Our Principles

Every consulting firm is built upon principles.

Many principles (e.g., technical excellence, responsiveness, and client focus) are common to most firms and there is no need to list them here. However, there are two principles that make Richter Associates distinct (if not unique) in comparison to many other firms.

Principle 1: Innovate to Gain Competitive Advantage

So many HR development projects (with or without outside consultants) revolve around a substantial effort to identify “best practices” and then a drive to emulate them.  Oftentimes, such projects meet with very limited success – in part because “best practices” are highly situational. They are successful only because they fit a given organization’s industry, talent pool, culture, product life cycle, go to market strategy and other circumstances.   

Certainly, we believe in the importance of understanding market practices before launching a project.  However, we seldom seek to mechanically reproduce them. Instead we seek to identify opportunities to surpass or leapfrog best practices and/or conventional wisdom by building solutions that perfectly mesh with our clients’ needs and capabilities.  Innovation, not emulation, is the key to success.

In the end, a project is only successful, if it creates a competitive advantage for our client.  The nature of the advantage (e.g., attracting better employees, retaining key talent, maximizing employee motivation and performance, or more cost-effective deployment employees) will vary by the project – but the goal is always a more competitive and capable client.

Principle 2: Focus on Integrity – Manage Total Compensation for the Enterprise

In recent years, a lot of attention has been devoted to defining and broadening the concept of total compensation.  The new view, which incorporates all forms of pay, benefits, and any other policies and programs that attract and retain employees (e.g., training and development opportunities) is clearly a step forward.  However, defining a concept is not synonymous with managing it.  

At any given time, most businesses have a finite amount of resources to devote to employees (relative to other stakeholders including shareholders, suppliers, customers, lenders, etc.)  Therefore, almost any major compensation or benefits decision has broad implications insofar as resources that flow to one group of employees ultimately flow away from other employee groups or stakeholders.  This issue gets frequent attention with respect to executive compensation, but in terms of dollar magnitude, the issue is far more pervasive.  Decisions about changes in areas like benefits, base salary programs effecting all employees, and sales compensation shift significant resources and can have far reaching consequences for all stakeholders.  Assessing the impact of these shifts is not a strictly technical exercise.  Business judgment and ethics must always come into play. Integrity, in this context, means keeping a trained eye on how specific compensation and benefit programs impact the overall enterprise and its stakeholders.

Many consultants prefer to play the role of a narrow technical expert and leave the truly strategic/macro decisions to their clients.  Although we do not presume to make these difficult decisions for our clients, we think it is crucial to make sure the total compensation issues are clearly fleshed out so that optimal long-term solutions can be adopted.  Stated another way, we do not see ourselves as narrow technical experts so much as business advisors with distinct technical expertise.

Note: Andrew Richter was a co-leader of the WorldatWork Board Committee that redefined the concept of total rewards for the profession.  In addition, he was actively involved in the Board’s work on defining professional ethics for practitioners in the field.