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Post #404 – Friday, August 21, 2009
The “New Normal” Survey
While American industry is struggling to get through what could become the worst recession since the Great Depression, Americans say that even after the recession ends, their spending will return to just 86% of pre-recession levels, which would take a trillion dollars per year out of the U.S. economy for years to come.
According to an in-depth survey of more than 5,000 people, conducted by Alix Partners and referred to me by my friend Jack Butler at Skadden Arps, Americans plan to save (and therefore not spend) an astounding 14% of their total earnings post-recession with the replenishment of their 401(k) and other retirement savings leading the way among their biggest long-term concerns.
Even if these findings are colored somewhat by the emotions of the day, Americans are definitely speaking loud and clear: They believe the “new normal” for the American economy going forward will be more like the early 1980s than the mid-2000s. These findings have deep and immediate ramifications for industries of all stripes, from consumer-facing companies to suppliers of all kinds to raw-materials companies to financial-services organizations. And, give what a big export market America is, they have huge ramifications for companies all around the globe.
Post #403 - Thursday, August 13, 2009
How Do You Identify Leaders?
I had the good fortune to spend a week with Professor Gary Hamel, some years back, at a strategy session in San Francisco. Gary is the author of a number of great books, his latest entitled: The Future of Management. He recently provided some interesting questions to consider with respect to the age old question of how to identify leaders:
The need to empower natural leaders is a competitive imperative. But before you can empower them, you have to find them. In most firms, the formal hierarchy is a matter of public record — it’s easy to discover who’s in charge of what. By contrast, natural leaders don’t appear on any organization chart.
To hunt them down, you need to know . . .
Whose advice is sought most often on any particular topic?
Who responds most promptly to requests from peers?
Whose responses are judged most helpful?
Who is most likely to reach across firm boundaries to aid a colleague?
Whose opinions are most valued, internally and externally?
Who gets the most kudos from clients?
Who’s the most densely connected to other partners?
Who’s generating the most buzz outside of the firm?
Who consistently demonstrates real thought leadership?
Who seems truly critical to key decisions?
Post #402 – Wednesday, August 5, 2009
A Bridge To China
While many consultancies around the globe slow down, I’m building a bridge to China by linking up with SRC Associates Ltd. of Hong Kong.
What is destined to become a ‘Global AdvantEdge’ my strategic alliance with Robert Sawhney and his colleagues is an endeavor designed to signal that we are going for growth. This is not so much a statement of support for emerging markets, but a statement of optimism itself. Both Bob and I think something can happen; something positive.
Robert is the founder and managing director of SRC Associates Ltd, a pioneering Hong Kong based firm that works in the areas of strategic management, marketing, leadership, and internationalization services for professional service firms. Working throughout Asia and elsewhere, Robert has some 15 years experience in the Asian business environment and has developed a strong understanding of the business and cultural context of the region.
He is the author of ‘Marketing Professional Services in Asia‘ (Lexis Nexis, 2009) and has published numerous articles in prominent publications such as Hong Kong Lawyer, Hong Kong Economic Times, Business Times (Singapore), Lawyers Weekly (Aus), HK Accountant, and The Lawyer (UK), among many others.
China is a complicated growth market for North American law firms. When Bob and I first connected, I realized that I had found the right strategic partner.
Post #401 – Monday, July 27, 2009
Three New Books That Deserve Your Attention
There has been a flurry of new books released this month, for those of us interested in professional service firms and fortunately, all of them worthy of your attention.
Suzanne Lowe is one of those few gifted talents that is able to move across professions conducting research and disseminating best practices. I remain a big fan of her work in Marketplace Masters (Praeger Publishing, 2004) which received rave reviews from across the professional services spectrum; and so I was personally delighted to find that she has just released a new book: The Integration Imperative: Erasing Marketing and Business Development Silos – Once and For All – in Professional Service Firms.
