Ep. 92: How to Create a High-Performance Work Culture (with Allan Burkley)


Allan Burkley is the Regional Vice President of Meridian Bank for Philadelphia & Delaware counties. By moving up the ranks as a commercial banker, he’s learned what drives success for businesses from both a financial and an organizational perspective.

Today on Stay Paid, Allan shares his expertise on implementing a company culture and keeping employees motivated.

Key Points

  • Culture is a collection of behaviors grounded in altruism.
  • In order for any organization to succeed, there must be a common motivation other than the profit motive.
  • You can keep your employees motivated by implementing efforts like matching donations, team exercises, and mentorships.

 Q: Introduce yourself to our audience.

I work with a commercial group called Meridian Bank. We completed an IPO about a year and a half ago. We’ve just crossed over the billion-dollar mark, which is a testament to our CEO Chris Annas’s abilities. We hire people out of college, they do internships, and then they work with us.

We’ve been around for 15 years. The key is constantly servicing people.

As most bankers will tell you, the majority of us don’t grow up saying we want to be bankers. Since the Great Recession, banks have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

I grew up as a Jersey Shore kid and attended school a block and a half off the beach. When I wanted to go away to school, I wanted sun and fun. I went to Arizona State. While there, I studied economics and philosophy. Both of these things were passions. My mom advised me, when you get into the workforce, it’s about who likes you. To this day, it’s resonated with me.

After graduation, I came back East. I became a junior compliance Officer for ING Securities. Next thing I knew, I found myself underwriting home equity loans. But it wasn’t what I wanted to do. A friend of mine worked at First Union and got me a job there. From there, I began a credit training program and started working as an analyst, and then as a lender.

I moved up through the ranks and eventually joined Meridian, where I am today.

Q: What does culture mean to you?

Culture is a behavior. Leadership is a behavior, based on serving others. Any business should have an overarching mission. It’s not all about making the owner money—there is a greater good.

“We’re all in this together.” That, for me, is culture. It’s behaviors that are grounded in altruism.

One of the things I think Meridian does extremely well is community-adjusted EBITA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, and Amortization). It’s not just having profit to enrich ourselves, but to give back to the communities we serve.

I used to work with a person who is one of the largest philanthropists in the southeastern PA marketplace. He was the toughest person I ever worked for. He required everyone to serve on boards at non-profits or community organizations. Part of being part of a corporation is being a good person.

It all starts with taking a sincere and genuine interest in people.

Q: How do you implement culture on a day-to-day basis?

You have to define the mission. What fuels the team? One way to do that from an execution standpoint is to create cultural ambassadors—people who aren’t management but who can reflect the values of the organization.

Another thing you can do is carve out a percentage of your marketing plan and use it to match charitable donations. Turnover is the absolute biggest killer for businesses—it impacts the top line and the bottom line. Matching donations will make your employees very happy and remind them you really care about people.

You can also encourage people to develop their mental agility by creating challenges. Take a common problem your company experiences and get people from various groups to work on one part of it per quarter. This allows you to view those problems from multiple angles while keeping your employees engaged and energized.

Transparency is important. With privately held businesses, I understand that companies might not want to share their numbers. By focusing on a few key numbers once a quarter and offering congratulations to the people who deserve it, you remind your employees why they’re doing what they’re doing.

Finally, a mentorship program can be very helpful. As people sit with other employees in various departments, they can see how it all fits together.

Q: Which routines have driven success for you?

I have a morning routine. If I get thrown off that routine, it seems like my day is controlling me. I wake up at 4:30 every morning. I immediately put on my workout clothes and go downstairs. As I’m making my coffee, I read a book. Then, I go to the gym. Next, I watch a 15-minute local sports program. After that, I go upstairs and read scripture. Then, I get in the shower. And, by the time I hop out, I am ready to go.

Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?

I have no regrets. I have made a million mistakes, but those mistakes made me who I am today. I’m not afraid to take risks. That’s the only way we ever grow.

Action Items:

  • Figure out what it is that you believe in and what you want to accomplish. Define that, and then commit yourself to making it a reality.

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