Monthly Archives: February 2014

Business Continuity – it’s all about objectives.

Floods in 2014Business Continuity is often left to the IT department to initiate with a focus on just recovering your IT systems, but maybe more firms can talk more about the wider impact of emergency  situations after the recent floods.  A few new backup tapes and extra telephone lines is not all that is needed; there is a need to think more widely (and to test different scenarios) about other implications in the event of a prolonged disruption.

Proper Business Continuity requires input from all areas of your practice.  By the time it ends up being a set of technical procedures designed to either mitigate risk or provide suitable workarounds, implications should have been explored with people in all areas of the business to evaluate measures introduced to minimise the impact  of risk of disruptive events occurring, in addition to dealing with events that do occur.

In simple terms, Business Continuity:

  • Reduces the risk of certain things disrupting your business by putting measures in place to manage those risks;
  • Enhances your ability to perform core business tasks when disruption is inevitable and minimises that disruption.

It’s important to establish exactly what is being protected, the risks inherent in the business and the importance of each aspect of the business before setting recovery objectives.  A good business continuity plan should safeguard your key business activities and ensure normal services are maintained. This includes everything from client relationships to legislative and regulatory requirements and, ultimately, it should protect profit and revenue.

that the business needs to communicate to IT are the Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and the Recovery Time Objective (RTO).  Without this it’s impossible for the IT department to put anything meaningful in place.

The Recovery Point Objective (RPO) is a measure of how much data the business can afford to lose before it has serious consequences.  For example, if you take backups every day at midnight, you could potentially lose 23 hours and 59 minutes worth of data if the systems failed directly before the nightly backup.  Firms where data changes slowly may be able to withstand this and still stay in business.  Financial organisations may specify that they cannot lose even a few seconds of data.

The Recovery Time Objective (RTO) is a target time for resumption of normal IT activities and services following an outage. How long can you afford to be without your IT systems before it really starts to hurt?  Is it a week?  A day?  A few hours?

Once the RPO and RTO have been established it’s time to talk to IT and see if, in reality, your business continuity budget can meet your business continuity objectives.

So, as you can see, the two factors above are critical in determining the amount of effort and cost that needs to go into your specific Business Continuity Plan.  RPO and RTO are important business concepts for firms to understand and consider.

To discuss business continuity options for your practice, contact Frank Manning.

Good, informative feedback here on legal costs budgeting.

Do you see a difference in approach in the courts you work with?  What would help the judges deal with this more effectively?

Nichola Evans reports here in the New Law Journal on the inconsistent application of the “new rules” in the county court

I sympathise with lawyers trying to get to grips with this, where some of the work we do on improving business process and implementing effective technology support would certainly help.  Being sure you can get paid fairly is clearly absolutely critical to any business, but how new costs budgeting rules and guidance are being applied by the courts – although well intended – is not working. There is therefore no incentive for lawyers to focus as hard they could to improve their internal operations to manage costs more effectively.

From discussions with lawyers and legal costs draftsmen, this article seems to confirm a fair picture of the attitudes among judges and court practice on legal costs management in the UK. Lawyers I talk to are so frustrated with the uncertainties here, they feel they can’t invest time in making changes – primarily because most of judges don’t want and may not be equipped to do this; so there is a very fundamental issue for the courts to address here and this is not going to be resolved quickly.

Allan Carton

Get focused on effective business development that your practice can afford

Darren Francis bwWhile the ‘should we or shouldn’t we?’ debate over whether to create or expand a business development (BD) team rages on in the boardrooms of those larger firms which have still not agreed on the necessity for such a function, there are many more small and medium-sized firms which, sadly, feel they do not even have that choice.

Like the larger firms, there are plenty of small-firm partners who balk at the mere suggestion that anyone other than themselves could develop their business.  For the record, they are wrong. However, there is a significant (and increasing) number of firms that do recognise the benefits of professional BD support.  However, many feel that it is out of their reach, either financially or because they think they might struggle to apply meaningfully to their own businesses (and clients) what their marketing guru will want them to do They, too, are wrong.

