client feedback program

Does your firm need a Head of Growth?

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I was away in the delightful Nelson Bay last week and so missed the opportunity to join the webinar co-presented by  John Grimley (@JohnGrimley) and Ivan Rasic (@Ivan_Rasic) on the issue of ‘Supercharge Your Law Firm Revenue With NewLaw And Big4 Sales Methods‘. Fortunately a recording of the webinar was made and you can now listen to this on YouTube (approximately one hour long, including the no-holds-barred Q+A session).

Anyhow, listening to John and Ivan’s webinar reminded me of a post on the Harvard Business Review website last month (February 19) titled ‘Every Company Needs a Growth Manager‘. In the post, the authors Jeff Bussgang and Nadav Benbarak set out very compelling reasons why every company (and not just Silicon Valley Tech companies) should have a growth manager or Head of Growth, many of which apply equally to professional services firms and so prompted this post.

Borrowing from Bussgang and Benbarak, the job description (JD) for the Head of Growth role at a law firm would likely say:

Oversight of client acquisition, activation, retention and cross-selling; working cross-functionally across the firm with Marketing & Business Development, IT, HR, Finance and Knowledge/Precedents to design, implement and execute on profitable growth initiatives within the business.

Although a number – if not all – of these functions are already happening with initiatives such as Key Account Management, Business Development, etc. I believe it is fair to say that it would be rare for these to be centralised under any one person’s control.

More to the point, many firms would benefit from giving an individual or team (depending on size) oversight to monitoring the right data and behaviours to ensure these key initiatives move forward without roadblocks. In turn, this should hopefully install a profitable growth mentality (aka, “profit principal”) within the firm as a whole (rather than the more traditional approach of having “star” teams).

It goes without saying that underlying all of this needs to be a well defined firm-wide strategic plan, which includes clearly defined growth objectives/targets. In addition, any firm looking to implement such a role/scheme would need to have a robust and honest client feedback program in place, as client insight needs to underpin any growth program.

Finally, the Head of Growth would need to work very closely with the Knowledge / Library team to implement a state of the art competitor intelligence analysis program – after all, it helps to know what’s going on in the market if you want to grow!

Ultimately, your Head of Growth would have the creative, analytical and strategic skills to work closely with the firm’s partners and leadership to get a clear understanding of your clients’ and target clients’ needs with the direct authority to implement a program or set of initiatives to target these needs and profitably grow your firm.

To sum up, although it would be a little unfair to say that, historically, professional services firms have not seen a need to grow their book of business – regardless of whether that was profitably or otherwise –  today’s highly competitive market certainly warrants your firm employing a Head of Growth position who is charged with oversight on growing the revenue and top-line profit of your firm.

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#BizDevTip: 15 ways to find new business development opportunities in 2015

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On the basis that all lawyers are, ultimately, responsible for sourcing and securing their own book of business, the following are 15 ways you and your law firm could find new business development opportunities in 2015:

