The results of our February 2012 strategy question of the month generated a number of follow-up discussions, as well as some very intelligent and insightful correspondence with readers. We thought it warranted a bit of follow-up here on the blog.
Our primary conclusion from the survey can be summarized simply – focus practice group management on activities that really make a difference in the performance of the group. The most effective groups are driving additional, valuable services to their clients. AND, they are improving financial performance at the same time (perhaps as a result of that). The least effective groups are expending valuable time, energy and resources on activities that do not matter on balance.
The subsequent discussion underscored some of our own experiences working with practice groups and practice group leaders. In particular, that discussion was a reminder of the substantial and important advantages larger firms have vis-à-vis practice group management. Those advantages include having the scale to provide valuable support services to their practice groups.
- Marketing Support – Larger firms have deep enough pockets (and deep enough marketing departments) to line-up resources to directly support their practice and industry groups’ broad marketing efforts. That helps free-up partners to focus on business development and cross-marketing.
- Financial and Operational Support – Larger firms also have administrative personnel and information systems that help practice leaders drive profitability. Our March 2012 strategy question of the month deals directly with profit management – we encourage you to take two minutes to participate in this month’s survey.
- Technology and Vendor Support – Practice group leaders in larger firms do not have to worry about managing technology and third party vendors – they have support staff available to take care of that. Again, they are free to focus on things that really matter.
For readers in mid-size and smaller firms, the question becomes, “What can we do to overcome the scale advantages the bigger firms have in this area?” Our short answer is to keep the practice group leaders’ responsibilities as streamlined and simple as possible.
Knowing they only have limited hours in any day/week/month to devote to practice group leadership, ensure that time is focused on just a few things: 1) cross-marketing into and out of the group; 2) the single most important profit driver for that practice (whatever that might be); and 3) putting their people in position to be successful. Everything else is secondary in a smaller firm setting.
For those interested in additional reading on the subject, we would suggest a couple of articles (note, both are pdf).
- Altman Weil recently published the results of a reasonably ambitious survey on the topic of practice group management. We have shared the podium with the authors and know their insights are on point.
- John Smock has a very nice discussion of the topic of practice group management following the great recession (full disclosure, John Sterling was a co-author on the piece).
PLEASE TAKE TWO MINUTES TO COMPLETE THE MARCH 2012 STRATEGY QUESTION OF THE MONTH
PROFIT DRIVERS FOR 2012 AND BEYOND