According to one of the five-star reviews: The Integration Imperative points out a fundamental problem in professional services firms: their marketing and selling are not connected. When they do learn to connect these functions they not only improve their sales and marketing, but they also improve their value to their clients. Lowe clearly identifies three structural and cultural frameworks that firms can use to overcome their disconnects. The book's case studies help hammer home the concepts and show that real-life firms can truly benefit from her advice. Especially given the economic circumstances firms are in today, this book should be required reading for any professional firm that wants to grow its business and break out of the pack.
You can download the introduction and table of contents - here.
Suzanne Lowe is the president of Expertise Marketing, LLC. She is an analyst, advisor, writer and speaker on the best practices and emerging strategies in professional services marketing. She is a contributor to the second edition of the book Marketing Professional Services, by Kotler, Hayes and Bloom (Prentice Hall Press, 2002), and she was featured as a thought leader in The Expert’s Edge, by Ken Lizotte (McGraw Hill Books, 2008).
From Robert W. Cullen we have The Leading Lawyer: A Guide to Practicing Law and Leadership.
This book explains the secrets of leadership from leading lawyers who have taken their talent to new heights by combining legal expertise with exceptional leadership skills. It shows how leading lawyers capitalize on their advocacy and analytical skills and combine them with their visionary insights to reach new levels of success. It also demonstrates how to use advocacy and creativity, persuasion and inspiration, and team building to service clients and build successful organizations.
Bob researches leadership issues within professional service firms and is an Adjunct Law Professor, Mediator and Consultant. He was formally a shareholder and Managing Partner with Hoge, Fenton, Jones & Appel, Inc., one of the largest San Jose based law firms. His specialties include negotiation and mediation strategy as well as leadership for lawyers. The Leadership for Lawyers class that he developed at Santa Clara Law School was one of the first in the nation. You can find out more at www.leadership4lawyers.com
And finally, from Mike Schultz and John Doerr, the Raintoday.com leaders, comes a new book, Professional Services Marketing.
The promo on the publication claims that the book is perfect for professionals in legal, accounting, architecture, consulting, technology, engineering, marketing, or any other services industry. It covers specific areas that these professionals need to tackle if they want to grow their revenues—creating a marketing and growth strategy; establishing a brand and reputation; implementing a marketing communications program; lead generation strategies; and developing business by winning new clients.
These guys did a brilliant job of marketing. In the seven page ‘Acknowledgement’ section of their book, they listed over 300 people, many of who had, at one time or another, authored some article in raintoday.com. 300 people who, when they see their name in print, get this warm fuzzy feeling down deep inside and can’t help themselves . . . they just have to do something to help promo the fact that this book has been published.
Yeahhhh, I confess. My name was there amongst those who know how to spell marketing.
Post #400 – Monday, July 20, 2009
Measuring Practice Group Performance
Last March, together with Baker & Daniels Chair Emeritus Brian K. Burke, I co-founded what is now known as The LAB (the Managing Partner Leadership Advisory Board) – a forum designed to provide recently appointed managing partners with a source for obtaining pragmatic advice on their leadership questions and critical burning issues. The formation of this group was the result of suggestions made during our bi-annual First 100 Days master class for new managing partners and has proven to be a valuable resource for new leaders.
Here is the latest question in a series of different queries that The LAB members have now responded to:
As a relatively new managing shareholder I’m attempting to assess the various practice groups we currently have throughout our firm. My question to the group is: What specific metrics do you use and find to be worthwhile in assessing or measuring the performance of your practice groups? And, is there any difference in the metrics that you would use for a practice that is pretty much only in one office versus a more regional or national group?
Read the entire question and response:
Measuring Practice Group Performance
LAB responses derive from its members' many years' experience as law firm leaders. Along with Brian and I, the LAB is comprised of the following distinguished current and former law firm leaders: Angelo Arcadipane (Dickstein Shapiro LLP); John Bouma (Snell & Wilmer LLP); Ben F. Johnson, III (Alston & Bird LLP); Keith B. Simmons (Bass Berry & Sims PLC); William J. Strickland (McGuire Woods LLP); Harry P. Trueheart, III (Nixon Peabody LLP); R. Thomas Stanton (Squire Sanders); and Robert M. Granatstein (Blake Cassels and Graydon).
