I have spoken with many firms who have spent thousands of dollars on a strategic (business) plan only to have it now sitting on a shelf somewhere in their offices.
A recent survey by the Managing Partner’s Forum (www.managingpartnersforum.org) found that 43% of firms had a recent written strategic plan. Doing the math, this means that 47% either have no business plan at this time or their plan is outdated. Think about this, would you invest in a business if you knew it did not have a business plan? Would you expect clients to feel confident in your firm if they knew that you had not identified your core values, business goals, marketing strategies, staffing needs, operational issues, technology needs or identified key obstacles to your long-term success? Probably not.
So, what is holding your firm back from establishing a business plan for 2018?
- Time – We just don’t have the time to write a plan. Everyone uses this excuse, but in today’s legal environment, saying you don’t have the time is like saying that you don’t have time to get gas when your “low gas” light comes on in your car. You can’t expect that the car will continue to run without gas, and you can’t expect your firm to continue to enjoy its past success without a plan.
- Desire – We like things the way they are. We did okay in the past without a plan so why change now? I‘ve heard those excuses too. Ask yourself this question, are things now the way they were pre-2008? In recent years, many have referred to this period in law firm history as the “new normal.” I would submit that we are now in the “normal,” and it is no longer new. Law firm business will never be the same as it once was. To remain competitive you must desire to change and respond to the market changes. These changes can’t wait five years or two years or even one more year. If your firm is not evolving, it is not advancing. So the question is, does your firm have the desire to make the changes necessary to advance and remain competitive, or are you comfortable with things the way they are?
- Leadership – Having the desire to change and making the time to write a great business plan are fundamental to improving your firm’s performance. But, if your firm’s leadership is not willing to embrace the changes and “walk the walk not just talk the talk” then your efforts are wasted. For example, if one of your business goals is to establish higher profitability, but your leadership allows just “one more” non-equity partner to join the firm that has no transferable book of business no specific expertise needed by the firm but is a great guy that someone knows from law school, then you may want to question whether your leadership is truly committed to the firm’s long term plan. Every decision the firm makes should be weighed against the firm’s business plan. If leadership is not willing to take this approach, then no matter how much desire your firm has to change, your business plan is worthless.
What is holding your firm back from developing a dynamic business plan? Please leave your comments below. I’d love to hear from you.