Qualifications of a Turnaround Adviser

An effective turnaround adviser must be uniquely qualified to deal with crises and prepared to assume responsibility for the company’s success. The three most important background credentials for an adviser are as follows:

  • an identification with the needs of declining companies
  • specific industry expertise in your industry or a related one, and
  • a track record of overcoming adversity and making the most of poor situations

General Requirements

When evaluating possible advisers, teams should look for someone with both practical, hands-on capabilities and an educational or research-based knowledge of the issues at hand. Make sure you do not have a novice attempting on-the-job training at your expense. It would be wise to find someone who has performed at least a dozen turnarounds individually and who has access to other personnel with the same or greater levels of experience. Furthermore, familiarity with research and educational publications within your industry that highlight concepts of turnaround practice gives an adviser a more objective view of workable solutions to difficult problems.

Industry Expertise

A background in your industry prepares an adviser to face the peculiar, industry-specific dilemmas that invariably arise. Previous work with companies of various sizes and in various markets furnishes the adviser with extensive–and beneficial–exposure to your industry. A proven ability to learn new markets overnight and employ existing operating resources effectively will result in quicker turnarounds. Examine the methods the adviser used with prior clients and determine whether similar programs would make a comfortable fit for your business. “Sanitized” copies of turnaround plans produced for other clients may even be requested.

Success Rate

A turnaround adviser’s success rate with previous clients is an important statistic. Much as a baseball team manager would hesitate to hire a pinch hitter who batted below .200, the executive team must exercise caution in selecting someone to captain the turnaround team. Most advisers who have been in business for more than five years can claim a one out of two (50 percent) or greater rate of success. To reduce risk, the team should look for an adviser who can claim–and substantiate–an 80 percent or better success rate. Once a successful adviser has been located, the team shout contact references and ask what made the effort a success.

Crisis Management

Effective turnaround advisers must possess certain qualities and characteristics that uniquely prepare them to deal with crises. The first such quality is “multilevel simultaneous thinking”–the ability to solve problems on several different levels at the same time. This is a skill gained over time through both education and experience. The ability to interact with numerous employees to resolve multiple dilemmas and relate to each in an appropriate manner is also essential.

Negotiating with Opponents

A turnaround adviser’s ability to search for all the important details, address issues with a penchant for opportunism, and follow through on commitments will also further the turnaround process. Note that “opponents” emerge in turnarounds virtually overnight; they tend to be former allies such as lenders and vendors. Being able to decipher an opponent’s true bottom line and make an offer that more than covers his or her threshold yet preserves the company’s position will save the company precious time during the turnaround. Indeed, many of these opponents in negotiations will return once again as allies when the business emerges from its decline. In completing a cycle of commitments to stakeholders, the turnaround adviser should ensure that every promise made can be carried out to the letter. Such consistency in following through on promises will enhance the builder’s credibility and image in the community.

Often employing little more than intuition, a crisis-oriented adviser can anticipate pitfalls and plan around them before trouble occurs. Being able to foresee a turn of events is a rare quality to begin with, but is especially valuable when coupled with the creativity that allows the adviser to adapt the flexible strategic plan to the changing demands of the situation. This ability to adapt to change is a necessary elastic band in the adviser’s armor, without which all other tactical weapons would be useless.

 

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Social Media Metrics for Your Firm

Professional services firms (law, CPA, architect, engineer, IT services, consulting, etc.) are struggling with modern marketing. Many firms were founded in an era wherein marketing was seen as a “necessary evil.” As marketing (or business development, client development, etc.) has become more essential for improved books of business, firms have begun to hire marketing staff. In most cases, these folks have been tasked with corporate marketing rather than marketing the individual professionals. With the onrush of social media as a marketing discipline, there is a sharp dichotomy between the corporate web presence and the “sum of the parts” of individual professionals’  social media presences.

 

Michelle Golden, who is  very active in professional services marketing organizations, recommends taking baseline measurements as early in the (any) marketing process as possible, and then identifying very specific objectives as part of an individual’s role in increasing his or her—and ultimately the firm’s—visibility. She writes of the individual versus company promotion trade-off, in a blog postWhy Social Media Rock Stars Are Good For Your Firm.(Sometimes CPA- or law-firm partners get frustrated about the attention an individual “supposedly representing the firm” starts getting when their online visibility increases. This (blog post) helps explain to those partners why they should encourage the individual “fame” and not squelch it.) 

Golden says that “You can rarely truly know exactly where a lead is generated anymore (unless it’s from a specific campaign) and that’s OK. We are looking for overall growth. This is all the ROI that you’ll need.”

