What role do bold new strategies play in the success of a professional practice? This article explores the motivation for contemplating such strategies, examines the way in which they should be assessed and raises some critical issues with respect to successful execution.
I’ve had the privilege of speaking to a range of professional practices about their plans for the future. These firms vary considerably, traversing different professions and size – from sole practitioners to much larger firms with more complex management structures.
In spite of these differences, the firms have much in common – they have achieved a good deal of success, present well to the outside world and have a loyal (growing) number of clients. Notwithstanding, they all have a sense of unfulfilled potential and/or a desire to take their business to a new level. Whilst there is a capacity to take on more clients, in some cases this will be undertaken in conjunction with a review of how the firm interacts with lower dollar value clients in the future. All of these firms are conscious of the need to make changes and in particular, they are keen to undertake some new initiatives in order to achieve better business outcomes.
Whilst these firms expect increased financial rewards will follow, the underlying motivation to instigate change varies considerably. For some it is to achieve greater take up of current services or create more opportunities for team members, whilst for others it is about positioning their firm as offering something different. The owners of one firm wanted a greater sense of control and more discretionary time.
In each case, a strong catalyst for the coaching conversation which ensued was the desire for some external input. Naturally, I was pleased to pass on practical tips with respect to what has worked in similar situations. However, the real value from the discussion stemmed from exploring not so much the path to follow as it was affirming that the proposed strategy was the right path.
Helping the decision makers to achieve clarity on why the changes were being contemplated invariably led to a broader canvassing of the issues. In several cases, the firms have undertaken to conduct market research into the unmet needs of their target clients before proceeding further. This can only help to ensure that any new products and services will be relevant to the target audience.
So too, measuring a new initiative was an interesting part of the discussion. Whilst incredibly useful, good data on the outcomes achieved is “after the event”. Of greater importance from a management perspective are lead indicators which can be tracked as the new initiative is put into practice.
We’ve all been in situations where the actual outcomes fall short of the objectives – even to the point where projects have been abandoned or allowed to fade quietly into the background. Fortunately, all firms have been open to receiving ongoing coaching. Having a sense of accountability, together with the opportunity to interact with peers working through similar issues were perceived as highly likely to improve the outcomes achieved.
Scott Charlton is a Director of Slipstream Coaching, a company dedicated to assisting financial practitioners achieve their potential. Since 2002, Scott has been applying and refining a practical approach to performance improvement based upon his own experiences as a professional practitioner and from coaching hundreds of financial services firms.
Scott is an author of three books, written for professionals in practice. He is also a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, a member of CPA Australia and an Associate Fellow of Australian Institute of Management. For more information on Scott and his professional activities, refer to www.scottcharlton.com.au. Scott can be contacted by phone 0409 870 330 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org