Changing the Culture at HORNE: Firm Helps Team Members ‘Connect the Dots’

Changing the Culture at HORNE: Firm Helps Team Members ‘Connect the Dots’

HORNE Executive Partner Joey Havens has been leading a crusade to change the culture within the Top 50 firm for about two years, and it’s meant educating a team of about 500 people about why some of the mainstays of the profession are being dismantled and put together again.

Joey Havens

Joey Havens

Ridgeland, Miss.-based HORNE (FY13 net revenue of $67.3 million) has offices in five states from Tennessee to Texas. A total overhaul of the culture has created some significant changes at the firm: from narrowing its client focus to only seven service areas in 2012 to hiring “Full Potential” coaches last year to help team members meet their personal and career goals.

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With all that is evolving within the culture at HORNE, helping team members understand the connection between the challenges and what’s being done to solve them is key to the culture change approach.

Havens unveiled “The HORNE Identity” video ( during the firm’s annual leadership summit this summer to help everyone understand why so many things were changing at the firm, seemingly all at once.

The video is a tongue-in-cheek demonstration of the many catch phrases that have been developed during the process: Fearless Unrivaled Flexibility, Belonging at HORNE, Be Better, Focused on You.

“These are not just things we’re saying. They’re not just simple words,” says Havens in the video. “Today we’re going to connect the dots. Today we’re going to make those words come alive and understand what it means to be The Wise Firm©: a firm of positive energy.”

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In one scene, an employee eliminates a “guilt vampire” by chomping down garlic and breathing into its face. What’s a guilt vampire? It’s a term the team members at HORNE coined to define the feeling of guilt that keeps employees from asking for what they really need. In studies on workplace flexibility, guilt was identified over and over as to why alternative work arrangements fail, says Havens. The guilt may be imposed by a supervisor, or imposed internally, and employees are afraid non-traditional arrangements will hurt their careers. “We encouraged people to communicate openly and transparently as a way to kill the guilt vampires,” says Havens, who believes that too much management and too many rules stifle creativity and full potential.


Havens also made a presentation at the summit called “Connect the Dots,” as another way to help employees understand the cultural changes. One “dot” was collaboration. Rather than just talking about working together, HORNE created an online “collaboration hub” where professionals at all levels can work on projects or weigh in on new ideas. .For example, the firm collaboratively weighed in on what it wanted in a flexibility philosophy on the hub. Havens took the initial feedback, drafted a first-round philosophy and then asked all employees to pick it apart and vote on it. Collaborative teams, called “Be Better” teams, have been a part of the firm for over two years and tackle specific cultural challenges through dialogue and homework assignments.

After laying out all the strategic initiatives that are currently a part of the culture change, , defining terms and connecting the core values to the vision of the firm at the annual summit, 77% said they better understood where HORNE is going as a firm and why, says Kassi Rushing, communication director.

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Havens says that just like any other process of change, success with a cultural shift will take persistence, consistency and celebrating successes along the way. “There’s a fine line between moving too slowly and moving too quickly, it’s like walking on a tightrope.”