Here are some specific ways she suggests to put marketing metrics in place:

BASELINE MEASUREMENTS

To accurately assess growth later, I recommend taking these broad baseline measurements now:

  • number of current clients
  • revenue (average and standard deviation)
  • revenue change % year over year
  • client longevity (length of stay with the firm)
  • frequency of client interactions
  • frequency of transactions (purchases)
  • number of clients lost per month, quarter, or year
  • number of new clients per month, quarter, or year

PLANNING AND GOALS

  • Increase retweets and mentions (by anyone) related to [practice topic] from [baseline #] to [goal #] by [date]
  • Obtain [#] retweets and mentions by target personas including peers and thought leaders in the specialty (i.e., Get on their radar. Knowing exactly who they are in advance is best.) by [date]
  • Receive at least [#] unsolicited invitations from trade organizations to speak or write by [date]
  • Earn [#] appearances as media “expert” in [publication or station] by [date]
  • Receive [#] questions or requests for advice from [define personas] every [frequency]
  • Build up to [#] of [define persona] Twitter (or blog) followers (or subscribers) by [date]
  • Move [# define persona, or specific names] from digital to personal conversations by [date]

TRACKING WORTHWHILE THINGS

  • Where did it appear?
  • Who said it?
  • Was it positive? Y/N
  • What was said? Categorize the nature of the comment and keep a clip file.
  • Was the mention about a particular practice, department, or person?
  • Did the mention include reference to your content or website? If so, to what specific content or page?
  • Who responded and how fast? You may want to keep the response in a clip file, too.

Keep the suggestions above in mind as you develop and refine a social media strategy as a part of your overall marketing plan. Helping your team members become better at their online thought leadership will enhance the brand reputation of the firm. In the process, your best indicator of ROI–increased revenues–should show enhanced performance as well.

 

10 Ways Lawyers Can Find Time to Market

When lawyers fail to market, time (lack thereof) is often mentioned as the primary reason. The pressure to do billable work will usually trump investing time in developing new clients. The long term danger of this approach, though, is that by not purposefully pursuing new clients who meet pre-selected criteria, the attorney and the firm fall into slack client acceptance standards. By taking a more progressive position, one is empowered to churn some bottom rung clients in favor of a stronger client list. Yet, the challenge of where to find the time persists.

Sally Schmidt is a national leader in law firm marketing and shared some principles of better time management for client development in a recent article. What you will find below are slight revisions of her list, with some added commentary.

  1. Follow your professional passion. Instead of trying to do marketing in a niche that does not interest you, identify what you most enjoy and find organizations that serve that niche. Once you find the right organizations, research different ways you can become actively involved.
  2. Cultivate synergy. Most attorneys do marketing in either isolation or cliques. Instead of going to a meeting by yourself or attending but hanging out with people from work, find someone strategic with whom you can participate. Whether it is serving on a committee, writing an article, or making a presentation together, you should consider inviting a prospect or center of influence who may also have an interest in the organization to join you.
  3. Explore overlaps. An overlap occurs when one activity performed in one setting complements a desire to be involved in something else. Schmidt gives the example of a construction attorney who volunteers with Habitat for Humanity or similar nonprofits tied into the industry served by one’s section.
  4. Integrate marketing into life! Whether you are pursuing a hobby or hanging out with friends, it is easy to deepen your connection with your targets if you intentionally invite them to join you. (Or, find out what they are into and join them–if it fits your interests as well.)
  5. Develop and follow a plan. Set goals for activities like entertaining clients, writing articles or client alerts, or meetings with new prospects.
  6. Be consistent. As the saying goes, “the race belongs not to the swift, but the persistent.” Starting well, with enthusiasm is good. Finishing what has been started through self-discipline is better.
  7. Choose what to pursue. Instead of just taking any and all opportunities that come your way, be choosy. Establish criteria as to what–or who–you are targeting, why, and in what ways. When considering whether to pursue an “opportunity,” remember that many requests are not strategic for you to honor.
  8. Chunk your time. Put marketing and client development activities on your calendar like you would an appointment with a doctor–not easily changed unless rescheduled. Set aside days of the week, and/or times of day to focus on marketing and client development. Break down projects into tasks that can be accomplished in one sitting.
  9. Lead! Don’t just be a participant in an organization. Look for the chance to serve or head a committee, be on the podium as speaker or facilitator, or take a board role. You’ll get more “bang for the buck” with your time.
  10. Establish yourself as a subject matter expert. If you get the opportunity to speak, or write, tell people about it. Work with your marketing folks to get you some recognition via website, press release, microblog, or LinkedIn updates.