Admittedly, the salary and support costs involved in creating an in-house function are high and may well be something that many firms are unable to consider. Likewise, the prospect of an invasion by a clutch of Ray Ban-bespectacled jargon-meisters from a trendy agency may be as abhorrent as it is expensive.  There is, however, to paraphrase one such jargon-meister, another way.

If a BD function is set up and managed in a smart way, it need not cost the earth. Neither need it be obtrusive or offensive to those partners who have still to ‘get with the programme’. Think of BD as merely a strategy by which to achieve your firm’s business objectives (or indeed the respective business objectives of your various areas of practice). You will set your financial targets for the year or for the quarter – and now you need to achieve those targets in the simplest and cheapest way possible.

The key is to conduct activity that is targeted properly, with individuals within your firm being responsible for the delivery of these targets. It is also important that the targets are realistic and measurable – from that perspective it is often effective to begin with your existing client base. Identify your key clients. The criteria you use is up to you – it may be that your key clients are your top five income providers. Or you may want to get more creative and define key clients as those capable of buying more than, say, 80 per cent of the services you have to offer.

With that done you can then set up account plans for these clients. Again, this does not have to be complicated or expensive – just targeted and measurable.

Decide what share of the budgeted additional income for that year can realistically be applied to that client, allocate responsibility within your firm for delivery and arrange a reporting cycle to discuss progress. That way your business objectives can be dovetailed with a ‘client relationship management’ programme. It does not have to be a hard sell – just a case of establishing regular review meetings with key clients and ensuring that you have a section of the meeting where you can at least suggest to your client what additional services may be available to it.

Once the attractiveness of this model is established you can extend your relationship programme to ‘future’ clients. Indeed, the same account plans can be used to secure work from new clients as well as existing ones.

Ultimately, and with a degree of creativity, these programmes can be fun too: just suggest to the representatives of a key client that you can give them their own added value budget to manage for themselves and watch the look on their faces.

Darren Francis

Set a new baseline with your clients – we find that they now want to do it too.

Business Strategy - putting pieces together, Law firmsIf you are unsure about how your clients might react, this follow up from some of the management at businesses we interviewed on client listening sessions says a lot about their perception of the value of the exercise to them ... it’s not unusual for the clients (MD’s, FD’s and CEO’s) to approach us or our law firm client afterwards to arrange to do something similar for them for their customers.  Provided our law firm client agrees, we’re delighted to do that.  It’s good for us, but also a great way to embed a client relationship as it will be remembered as a shared project, helping to add value to your client’s business.

Why do this now?  Work together to find the best solution.

The economy is moving well, the property market has already picked up – so business owners can afford to be more optimistic about the future and begin to lay out their plans for the next period, so there are big opportunities now to grow with your clients.

…. but the business environment is never going to be the same as it was pre-recession … and the legal market has changed.  Fixed fees are the norm for many areas of work, technology has opened new opportunities both for you and your clients.  They  want better value for money and expectations of what constitutes “good service” have moved on.

So what are you doing differently now to add more value to your service?  How do you go about setting the new baseline for your relationships going forwards?  How you work together should be something different from before, enabling you to tap into new opportunities just as much as your clients.  How do you make sure you push the boundaries to help your clients care about using your services?

You can create more opportunities to listen harder to your clients, introducers and business partners.  At least some of the time, you should do it differently, using objective, independent business people like us to prompt a different perspective –  because it works.

Good news for conveyancers – now act on the lost opportunities!

TM Research - How did you choose ConveyancerAs the economy picks up again, we can expect to see conveyancing transactions grow quickly, so there is good business to be had here.  Not a lot has changed in terms of how lawyers sell their conveyancing services since the crash, but introducing improvements here will result in more business – here are just a few key areas where new focus will make a difference.

Although a lot of knowledge and skills have been lost because many experienced conveyancers moved to other areas of work when the property market collapsed, there is an opportunity now for new recruits to learn new and better ways of working.

