News & Views from Firm Beliefs
We will be posting articles on a regular basis - so check back regularily for updates.
Displaying Posts 1 to 5 of 131
Author: Sara Dixon
Posted: 17th of September, 2013
It isn't often that one equates business meetings with hidden passions, secret discussions and longing looks across a crowded room. Well, maybe it is if the figures on office romance are anything to go by!
I am talking about the love of one organisation for another. I am talking about - mergers... Yes, for some, summer was the chance to have informal chats in cities around the UK empty of colleagues, and safe from the prying eyes of fellow sector participants or the press. At one stage, I really did feel that it might have been an efficient use of time to hold one of those Singles Nights where each organisation got a chance of a 5 minute 'do we like each other' chat with another one.
And bringing together our two sectors of legal services and not-for-profits, we might have had even more fun! Incidentally it was good to see a legal advice charity becoming an ABS. More here, on the website that brings the latest news about the ever-changing legal services sector: http://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/exclusive-legal-advice-charity-becomes-first-not-for-profit-set-abs
So, let's see how many go forth and multiply - if not with each other than with others! And I hope they are minded to take notice of our last blog (that is if they are not using us to help them down the path towards matrimony!): http://www.firmbeliefs.co.uk/news.php?postId=142 - Magic Merger Moments.
Happy memories of a romantic summer...
Author: Sara Dixon
Posted: 04th of June, 2013
What will be the ‘Magic Merger Moments’ for the new organisation? ‘ Who cares’ I hear you say. ‘Let’s just get there.’
There are a number of critical outcomes to a merger that occur AFTER the merger that need to be integrated into your pre-merger planning. Of those organisations with which we have worked both pre and post merger, it is the identification of those MMMs that will drive success (however defined) of the merger.
Let’s face it. Most of the work pre-merger is exhausting. Exciting yes; worrying yes. Exhausting, certainly. It is all that most executives can do to hang on to the merger date in their sight lines and plough through the project plan of critical processes and priorities that will get them to that date. Come the merger day (let’s assume it’s the legal merger moment for now), claps of hands, slaps on the back, maybe some champagne/a few beers down the pub, a bit of PR and it is home to rest.
And energy levels are pretty low for a few months after that. Yes – perhaps working with new folk, in a new environment possibly, new stakeholders can drive a person onwards. There is an element of excitement to that that brings its own energy and drive. But the reality is that, unless critical outcomes are already integrated into the new organisation’s processes and priorities BEFORE merger, the chances are they won’t happen. Executives won’t have the energy.
Which is why the successful mergers are ones where the post-merger moments are pre-identified, planned for and integrated into the organisation BEFORE merger.
It sounds obvious, doesn’t it; but so often it is lacking. Even amongst the most management-skilled organisations. Size, too, doesn’t matter! Organisations large and small; known and less well-known; driven and failing – ask them about their magic merger moments (or rather ‘what will be the proofs of success in the post-merger organisation’) and most times a blank look ensues. Try it. Ask them. The ones who didn’t have to think of them post merger are the ones with the biggest chance of the merger fulfilling all they planned.
Your magic merger moments could be:
- That all staff are happy using skype (or whatever the integrated new system is) – how will you measure that post-merger? In other words, a recognition that real merger happens when staff ‘feel’ as one. Listen for the use of the word ‘we’. Plan for it BEFORE merger. How will you make that happen?
- That your post-merger income begins to grow. After all, most mergers see a downturn in income post-merger for a period of time. Plan for when the upturn needs to happen and be prepared to use metrics that demonstrate that over time. Plan for that loss and upturn magic merger moment BEFORE merger.
- That all stakeholders increase their relationship levels (be they clients/suppliers/the bank/donors/investors) POST merger. All too often key stakeholders are left out of the equation when planning a merger. Plan PRE-MERGER for their approval and continued and growing involvement with the new organisation.