  1. RSS feeds: we will start off easy, set up an RSS drop box email account (I use Gmail) and sign-up to as many news and industry sources as you believe you need to give you as much relevant market information as possible. Keep in mind that if it’s in the “papers” you’ve most likely missed the boat, but you can still find the odd nugget this way.
  2. Apps to read on the go: in addition to having RSS feeds, I also have a number of news and blog feeds that I read on my iPad on the way to work through the Ziner app that are fed through Feedly. Previously I used to play solitaire on the train, but I’ve actually had some real wins since doing this.
  3. Network internally: if your firm has an intranet site, make yourself visible on this. Offer to publish updates or other useful information that will increase your profile internally. I’ve found this particularly useful in multiple jurisdiction and cross-border firms where you might not always get the opportunity to meet with your colleagues and show them firsthand how great you are! Even if you work in a one office firm though, increasing your profile internally – via the old water-cooler chat – can help build your profile and the trust your peers have in your abilities.
  4. Be present on Twitter: not only is Twitter a lot of fun, but it also offers you a free and easy way to increase your profile and network globally. And you’ll be surprised how often someone in your network (of Twitter followers) is asked by someone they know (but you don’t) for a recommendation in your jurisdiction, and guess who they will be recommending!
  5. Blog: again, a free (or at worst relatively cheap) and easy way to highlight that you are a thought leader in your area of expertise. It may also lead to other publishing opportunities that will help to promote your brand as widely as possible. And it doesn’t even have to be that long or complicated a post on your blog – just make it authentic and consistent.
  6. LinkedIn: I suggest people be ‘present’ on LinkedIn. This means using this platform as more than a modern rolodex for contact cards. Join and participate in industry groups that are relevant to your practice. Better yet, join and participate in groups your clients or target clients are active in. And if there are none, start your own!
  7. Publish: publish articles and materials that showcase how brilliantly you know your subject matter and how it applies to your clients businesses. I would suggest that you don’t do this in peer-to-peer [lawyer] publications, but find out what publications your clients like to read and try and get published in these – even if that means you are publishing updates on the automotive industry in a car magazine!
  8. Participate in client relationship management teams: you would be surprised what you can learn from CRM team meetings. I’ve seen millions of dollars generated in these groups over the years. But here’s the thing: you and your firm need to be engaged and willing to share information in order for it to work.
  9. Sector group meetings: same as 8 above, only along the lines of a sector rather than a specific client. Here, think back to how successful study groups were for you at high school or university – where you all shared information to help each other improve. Well the same principle applies, only the rewards can be [financially] much greater!
  10. Be visible: offer to spend one day a week or month working in your client’s office(s). Don’t charge them for it, just ask if you can use an office there. Then let them drop by for a coffee and a chat. You’ll be surprised by how many potential new matters you’ll have by the end of the day!
  11. Industry events: attend and participate in as many as you can. Not only are they great for networking, but they’re also good for insights from business leaders into the direction the market is heading. So, if you haven’t already, head off and join your local chamber of commerce or industry body organisation.
  12. Study: study broadens the mind. It also brings you into contact with likeminded people who might need your help. So if studying is your thing, this is an excellent venue where you can not only build your reputation as being a knowledgeable thought leader, but also bring you into contact with people who may need your help.
  13. Be social: don’t spend every waking hour at the office, be social. Attend your local sports or drama club events, because you never know who you might meet at these venues and the next person you meet could well be your biggest client this year!
  14. Accept feedback: always be willing to accept feedback as this will likely result in: (i) a platform where trust can be built, in that if your client sees that you are willing to listen to their feedback and improve your service delivery based on that feedback, they’re more likely to trust your abilities going forward (and this is true even where you make mistakes), and (ii) you being more aware of forthcoming work than you might otherwise have been.
  15. Always be willing to ask for help: lastly, always be willing to ask for help. That can be in the form of a mentor, coach, business trainer or rainmaker. It could be as simple as asking for help being introduced to someone you don’t know but want to get to know. How it’s done is not the important part, it’s in the asking: keep in mind that everyone, and I do mean everyone, has or will need someone else’s help at some point. And at some point, someone will ask you for your help – so give generously if you can!

There you go then, 15 ways for you and your firm to find business development opportunities going forward this year  – and if you can think of any more, let me know via the comments section.

#BizDevTip: The only KPI that matters is client satisfaction

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Whether you are a newly admitted lawyer or an old-hand, in an industry that revolves around a 12-month cycle the one thing that you can be sure of is that you’ll be subject to a lot of internal and external reporting metrics.

These might be the service standards imposed by clients, such as the need to respond to phone calls or emails within a certain number of hours. Or they could be driven by the firm you work for, such as meeting an annual revenue budget. More than likely, they’ll be a combination of both.

And the metrics may even change over time, to determine whether you are being efficient or effective.

But the one thing you can be absolutely certain of is that the only key performance indicator (KPI) that has any meaning whatsoever is whether or not your client is satisfied with the job you are doing.

Sure you need to worry about revenue. You even need to worry about profitability. Pro bono and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are important. But none of this matters a darn if your clients aren’t satisfied.

Which is why it is absolutely astonishing that as much as:

 “94% of global law firms clients were not asked for any formal feedback from their primary law firm”

–  Acritas Sharpelegal2013

By all means, keep big data. Even mine the information and undertake data analysis. Do whatever it is you need to do to keep your law firm running.

But remember, giving your client the opportunity to provide you with formal, and impartial, feedback on your performance is one of the very few real differentiators left.

And if you are one of the 6% of global firms that are doing this, then there is every chance your firm really is one of the few that is standing out from the crowd.

And if not, you’re really only providing an easily commoditized service.

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