The findings from this (estate agency focused) research should help you refocus on the key initiatives you ought to be implementing now to develop a successful conveyancing practice fit for today:

  • Just 18% of homebuyers based their choice on getting the lowest price.  82% were more concerned about other aspects of service.  Not a surprise; our research since 2000 has always shown this to be the case.
  • 78% would recommend the conveyancer they used to a friend – but only 14% did. (i.e. choose based on a recommendation from a friend!)   Conveyancers are still missing out badly here!
  • 38% particularly valued a conveyancer who keeps in touch once a week.
  • Just 31% chose a conveyancer they had used before (4% less than the previous year, so conveyancers are not improving).  This is very poor for the solicitors that 69% used previously!  From these results, conveyancers can to a lot better by being more proactive in developing and maintaining relationships; and it doesn’t take much to make a big difference.
  • 68% of home  buyers would consider using a conveyancer recommended by their estate agent – not a surprise as estate agents make it easy to ask the question.
  • 46% chose the conveyancer recommended by their estate agent – a 5% increase on last year.   If conveyancers were proactive, this could be a much lower figure.

These are the results from credible, extensive research carried out by the Property Academy in association with the TM Group with more than 4700 consumers across England and Wales took part.

Action Points:

  1. Prioritise getting to know your client and their situation from the outset – don’t just focus on the legal transaction; a huge failing before the recession and it hasn’t changed much. Ensure that how you are set up and how people work prompts discussion outside what is just essential to get the job done.
  2. Get the technology and systems in place to streamline your work and leave time for communication with clients (and other parties e.g. estate agents who want to promote your services)
  3. Work on your database and relationships with clients after the legal work has been completed, to make sure they don’t forget you.
  4. Help to let the personality of your people stand out so that their clients recommend them (and the practice) to friends for conveyancing work – and in other areas.
  5. Help your conveyancers understand how to sell your services.

Two Key elements here:

  • Help your people respond to enquiries in a way that enables them to talk about other aspects of the service – not just price; something you can change overnight using the approach we recommend here.
  • Review your systems for handling enquiries to make sure you are following up as effectively as you can on every one of them – via the telephone, from the web, recommendations to make sure you don’t lose opportunities; most firms do.

You can obtain a full copy of the research report here.

Allan Carton

How big is Google and where are they taking us?

Worth watching.

I remember trying to demonstrate the Web in action back in 1993 when I first came across it doing my MBA at Manchester Business School – but boy was it early days!  Difficult to find anything and excruciatingly slow dial up modems … so the early parts of this video bring back memories; but it’s the closing sections on Google acquisitions and developing technologies that are worth seeing.  Google are leading the way on technologies regarded as “at the edge” now that will be become routine – like the Internet – much sooner than most of us thought possible.

 

 

To stay ahead, offer clients what they want … before they know they want it! Tease it out.

Listening to clientsMORE VALUE … to MORE CLIENTS … at LESS COST to YOU

Our “Client Listening” services (interviewing the MD’s, CEO’s FD’s and COO’s of commercial clients and introducers of work on behalf of our law firm clients) are some of the best things we do to create new business opportunities for legal practices.  

Read some of the testimonials here

Key Benefits include:

  • Identify specific initiatives to create more strategic relationships
  • Create immediate new business opportunities and instructions
  • Change your lawyers’ mindset, becoming a catalyst for more client focus
  • Develop new, collaborative and more efficient ways of delivering services
  • Open up new areas of legal work from each client
  • Powerful evidence to support internal workshops on client relationships
  • Improve client management processes and procedures
  • Initiate and re-engage on CRM and key account management initiatives
  • Retain clients who have been on the brink of changing solicitors

Question:  These critical areas of business are not often explored by most lawyers in their regular client reviews – so how do you bring them onto the agenda and develop better ways of working together?

Find the ANSWERS in the FREE DOWNLOAD here >>

To discuss how this could work for your practice, contact Allan Carton