Of Related Interest:
> The LAB Questions and Answers On Other Topics
> First Among Equals
Post #399 – Monday, July 20, 2009
Leadership: Hard To Say I’m Sorry
Even the smartest leaders often find it hard to swallow their pride and say the simple words, “I was wrong” when they have made a mistake. Yet executives who cannot openly assume responsibility for flawed decisions can never correct these mistakes or successfully change direction, writes Harvard Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter. And the implications of poor judgment get worse the longer denial continues, she warns.
The simple sentence "I was wrong" is the hardest for leaders to utter and the most necessary for them to learn. If a leader cannot admit being wrong in a timely fashion, he or she can never correct mistakes, change direction, and restore success. The consequences get worse the longer denial prevails.
The arrogance of success is well-known. Powerful people start to believe that they are above the rules, that what applies to ordinary people does not apply to them. That's how officials get into trouble in the first place, using their power to suppress criticism. They never have to say "I was wrong," because everyone conspires to hide mistakes. The best leaders manage the risk that they could be wrong by surrounding themselves with people are smarter than they are, at least in some things. They create conversations, weigh facts, listen to arguments, and then make better-informed and less self-serving decisions.
Perhaps apology training will become a growth business. Actually, I hope not. But I do hope that smart leaders will be more alert to problems, and if mistakes are made, they can utter the three magic words and take corrective action.
Post #398 – Monday, July 20, 2009
Signs That We’re Close To The Bottom
According to a report in Bloomberg: “The index of U.S. leading indicators rose in June for a third consecutive month, reinforcing signs the economy may be emerging from the worst recession in five decades.
With every day that passes it seems that journalists and pundits everywhere love to speculate on whether our economy has finally reached the bottom and whether we are close to a turnaround. Here are some tongue-in-cheek signs of what to look for.
We have finally hit the bottom when . . .
• A share of stock in the New York Times costs less than a copy of the New York Times.
• “I work for the government” is finally a good pickup line in a bar.
• The closing bell on Wall Street is melted down to take advantage of scrap metal commodity prices.
• Foreign journalists can only afford to throw flip-flops at visiting world leaders.
• All pink slips must be returned so that they can be reused by the next wave of laid-off employees.
• People in Chinese restaurants are observed to actually be eating the fortune cookies after breaking them open.
Can you think of any you would like to add?
Post #397 - Sunday, July 12, 2009
Retreat Speaker or Facilitator?
I’ve had a couple of calls this past week inviting me to participate in upcoming partner retreats – although as one of the firms cautioned me, in this economic environment, we don’t call it a retreat, it’s just quietly referred to as a partner’s meeting. In working through the logistics I often get asked what the difference is between retaining a retreat speaker versus a retreat facilitator (both of which I’m comfortable handling). Facilitating a group session and addressing a group as a professional speaker are competencies applied to achieve different ends. In planning your next event, how do you know which skill set to seek out, and when? Here’s how I would normally distinguish those two different roles –
A facilitator serves the role of:
• Bringing a group of people together interactively to achieve specific objectives – team building; strategic planning; conflict resolution; problem-solving.
• Contributing the structure and process to enable the group to function effectively and make high-quality decisions.
• Creating and maintaining an environment of inclusion, energy, and commitment from all partners.
While a Speaker is:
• Informing – as a subject matter expert, sharing practical knowledge and valuable perspectives relevant to your partners.
• Motivating and inspiring– providing the right stimulus to set or enrich the tone of the retreat.
• Entertaining – lightening the mood, relaxing the partners; adding a positive and upbeat element to a gathering.
A good facilitator should have a skill-set which includes:
• Professional education, training, and / or experience in organization development or organization effectiveness
• Knowledge of group dynamics – ability to maintain interest, focus and energy level of a group of partners to achieve maximum participation and productivity.
• Effective use of facilitation techniques, such as open-ended questions; active listening, conflict resolution; brainstorming; decision-making; and action planning.
While a good speaker needs:
• Content knowledge – relevance of topics to achieve session objectives; knowledge of latest trends and best practices in their chosen area of expertise.
