Tuesday 13 September 2016

Working in a small law firm, accountancy firm or chambers often means trying to achieve a lot with a small budget and limited resources. While this often sounds like an impossible task, the panel of this month’s PMForum event – Vikki Bentwood, Lynne Boston and Tim Collins– armed the audience with several practical and cost effective tips on how to make the most of your position and resources in your smaller firm.

Be the one to drive projects forward

Don’t let your title hold you back; push beyond your level and just get things done. You were brought in to do a job because you are equipped with the knowledge and experience to do it, so don’t hold yourself back. Drive your projects forward and don’t be afraid to “fail”; if you make a mistake along the way, simply apologise and learn from it. And remember, if you are one step ahead of the people around you, and you will be seen as the expert.

Read outside of professional marketing to gain more ideas

Professional services isn’t exactly the most innovative industry when it comes to marketing and business development tactics and activities. Research the trends and ideas from other industries and appropriate them to help differentiate your firm. It can also be helpful to look at what your competitors are doing to see what’s working, and more importantly, why.

How to build your profile

Have clear goals about what you want to achieve in your role and don’t be afraid to make mistakes along the way. It’s also helpful to take the time to understand what each of your partners is looking to achieve, and show them how you can help them achieve this. Don’t shy away from speaking to the managing partner, partners and other higher level members of the firm, but at the same time, don’t ignore personal assistants and younger members of staff. Take every opportunity to gain information from people around your firm which will help you to do your job, as well as gain respect and build relationships with your colleagues.

If you can look at your firm critically, and explain the “why” behind your decisions, people will respect your opinion. Where appropriate, bring in a specialist or consultant to speak to the firm as this will add credence to your proposed strategy. And never forget one of the best stakeholder opinions is that of your clients; this will add a lot of weight to your argument.

How do you get the chaos under control?

With so many vested interests in a small firm it can be hard to make everyone happy. When a decision needs to be made by management, agree on the deciding beforehand. If possible, use these criteria as the sole basis for making the decision such as asking people to vote. This cuts out verbal discussion and prejudice. Announce the direction that will be taken as a result of the vote, and get started.

Be the linchpin in your firm. Make sure you keep abreast of everything that is happening so that you are the person to connect the dots within the organisation. Whenever something happens in the firm, make sure you know what it is and what it means. This will make it easier to bring order in the firm, in addition to gaining you more respect.

Don’t make excuses. Limited resources or a lack of fancy technology shouldn’t prevent you from keeping the business activities in order. An Excel spread sheet can make for a great alternative to a CRM like InterAction. If you have a new idea or process, start small. Identify your work winners and use them as your pilot. Perhaps you can implement your idea with one or two teams, gain some wins, and use that momentum to push the strategy to other teams.

ROI

However you choose to approach your BD and marketing activity, always ensure that it focuses on your people. Think how you can help to create relationships, as this is what leads to more business and more revenue. Sometimes it’s just about how you can distinguish yourself – creating a stir, being disruptive in a positive way, or giving extra to stand out from the crowd. Furthermore, in this fast paced environment, it’s worthwhile to review your approval process to ensure that you can respond quickly where necessary.

Philosophy

Do less, well. Be selective about your activities, focus on doing them well, and make sure you follow up on any leads and relationships. Your targets and clients will be more impressed with your attention to detail and action on feedback than yet another breakfast seminar. Do little things that create a differentiator – show your confidence!

Training

Training can have some really great results in-field however it is often a very costly exercise. Look at hosting some in-house training, whether stand alone or as part of existing technical training. Mix this with drip comms sharing tops tips on your chosen topics. Sometimes partners will challenge you and claim to know more about BD and marketing than you; leverage the situation and ask them to share best practice. 

If you know that you may need to use a creative agency in the future, approach them and ask them to present a 1 hour session (without a sales pitch) to your partners. They may be willing to do this for free knowing that it is a form of networking and relationship building.

Expectations

You can’t do everything, and that’s okay. Set out your priorities and be clear on when you have time and when you don’t. Sometimes this can be made easier by having a simple calendar of activities. If you don’t have the time to do a task immediately, negotiate. Explain why you can’t do something right away and organise for this to be done during a more appropriate time. 

Manage your own expectations about what you can achieve and to what standard. Be realistic about your resources and your own capacity. Sometimes good is enough; aim for third best.

Bunmi Ogunbona
Grant Thornton International – An instinct for growth