If you look around law and other professional service firms, it is clear that after a period of decline, the Managing Partner, Clients role is back in vogue. In Australia Clayton Utz, King & Wood Mallesons, Herbert Smith Freehills, Ashurst and others have such positions – and with good reason. Here’s why.
Why the MPC role was first introduced
The Managing Partner, Clients (MPC) role was first introduced around the millennium as firms nationalized and there was a clear market need to champion business development (BD), establish key client programs, and build partner engagement and capability in BD. These were relatively new concepts at that time and BD professionals were still establishing their own expertise and influence inside firms.
Much has been achieved…
Every firm now has a key client program of some sort;
Partners can talk eloquently and persuasively about the importance of client development, service delivery, feedback and satisfaction; and
Most firms have a CMO/BD or Marketing Director on the leadership team. Because of the last point, in many firms the role of MPC was replaced by the professional CMO role to avoid duplication and elevate the CMO.
… but there is always so much more to do
Driving the key client program, building partner engagement and capability are all part of a never-ending program and story because client expectations and competitor performance are always increasing; and
Without strong leadership and strategic initiatives to build momentum, client programs tend towards inertia.
The MPC role is more critical than ever before
The MPC role is more critical in the current market than ever before for the following reasons:
Partners are more time poor than ever and suffer from an overload of overlapping firm initiatives, with poor change management. When a new client initiative is ‘launched’, most keep their heads down and hope it will fizzle out, like the last one. I know many examples where firms have spent $100,000+ on sales training ‘modules’, which struggle to get partner engagement and fail to lift capability and execution. KPIs are not set, ROI and performance improvement are not measured.
The current market environment works against the intent of every client program, as revenue pressure on partners is driving client and tender hugging, often by senior partners.
Organizational matrix structures are becoming increasingly complex and difficult to navigate, with practice groups, sectors, tiered client programs and regional initiatives. Consequently, strategic collaboration and stakeholder management are more challenging and important than ever.
Firms are struggling
Firms are struggling to define the MPC role in a way that sets the person up for success. Having advised several firms on BD and client development structures and roles, it is apparent that the roles for MPCs (and CRPs) are not well defined. In fact, it is common in many firms that the role is defined by an internal announcement email about strengthening the firm's client focus, relationships, and performance … and the MPC is expected to work the rest out for him/herself.
Unfortunately, an undefined or ‘woolly’ role does not set the new MPC up for success, given the internal competition and politics that often exist.
Seven core elements of the MPC role
There a seven core elements in the MPC role and whilst every firm has its own business strategy, in my experience of advising on BD models and structures, these common core elements of the role are transferable:
1. Lead and build momentum for the firm’s client and industry strategy and program
2. Be client facing – build strategic rapport with c-suite, help CRPs open doors, participate in client feedback
3. Select CRPs, plan succession and make changes where necessary
4. Lead, support, develop and hold CRPs accountable to execute on client plans and KPIs
5. Use his/ her client knowledge, reputation, influence, network, whole of firm knowledge to drive execution on opportunities
– Join the dots, connect partners on opportunities to cross-sell
– Select and engage the ‘best’ partners for major opportunities
– Clear roadblocks and gatekeeping
6. Report client program performance against KPIs with transparent dashboard reporting for board and partners
7. Champion and work hand in glove with the BD team to maximize execution and prioritize resource allocation.
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Paul Hugh-Jones is a partner of Beaton Research + Consulting. You can connect with Paul on LinkedIn and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.