Planning The Practice You Really Want
What is the strategy for your practice?
Surveys and research continue to prove that the most successful businesses have one thing in common – they have committed time and effort to having a clear Plan in writing setting out their goals for what they want to achieve in the short, medium and longer-term. And please don’t think that a law firm is any different. Your law firm is a business just like any other, selling services and products to generate revenue and make a profit.
As the old proverb says, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Your business is simply too valuable to you to leave to chance. Why wouldn’t you want to plan for what you really want your business to provide for you?
There is no doubting these are tough times for many law firms, perhaps even the most challenging in 300 years. And, as if it is not difficult enough now, the challenges are likely to keep coming – The Legal Services Act, technology, virtual law and the web, and then there is the little matter of pricing and value. There can be little doubt that with the average age of (male) Partners now thought to be late 50s then the future of smaller firms and the High Street based law firm is under threat, especially as there may not be any appreciable upturn in the economy in the next 2-3 years.
What is surprising, therefore, is that still far too many firms do not have a clear vision of their future and a plan for how they can achieve it. Even if you are thinking that you simply cannot carry on or are hoping to retire in the next few years the sooner you plan how you can achieve this successfully then the better the outcome is likely to be for you. You must know what it is you want.
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As Lawrence ‘Yogi’ Berra, the US baseball player and manager said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else!”
What’s your destination?
When you start a journey, whether it be by land, sea or air, you set out with a destination in mind. A ship does not leave port and let the winds and currents dictate its destination. The Captain has responsibility for his crew, he plots a clear route taking into account the conditions and alters direction if the weather forecast is not good or wants to take advantage of more favourable winds. Your business is the same. You too have responsibilities, not least as an owner or part-owner of your business to yourself and your family, but also to your team.
Planning is knowing your ‘destination’, your route and making adjustments from time to time as circumstances dictate for as we know this world does not stand still. It continually throws up challenges, but perhaps more importantly these can also be opportunities, and you need to be in a position to adapt at all times. Importantly by planning your business you will feel more in control, and that is a great feeling. Being rudderless and at the mercy of the elements is not a great place to be and not a great feeling either.
Planning is often best undertaken with an experienced third party following a proven process. Not being told what to do by a ‘consultant’, but led through a process by way of facilitation helping you to plan for what it is you actually want, not what an outside party dictates for you. It is after all your business, and you and your colleagues are much more likely to implement your plan when you have chosen what it is you want to achieve, together.
So what do you need to consider?
Well any plan, your plan, needs to take into account a number of areas, including profits, drawings, your current and future services and increasingly product offerings too, your market, marketing and your location(s), your finances, the owners’ individual personal and business objectives.
Once you as owners have agreed upon your goals – ‘what’ you want to achieve collectively – then you need to consider ‘how’. Have you got the right staff in order to achieve your goals? Are they sitting in the right seats? In other words do some of your team need more training, up-skilling – be it more knowledge or to learn new areas.
Many firms, given a significant drop in conveyancing income, have used the opportunity to look afresh at their Private Client offering and re-train staff into this area. Many see Private Client work again as an opportunity and for many firms Wills, Trusts and Probate work has of late been their salvation. We in the UK are after all an ageing population, so Private Client work will always be necessary and by offering these services in a fresh way with local expertise you may again see this work as a profitable ongoing opportunity.
So the Plan should be your plan. Just think how good it will feel if all the owners were pulling together in the same direction, aligned to common agreed objectives and taking the necessary actions to achieve your goals.
As the late management guru Sir John Harvey-Jones once said, “The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression.”
Don’t just drift with the wind, your business is too important to leave to fate. What is stopping you as a sole practitioner or multi-partner practice from planning your success, now? You will know the answers, but have you asked yourselves the right questions?
Dependent upon the number of owners, the Legal Mentors’ Strategic Planning process can take as little as one day. All owners are involved and it can be fun too. We work with you along the way, to keep you on track and moving forward. After all, your success is our success too. We won’t jump ship, we are with you for the journey. Together we will build your success.
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