Recent research shows that managing partners and marketing directors are still facing some major challenges when it comes to getting their firms to implement change. Here are four key issues these firm leaders face today:
1. Getting partners to buy in.
2. Creating a firm vision that gets all partners on the same page.
3. Helping develop a culture of accountability.
4. Being asked to accomplish too many goals.
When the managing partner and the chief marketing officer work together, they have a better chance of being successful in these areas. You may ask what these four factors have to do with the marketing director, and I would answer: everything. Overcoming these issues will make the firm more competitive, efficient and profitable.
Getting partners to buy in really falls to leadership. Your marketing director should be your key ally and one of the key leaders in your firm. It does not benefit the marketing director or the managing partner if there is no partner buy-in. If the MP or marketing director does not get buy-in for their plans, then they just won't happen. Hence, marketing directors and managing partners need to support each other in this area.
Probably the best way to get buy-in is to listen to what the partners want to accomplish as a group and as individuals. Then, find those partners who really want to work with you. Getting a few early successes will help bring the other partners around. While the marketing director or managing partner may be very interested in what they are trying to do, they need to remember WIIFM, which is what partners are always thinking about: What's in it for me?
If you do a good job of listening, you will understand the trade-off the partner is making when you ask them to participate in your new initiative. Also, if there is no correlation between what you want the partner to do and how they get compensated, you will have difficulty getting their buy-in.
When partners are happy (read: complacent) with the status quo, it's going to be very difficult to get them to change. "Hey, things are going well, why should I?" they will say, or, "Why should we do it that way? We have always done it this way." Remember, you don't need to get all of them to change - just one or two to get started.
GETTING ON THE SAME PAGE
While it is not necessarily the sole responsibility of the managing partner and marketing director to help create a vision for the firm, they should be an integral part of the process. I would venture to say that most firms do not have a mission and vision that motivates partners and staff. And only a very few have core values that really drive behavior in the firm.
It's hard for firms to create meaningful goals if their mission and vision are not clearly articulated. Mission tells the world why the firm is in business, and vision (an internal document) paints an image of what the future looks like for the firm. Core values identify the behaviors that will guide everyone's day-to-day actions.
You can't create goals - strategic or marketing - until you have a mission, vision and core values that motivate your team members. The managing partner and marketing director should facilitate the process either by themselves or with the help of an outside advisor. Once the vision is set, you can start setting goals (financial, client, employee, marketing and system) that will move you toward your vision.
Accountability, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is "the obligation or responsibility to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions." The obligation is your promise to do something. Hence, accountability is all about the individual and what they do or don't do. According to the book The Oz Principle, you can see accountability in your firm - people who are accountable see the issue, own it, solve it and do it. Those without accountability ignore issues, point fingers, cover their tails, and wait and see.
In order to have accountability in a firm, it is critical to set goals and expectations for partners (and others in the firm). Without clearly articulated and written goals you will never have a culture of accountability.
TOO MANY GOALS
Most managing partners and marketing directors are spread too thin and asked to accomplish too many goals, resulting in mediocrity. It has been shown that once you try to accomplish more than three important goals, your chance of doing them with excellence diminishes. Both the managing partner and the marketing director must know their priorities and fight the urge to do more. Instead, they should accomplish the most important things and do them well.
While none of these issues is easy to implement, that does not mean a firm can continue to ignore any of them. Each requires a commitment to change, to operate differently. The benefits to the firm are numerous. Partners will begin to work together, rather than to do what they think is best for them as individuals. The firm will have clarity of direction and make decisions that move it toward its vision. As accountability increases, productivity, efficiency and profitability also increase. Achieving fewer goals gets partners focused on what is important and leads them to ultimately become more productive and happy.
These changes won't happen overnight, but if you are serious about becoming a better firm, start working on them now.
August Aquila (www.aquilaadvisors.com) is a consultant to the accounting profession, specializing in compensation plan design, mergers and acquisitions, succession planning and firm/partner issues. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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