What Principals Could Do More...and Less...Of

I think it’s easier to get carried through a day, like a leaf on a river, and get nothing of substance done. Our typical interruptive, distracting environments ensure that something can always be done, whether it really moves us forward or not. I am disgusted by my own lack of progress in certain areas, and I’m sad for you as well.

In our Total Business Review process, I get to spend several days with each principal, primarily helping them make better business decisions. Today I hope you’ll let me nudge you about where I wish you’d spend more…and less…time making those better business decisions.

  • I’d like you to spend more time designing unique service lines, which is different than your positioning. We did a free webinar on this subject last year on how to surface and monetize your intellectual property. There’s so much room to differentiate what you do and not just who you do it for. Just this morning I wrote this to a client. I think you’d benefit substantially by establishing some measurable standards for engagement. Like we expect regular clients to have a 5.7/7.0 “recommendation likelihood” for your business. If it’s lower than that, we need to explore why and solve it. You’d offer to measure an engagement score before they hire you, and you’d publish a twice-yearly engagement metric that would receive wide press coverage, speaking engagements, and seminars. And on that front, you need to get out of the hourly business. It’s a rat race that will consume you and already has, to some extent. That means changing your revenue models. Here’s an example: create an on-line course that you license. Businesses can send their front-line engagement people through it. There are video modules that they watch together, promoting the right conversations and measurement. Even a small discussion group around the correct principles, following the handouts that you supply. This would be licensed, not delivered in person, and thus scaleable. It would fit your mission.
  • Next, I’d like you to spend more time shaping and promoting your culture so that it’s easier to attract the right people to your team. Finding and keeping great employees is more important than finding and keeping great clients, and you must never delegate culture to someone who isn’t writing the checks. Maybe you need to visit schools, hold open houses, do webinars about the inside of your firm, and so on. Anything to treat this as seriously as you do your marketing plan for prospective clients.
  • The other thing you should do more of is writing (and maybe speaking). Everybody should write–speaking is only a fit for some folks. But you won’t ever reach your potential unless you write, regularlarly and thoughtfully. That’s how you get smart, develop a point of view, attract opportunity, and move up the value chain.

So where is this extra time going to come from? What will you give up in order to free up that time? That answer will be different for everyone, but here are my best guesses at what you might want to do less of:

  • Client relationship triage. If this is happening regularly, chances are that your prospective clients need more screening before you work with them in the first place or you need stronger employees on the front lines. One of the best measures of a mature firm is that you have key people who don’t need your help with this.
  • Local monthly meetings and national trade conferences put on by the groups to which you belong. It is useful to get away from the office, but you aren’t learning that much from these. It’s the same people saying the same things, almost like ingrown belly-button gazing. Skip them for a year and you’ll see what I mean. I’ve sent a lot of my clients through the Strategic Coach program and you might think about that instead. There are many good options that will get you to a higher orbit.
  • Weekly status meetings really must die, okay? If you all want to get together and talk about your weekend, that’s a good use of time. But design better processes and communication so that you aren’t regularly doing something that’s immediately out of date within minutes and masks an underutilization of technology.
  • Accounting of any kind. My goodness. There are experts in this everywhere and it’s hard to imagine an even remote justificaiton for you messing around with this.
  • Crafting newsletters or even a blog that only our proud Grandmother reads. Yes, articulate insight. No, don’t bother telling us about client wins, awards, and case studies.
  • Keeping interns busy and then hiring them because they now know how you do things rather than learning from how other people do them.
  • Social media, which makes sense for a few of you but it’s a luxury that fits really well as the last 5% on top of more substantive marketing activities. The ROI isn’t there, the stop/start of the activity is distracting, and it’s like running in place instead of actually walking somewhere.

Best wishes to you!

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