I could go on. Every organisation is different. The project plan will look different. The priorities will differ. The comms plan will vary. But what every organisation must plan for is ‘what will success of this merger look like?’ Identify those Magic Merger Moments BEFORE merger and plan for them. Integrate them into your project plan.
Our work with both successful and failing merged organisations tells us that it is a question of always having the basics in mind from the birth of the very idea of a merger . And the most basic is the identification of success – those Magic Merger Moments. Easily lost amongst risk reports, stakeholder forums, legal issues, integration of systems, PR and publicity. And numerous other issues to consider before merger.
So make life easier for yourselves. Think of it now - what will success look like? Plan for it. Design it into the pre-merger plan. That way, when your execs are post-merger tired, exhausted and incapable of really planning for success other than the bare minimum, you have your ‘Magic Merger Moments’ already on the way, and can celebrate each one.
Next blog – what to do if you have no Magic Merger Moments and you’ve already merged…
Author: Sara Dixon
Posted: 13th of May, 2013
There are plenty of opportunities for an organisation to ‘ruin its brand’ from within. We are all trained in that fine art of using social media - carefully.
But what about this one? Somewhat old fashioned - the 'face to face' risk.
You know - the moment when a colleague opens his/her mouth in an interview with an external person to choose a new business partner, a new employee, a new consultant. You have no worries about what comes out of that mouth usually but on this occasion... Those words begin a slow/fast attack on the value of your brand. From somebody who you normally expect would protect that brand.
We have all been in internal meetings where a full and frank discussion takes place amongst colleagues. We have all been in external facing meetings where a full and frank discussion takes place with others about our organisation. But the extent of the "full and frank", and its impact, is in reality quite different when external individuals are involved.
I am talking about external meetings where you and your colleagues think that you are the ones in power - the potential new owner, the potential new employee, the potential new consultant will be so desperate to work with/for you that you can say what you like about your organisation - they are the ones under scrutiny, not you, you imagine.
How wrong. How risky.
Examples we have come across recently:
1. The job interviewee who is told by the interviewer "Our directors are all a bit antiquated but we are hoping to get shot of them soon so you would be working for a far more dynamic organisation then. But just keep that under your hat right now". The potential employee tells the recruitment agency that the organisation doesn't respect normal HR/Legal principles. The recruitment agency has concerns about putting forward others for the role (yes - there are some agencies who take a view on that and do conduct their business accordingly!) Meanwhile the potential employee takes a job with the competitor and that information is used very nicely thank you!
2. The charity head of fundraising tells the potential consultant 'Don't break our project into small chunks if you think we can't afford to run the entire project - we get stacks of cash from donors and don't need to worry about the risk of not having cash over the next year or so'. The consultants, who also sit on donor funding boards, will think carefully about recommending the charity for funding in the future - on the basis of an irresponsible management of the funds they do have; as well as a possible lack of awareness of the risk of funding suddenly not being available.
3. The partner in a firm tells somebody up for partnership "Well you know the problems we've been having so you are aware of the risk of this opportunity but don't worry with your investment in the firm, we can change things'. Would you buy into that approach?
None of these statements is factually incorrect. None would be inappropriate in an internal meeting. But in a meeting with external individuals, they are dynamite.
Why would an individual make these statements? Usually from an over-optimistic sense of their power in the conversation - who cares what the potential partner, employee or consultant thinks about your organisation? You are the ones in control of whether they will work with you.
Wrong. All 3 could be rare commodities in today's world. There is a shortage of capital into businesses; employees with the right skills; consultants with the right approach. They can choose to say yes or no to the opportunity of working with you.
And all 3 will walk away and, amongst their own networks, are advocates or otherwise for your organisation. And its brand and its reputation..
So be realistic and frank in meetings BUT remember that the power also lies with those who are external to your organisation. So realism and frankness needs to be carefully agreed beforehand. Be careful who you allow on your interview panels! One misjudged sentence by somebody who misunderstands where the power lies could cost you dear.
