Oct 3 '12
This year’s PM Forum conference focused on professional services firms and their relationships with clients. Part one of this blog focussed on the opening session and here we cover the closing Q&A.
The panel was chaired in style by Hamish Munro Commercial Director of rapidly expanding Midlands law firm Shakespeares and featured Andy Raynor (Ex-CEO RSM Tenon), Tim Bratton (General Counsel – FT), Liz Kelly (Director Group Legal & Compliance – Nationwide) and Susan Saltonstall Duncan (RainMaking Oasis).
What is the Ideal future firm?
The key overall messages were that firms should not to try to be all things to all people and should adopt a client centric culture with more face to face contact and more transparent pricing. Liz Kelly saw plenty of opportunities for smarter working and operational improvement using ‘lean methods’ learnt from manufacturing as well as alternative staffing structures.
For Tim Bratton the biggest challenge was “disruption of the sector”. It’s already here for the FT when they discovered that “more CEOs get financial news from Twitter than the FT”.
Do firms understand the businesses they serve?
Again the point was made across the panel that advice needs to be delivered in the context of commercial information – and again the push for advisors to make the decision rather than simply presenting options.
Liz Kelly was looking for firms who wanted to invest the time to partner with General Counsel; who offered sector knowledge and who were prepared to “Get to know the detail”.
What was the view of added value Services?
Let’s start with the obvious – that general white papers and newsletters are considered a given. The key is personalised information and value. Yes send information but tailor it to the recipient. Look at key account planning and the issue of account managers/directors was seen as a very positive development by the panel.
Is it important that a firm is perceived as being well managed?
The short answer is yes. Liz Kelly pushed her thoughts on lean professional services – in essence refining your processes to deliver good project management; the smooth running of procedures from briefing to billing as well as “information on everything”. The last point might be a bit of a poisoned chalice!
All the panel pushed back on the current hourly rate approach to billing and wanted firms to focus added-value pricing from their advisors. And Tim Bratton also mentioned the importance of feedback working both ways; “help us to help you”.
Any Advice for Firms from the Panel?
Perhaps the most fundamental piece of advice came in the words “put yourself in our shoes”. See the world from the client perspective, understand the pressures we’re under and think about the relationship you have.
Liz Kelly underlined the importance of getting to know the client and the market and as a parting shot suggested that firms should work more collaboratively including sharing information with other firms. Not sure that went down particularly well with the audience.
But a good session, well stewarded by Hamish and a great end to a good day.
The PM Forum Conference is well worth a visit – please visit their website www.pmforum.co.uk and follow the discussion on Twitter #PMFConf
This post was written by Mike Fieldhouse, Managing Director of realityhouse, a digital marketing agency serving the professional services sector. You can find out more about Mike’s work on www.realityhouse.co.uk, following him on Twitter @reality_mike or connect with him on LinkedIn.