• Platform skills – dynamic presentation style that engages the audience.
• Adaptability – ability to relate the topic and presentation to the special needs and profile of the audience.
To help you match the right resources for the results you’re seeking, you need to know which role (and sometimes it’s both) you would prefer to have at your next partner’s retreat.
Post #396 - Tuesday, June 30, 2009
CLO’s Are Not Serious About Change.
I was intrigued today to read the news release entitled CLO’s don’t think law firms are serious about change. With all due respect to friends at Altman, they can only report the answers that CLO’s believe they should provide to questions in surveys like this. And in this specific survey, what is being reported with respect to how serious CLO’s themselves are, about change, I believe to be absolute nonsense!
Fred Bartlit, founder of Bartlit Beck (American Lawyer Litigation Boutique of the Year), made a provocative statement on Legal OnRamp a few months back. He claimed: “I do not think most corporate law departments are serious about reducing costs.” Fred went on to cite a few examples where he had offered to help a client save money and found the client uninterested.
I was a little taken back by Fred’s assertion. From my past corporate experience I could not imagine how any company could not be genuinely interested in reducing costs, especially at a time of such economic despair.
Then I had an interesting experience in May. On behalf of an AmLaw listed, “Go-To” regional firm of over 500 attorneys, I spent two weeks initiating contact with the General Counsel of over thirty-five Fortune 500 Companies to explore their interest in investing one-hour to meet with 3 partners. The invitation was to discuss how this law firm could provide exceptional client service and deliver a potential savings of between 25 to 40 percent, or more. And that proposed savings was accompanied by specific details of guaranteed responsiveness, assured predictability, enhanced added-value and references from some top New York based Fortune 50 existing clients.
But . . . here’s the kicker.
To make my offer an absolute win-win proposition I offered each of the GC’s a personal guarantee. I personally guaranteed that if they agreed to meet with these partners and did not feel that they received value from that meeting in and of itself, then they were welcome to send me an invoice for one hour of their time and the name of the Charity that they would like me to send the check to, on their behalf. Dead serious!
So while I’m sitting at my desk reading the commentary of one Fortune 500 CEO talking to the financial press on May 23rd about how he was cutting 10% of the workforce, putting a freeze on merit bonuses, shrank his capital spending outlay, is renegotiating contracts on property leases and claims that his executives are “leaving no stone unturned in their search for savings as sales sputter,” I’m talking to the Company’s General Counsel asking for a meeting and being told that “he’s not interested.”
While Fred Bartlit may have been speculating about how serious most law departments are about reducing costs, I now have the proof, and can name names. So my respectful suggestion to these CLO’s is: quit suggesting that law firms aren’t serious about change and get your own house in order.
And if you are a General Counsel reading this and truly do want to save money, want to hear about a firm that can help you do that, and want to take me to task on what I’m claiming, please give me a call – I DARE you!
* * * * * *
June 30th at 4:15 p.m.
I just received this, by e-mail, from a former General Counsel and now a member of the management team at an AmLaw 200 firm:
Bring it on . . . great post Patrick. I am sick of hearing how we are not working to change. I spend a large part of my time, and even more of my energy on changing the habits of traditional lawyers. Don't tell me it can't be done. The question is, are those same traditionalist now just working in-house?
Post #395 – Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Handling The Trauma of Layoffs
According to a survey of 2100 employers, world-wide, 58 percent report that they are still planning layoffs and will be cutting even more jobs in the last half of 2009. During the past few months I’ve been counseling a number of firms faced with having to make drastic cuts and concerned with how to execute any layoffs with dignity. That may seem like it should be the natural way to approach such a critical decision, but as these cuts have been made over the past eight months, there is ample evidence that many premiere firms did not handle their economic retrenchment with much finesse.
Read my entire article: Handling The Trauma of Layoffs
In this article I outline six of the more common mistakes that I call “Layoff Malpractice,” five things to think through before initiating a layoff, and a dozen ways to show compassion for the emotional turmoil that layoffs cause.
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