2,793 law firm partners moved firms in the London market 2005-2012. 32% failed. So far…. Failure meaning the partner has already left their new firm since joining it. Voluntarily or “Involuntarily”. Could be worse .... there are no statistics available on those still with a firm but not achieving expectations [“drizzlemakers” according to one managing partner].
Those are the headlines coming out of the “Sum People” Report by Mark Brandon in The Lawyer. Mark Brandon has been around the legal marketplace for a long time. He knows his stuff. It is well worth a read - and a long ponder - for any managing partner in any firm anywhere.
The Report is a mine of statistics such as:
- 33% of employment partners failed versus 22% of regulatory partners
- 80% of property partners hired in 2005 failed
- 65% of 2007 litigation hires failed
- 41% of in-house to private practice moves failed
As with statistics of any kind, the more there are the more complex the game of picking out conclusions that no-one can argue with. The deeper you dive into them the less apparent can be the lessons and the greater the potential for some to use rogue results to muddy the water. Probably a bit like wading through the treacle of the NHS really.
Particularly with lawyers where the ‘devil in the detail’ provides an opportunity to argue the ‘it’s not too bad’ line. For instance 32% failure means 68% success and that sounds really good doesn’t it? So aren’t we doing well? Errrr …. No.
The Report is well worth a read for any managing partner anywhere, not for its statistics alone, but more for the qualitative hints at where all firms and partners can focus to beat the failure numbers down and down. It would make sense – anything to keep the risk of failure, partnership stress levels and big number costs down - surely.
It is even handed. It makes clear that the reasons for failure lie in less than smart selection (bad match either way) to start with, the effort or lack of by the incoming partner and inadequate support by the firm itself. At worst, taking on a warm body, letting it do what it wants and leaving it to its own devices is not the most advisable route in the world.
Some teasing extracts then.
- A hiring strategy with too many compromises, too many income guarantees, a failure to integrate hires and a wilful blindness in the hiring process can lead to disaster.
- Firms need to do more thinking about whether their platform represents enough of a difference for the incoming partner to get over the ‘better the devil you know’ factor [when trying to win new clients].
- Candidates need to put a lot more work into explaining their move to clients rather than simply assume they will move across better the devil you know factor’.
- Firms need to think more carefully about whether the [candidate’s] promised pipeline they are relying on exists in reality.
- Candidates who can demonstrate a good degree of portability can just as easily up and leave a couple of years down the track.
- Partner candidates in the process need to think more carefully about where they are ending up and what they may have to do differently [in the new firm].
The outcome statistics seem to back up these points.
The summing up in the Report is spot on. Ultimately this year’s figures are no better than last year’s. Until we see some changes in how partner lateral hiring is conducted, it will continue to be hit and miss, to the detriment of the client and candidate alike.
For myself I believe this picture is no less representative of medium sized and smaller firms anywhere than it is theLondonmarket or the Top 50 or the Top 100. So don’t go saying that! The only difference is that for the most part the big firms have deep enough pockets to at least afford the failures however embarrassing whereas many smaller firms cannot.
Author: Sara Dixon
Posted: 14th of March, 2013
It is well-known amongst clients that one of our roles is to introduce them to others with whom they can share experience, skills, knowledge and opportunities. This is more vital then ever, given the current economic environment. We do the same for some of our contacts. We thought it worth reminding you about what you can do to help us to help you:
- Make sure we are on your mailing lists - take this as agreement to be so included!
- Let us know your twitter address/es so we can follow you
- Invite us to events which demonstrate what you do, who you do it for, and how you do it. And the impact it makes on others.
- If you are a client, we don't invite you to LinkedIn (we respect the often confidentialial nature of the relationship) but we will accept if you invite us. If you are a contact then invite us to LinkedIn.
- Be prepared to explain the value that you might add to a project, a business relationship, an organisation.
Recommendations are based on trust. Help us to get to know you enough to establish that trust. There will always be something going on in a client's or contact's organisation with which we aren't familiar. That could just be the trigger to help us to help you.