You can be a better marketer as you learn how to overcome the time objection and become intentional about your activities.

PMP Up Your Client Development

If you are a lawyer or CPA–or know one–chances are high that you are very familiar with the age-old pattern of billable professionals doing the work that is on their desks, then wondering why not enough new work is coming into the firm. Or, the enlightened professional  realizes that, while work is still coming in, the client quality is not what would be preferred. In order to have a book of business that is challenging, rewarding, and constant requires time consistently invested in client development. Client development, while generally discussed as a firm-wide initiative, is a very individualized effort when most successful.

When I am advising my professional services clients, I automatically ask whether the partners, managers, associates, consultants, architects, engineers, etc have developed a personal marketing plan (PMP). The PMP is the foundation of client development. Principally, a well-executed PMP allows the practitioner to develop a clientele that is fulfilling to serve, makes work interesting, and motivating through increased compensation.

Your PMP Components:

  1.  Definition of success, backed up with objectives and tactics
  2.  Well-articulated target market with strategies to create market share
  3.  Thought leadership plan to build credibility and referability
  4. Client retention process

Conduct Personal Due Diligence

Tracy Crevar Warren always asks her clients to begin the PMP process by first taking stock of where they are currently. She finds that many are already engaging in a number of successful practice-growth initiatives without being aware of it. By asking the questions below, she helps CPAs think about their baseline.

  • Do you have a clear focus for your practice? 
  • What does success look like? 
  • What do you want to be known for in the industry? 
  • What gaps can you fill in the industry?

Having answered these questions to your satisfaction, you may then begin the planning process. Success is relative to the individual, but its definition should answer the question, “if we were sitting here three (or five) years from now, what would need to have happened for you to feel successful?” Being able to envision a favorable outcome fuels the creative process of putting together strategies and tactics to arrive at the desired destination. Set goals that are SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-sensitive.

The PMP must, at its core, define your target market. Think about the characteristics of your best clients. How can you get more new clients similar to them?  Who else is going after your prospects? How are they doing client development, and how can they be beaten? Crevar recommends storytelling to demonstrate your competitive advantages. 

People will be more likely to select you instead of the competition if you seem more credible. Thought leadership is established through cultivating the respect of your peers, clients and prospects by sharing knowledge. Whether your sharing is done through writing, public speaking, or service, it is important that you have a way to differentiate yourself from the competition by being the one whose values and knowledge resonate the strongest with the target audience. If no one has heard of you, that won’t happen.

A focus on client service, evidenced by specifics in how you make sure you are providing value, is the best way to retain clients. Retention means you don’t have to secure as many new clients each year to replace those who churned because they did not feel valued. Educational workshops, personal visits for which you bill no time, taking an interest in the personal and community lives of clients are all ways to demonstrate your care.

Plan, But Do!

Simply writing down what you intend to do is only a first step. The follow-through is your trump card that will allow you to win market share and enjoy greater personal and professional success.

 

Task Tyrants Steal Success

When one of my friends invited me to a continuing education luncheon offering credits I did not need, I debated whether to attend. Once there, I was engaged by strong networking and a guest speaker whose subject matter was very familiar to me–professional services marketing. However, his approach was to talk about the predictable objection of time availability. The challenge to the audience was to think about their schedules in a different way. When he pulled out Covey’s four quadrant model for time management (below), I was right at home as I use the tool often in mentoring on a variety of subjects.

If you are unfamiliar with the model, allow me to briefly explain. When performing tasks and crossing off “to-do” lists, too many people spend the majority of their time in quadrant #4–the items that are urgent yet not important.  Quadrant #1 activities demand our attention and get done. What suffers, however, are quadrant #2 tasks, which are often the last to be done but can make a huge difference in overall execution of business goals.

Jeff Nischwitz was the guest speaker and what he said next was very revealing. He said that most billable hour professionals know that marketing (or business development) should be something we place in #2, but our behavior usually places it in #3. As a result, our best intentions are not realized because we never place the appropriate priority or value on what fills our pipeline. He went on to say that, until marketing becomes a quadrant 1 focal point, our organizations will falter and stagnate rather than grow and flourish.

Pause and think about that and evaluate your use of time. If the things that matter keep being put off in favor of what commands our attention today that may not be as important in the long run, we are not managing ourselves well. The message that is sent to a new prospect, for instance, when a proposal is turned in the last day possible, or a call or email is returned much later that desired is that the relationship is insignificant because we already have enough (too much) to do.

Challenge yourself to be better–do what is important on a daily basis as though it were urgent!