With the New Year just started, now is the perfect time to pay heed to old-school wisdom and plan for 2014. Creating a strategic plan for your law firm will see you better placed to manage the ups and downs of business life and volatile economic times. So what can you do to get those creative juices flowing and fix a 2014 strategy? We spoke with principal consultant Dr Grant Robertson, UGM Consulting for his advice on creating a strategic plan.
Involve your key stakeholders
In order to work out the best strategy, Robertson recommends collaborating with staff and colleagues to rate your strengths and weaknesses. Involve staff in the planning process and nominate a cross section of people with diverse mindsets.
“If it’s not possible or practical to have wide-scale involvement, at the very least ensure different perspectives are represented,” he says. “It’s especially important to ensure the strategy group has a range of thinking styles.”
If you’re a sole operator, seek assistance from an external party such as your accountant or a valued client. For small firms, include everyone in a ‘vision building day’ to decide on purpose, principles and priorities for the practice.“Enunciate the value of aligning effort within the firm. That will make the time spent working on the business seem worthwhile.”
Key drivers: The six ‘Ps’
When creating a strategic plan for your law firm, Robertson recommends identifying key drivers of value for your practice. That is, those factors that define your service offering and make you attractive to clients.
Robertson suggests assessing your firm’s strengths and weaknesses against these six ‘Ps’:
- Purpose: Why are we here? Create a high-level statement that describes what your firm does. What defines your service offering? For example, “We offer quality employment and industrial relations advice to small businesses.”
- Promise: What promises do we make to our customers and employees to achieve that purpose? This captures the details of your purpose. For example, “We promise our clients best value.”
- Principles: Identify the basic principles that are important to your firm, such as, “We only do profitable work.”
- Priorities: Rank your objectives and goals for the next year. With clear priorities, practitioners can choose the most valuable activities to engage in.
- Plans: Reaching your goals can’t be left to chance. Instead, develop high-level action plans. Do you have clear outcomes? How does the firm measure performance? What will monitoring look like? Establish clear financial, sales and marketing plans and identify the available resources, equipment and staff to implement your goals.
- Performance: What needs to be done to deliver?
Once you’ve identified your firm’s strengths and weaknesses, look at the opportunities and threats in the external market for the coming year. Consider how your strengths and weaknesses as a firm tie up with the external market. Do you have strengths that could be used to take advantage of growing opportunities, like new areas of business? Or are there areas of weakness where you’ll need to bring in new expertise or talent?
What Sets You Apart
In an increasingly competitive global market, practitioners should focus on their point of difference and be prepared to innovate and change direction. Since today’s business world is uncertain and changeable, Roberson suggests setting your sights on long-term direction as well as specific goals.
“Having longer-term direction minimises the risk of sticking to clear goals when all parameters change and, in essence, require altered tactics.”
He also advises firms not to take on more than they can manage in one year, and to avoid having more than three to five major strategic initiatives or directions.
By taking the time to clearly map out the direction your business will take in the coming year, and putting in place an action plan to ensure you reach your goals, you’ll be much better positioned to take advantage of opportunities and respond to changes in the marketplace.