.


This article originally appeared on the American Management Association (AMA) website here.





Insurance brokers have an appetite for mergers and acquisitions (M&A)1. Of those who are business owners, almost half have contemplated M&A to boost their bottom lines, broaden their portfolios or geography, and strengthen their competitiveness. One-third of insurance brokerage owners with annual revenue of more than $5 million plan to explore the sale of their businesses in the next five years. 

Belvedere Pacific Insurance Services, a well-respected and thriving San Francisco Bay Area employee benefits consulting and insurance brokerage firm was acquired by Relation in 2015. It was founded in 2008 by Michael Stallone, an industry veteran with more than three decades of experience delivering outstanding employee-benefits and client relationships. 


The Partnership Was a Good Fit for Both Sides

As Michael considered M&A, he knew what he wanted in a partner—a place to call home where he could access in-house resources he’d previously had to outsource. Of all the potential partners he investigated, he believed joining Relation would be the best fit and would allow him to offer better service at competitive rates to his valued clients2. Additionally, he wanted to be part of an organization where he could not only grow his business but also have a direct impact on the growth and direction of the company’s employee benefits practice.

Michael was an exceptional fit for Relation’s President of Employee Benefits, Keri Lopez, who was looking to expand the employee benefits team with seasoned brokers. Stallone promised to bring innovative ways for Relation to reduce costs, complexity, and the administrative burden to the table.


“They prioritized my goals and interests, and I could tell they were there for my benefit just as much as for their own.”

Michael Stallone


Early on, the Partnership Yielded Great Results

Upon joining Relation, Michael immediately added value through his wealth of experience with technology outsourcing for large, sophisticated clients and was able to step in as a senior advisor for several of Relation’s more substantial client relationships. 


“Michael has brought additional capabilities to Relation that have added a huge amount of value for our clients.”

Keri Lopez


Two Cultures Aligned

From the earliest conversations, Relation and Belvedere Pacific both expressed the need for a culture fit. Finding alignment can be an obstacle during mergers and acquisitions3. That wasn’t the case with Relation. Michael believed that, at the end of the day, all things being equal on the economics, technology, and available in-house resources of a potential transaction, it was the people at Relation and the culture they created that made it a destination of choice for him as an acquisition partner.


“From the leadership team, through every level of management, to the client service roles, the people who make up this company are in a league of their own. Insurance doesn’t have to be where fun goes to die. No amount of new technology or updated processes can make up for not having great people. We have fun at Relation–people truly enjoy providing great service to our clients, and it’s a good place to be.”

Michael Stallone


Four Years Later, The Partnership Has Been a Win-Win

Partnering with Relation allowed Michael to service more clients faster than ever with in-house marketing, employee, and compliance resources. Backed by Relation, he’s continued to adapt to the rapidly evolving employee benefits environment and has more than doubled the size of his book, placing him regularly on the company’s leaderboard for sales.


“They showed they were willing to invest the resources and provide the support necessary to help me grow my business. Joining the Relation team has allowed Belvedere Pacific to continue offering the same great service to our valued clients, in addition to having the in-house resources to analyze and respond to the rapidly evolving employee benefits environment—especially when it comes to complex areas such as healthcare reform and compliance.”

Michael Stallone


Michael has also become an invaluable resource to Relation by helping solve one of the industry’s biggest challenges—talent training and retention4.  He has paid his success forward by mentoring up-and-coming employee-benefits producers, several of whom themselves are now top producers at Relation.

To learn more about becoming a Relation acquisition partner, visit our M&A page. If you’re searching for the resources to help your business grow, a rewarding culture, being part of an increasingly recognized team, and a chance to influence a business being built to thrive for 100+ years from the ground up, let’s chat. 


[1] Deloitte Insurance M&A Outlook 2019

[2] PwC Global Survey Consumer Intelligence Series: CX in M&A: What consumers think when companies combine

[3] PwC’s 10th Annual Global CEO Survey

[4] PwC’s 21st CEO Survey: Insurance




There’s an exciting change happening at Relation Insurance Services, today. After 11 years, Parthenon Capital Partners and Century Equity Partners will be transferring ownership of Relation to Aquiline Capital Partners, effective March 31, 2019.

You can access the press release here.

For some time now, we’ve been evaluating a host of strategic options for our company. This will be a great partnership because the Aquiline team is a fantastic group of folks with tremendous insurance knowledge who believe in the vision and values that the Relation leadership team has put in place. It will allow Relation to keep doing what we’ve been doing, and also make more investments to drive additional growth through organic growth and acquisitions. Our shared vision with Aquiline is that Relation will continue to be one of the nation’s leading independent insurance brokerages.

Other than a change in asset ownership, you can expect business as usual. Our name, our people, our locations, our practices, and our services will remain intact. I will continue to run the business, along with our President and COO, Ed Page. Relation as a whole continues as is. Our goal is, and always will be, to connect the dots to provide the very best insurance solutions and legendary service for our clients.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our clients and partners for your ongoing support over the past 11 years. I’d also like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the entire Relation team. Last but not least, a big thank you to the teams at Parthenon Capital and Century Equity Partners for their continued support. We would not be where we are today, without their backing, guidance, and encouragement. I look forward to a bright future as we continue to grow together.



Please join us for a seminar and panel discussion, led by Shiraz Saeed, Cyber Specialist at AIG, and John Simios, ARM, AAI, Vice President, Captive Resources LLC.

This seminar will focus on sharing ideas and expertise regarding creative risk transfer solutions and assessing new and growing exposures for middle- market companies.

Questions Answered/Topics Covered:

  • Market Update: Property & Casualty and Employee Benefits
  • How can I assess my Cyber Risk?
  • Am I large enough for a Captive? Isn’t that only for large companies?
  • What are rates doing? Should I expect an increase in next year’s renewal?
  • Regulatory Environment Changes: OSHA, ACA Compliance
  • Learn about current Trends and Best Practices

Thursday, October 29th, from 8:00am to 10:00am
Charlotte Country Club, 2465 Mecklenburg Avenue, Charlotte, NC 28205

RSVP to Michael Betters