I'm very pleased to join beaton as a Partner based in our Sydney office. This post tells the story of my career and why I'm excited by the prospect of serving our clients and collaborating with colleagues in beaton's account management and research teams.
My introduction to professional services
I first engaged with Freehills and then EY as a consultant, assisting partners with their business development and negotiation practices.
Some years later I joined Freehills and in that capacity engaged with their clients directly, both in both business development and 'seeking client feedback' capacities.
Professional firms compared with other services industries
Professional services firms have a completely different feel to the organisations they serve. The ideology of joint ownership and accountability – in a world where many firms are now so large that they would benefit from a more 'corporate' style of governance and leadership – creates dynamics that engender distinct cultural differences. Partners rightly demand a voice in key decisions but, given the complexity of many current firms and the markets in which they compete it's difficult, if not impossible, for every partner to sufficiently understand the wider implications of decisions.
Furthermore, the primary imperative for each partner is the growth / maintenance of a profitable individual practice. Accordingly this occupies most of their time, further limiting their ability to influence the overall firm, notwithstanding their ownership stake.
Firms in which I've held leadership positions
I've been BD Director for Freehills in Australia and Global CMO for Herbert Smith Freehills.
Client differences across countries
The most noticeable difference for me when I began to engage with partners outside of Australia, was the way in which the business development and marketing professionals were regarded.
In London, Madrid, Paris, Frankfurt, Moscow, New York and Dubai partners would speak highly of their respective BD support, but only use them for low level tasks.
In Australia we had moved well beyond that with senior BD people providing genuine strategic and practice-building tactical support for partners and practice groups groups. Consequently, BD professionals outside of Australia were not speaking to clients and many partners were still actively resisting the very idea.
Professional services trends I observe
Buyers of legal services are much more discerning than they were a decade ago. The value that is demanded of an external law firm is greater, and the firm is held much more accountable for both the execution and the cost of its service. The era of technical expertise, evidenced by credentials, being the sole determinant of the choice of provider is largely over, and partners need to be able to demonstrate a much wider range of skills in order to generate work.
Some of my most rewarding professional experiences
My time on the Executive at Freehills was the most satisfying lived experience of my life so far. I was accorded equal voice with the practice group leads on all of the strategic decisions the firm was contemplating, including being involved in the very early stages of the merger with Herbert Smith. The effectiveness of that executive group as a consequence of the blend of skills that were brought to the table was outstanding. It's no coincidence that in that period Freehills demonstrably outperformed its competitive group, including winning many Client Choice Awards.
I enjoyed enormously the opportunity to work one-on-one with partners, assisting them grow their practices. I personally coached over 40 partners worldwide, and many of them have gone on to be highly effective senior partners in the Firm. The most satisfaction comes where a partner is struggling to establish themselves and we turn this around into a sustainably profitable practice through the combination of skills.
I ran a team of over 150 BD professionals across the world. Being able to build their skills and confidence such that they could make a higher-value contribution to the partners they were supporting was both challenging and rewarding. I am still of the view that many of these people are amongst the most capable BD professionals in the world of legal services, and I am lucky to have had a small part to play in their development.
How long I've known beaton
I started engaging with beaton whilst I was consulting to Freehills and EY in the early 2000s, so nearly 20 years ago.
My initial reaction when approached by George and Paul to join beaton was positively coloured by my regard for evidence-based insights beaton provides. This hard data is a critical element in the strategic analysis – opportunities and threats – of a professional services firm. The depth and rigour of analysis beaton delivers for these purposes is without peer in the professional services markets.
The opportunity to engage with leaders in professional services, providing objective insights about critical measures of their firm’s performance, was an opportunity genuinely too interesting to overlook. That's why I joined beaton!
My first 365 days with beaton?
Step 1: I need to learn more about the data. What it's telling us? How it can be presented? For which firms will it – or should it – hold most interest?
Step 2: Make contact with managing partners and marketing / BD leaders. Begin conversations, listen to them about their experiences. Start to understand to what extent they believe beaton data can make a difference to their firm’s performance.
Step 3: Work closely with those managing partners and BD and marketing leaders who genuinely wish to leverage the insights beaton provides and to share the benefit of my experience in driving change.
All the while getting to know the beaton crowd and enjoying myself.
As a member of the beaton team
I like working around clever and inspiring people. I have every confidence that working with the beaton team and our clients will more than deliver to that requirement.
Lastly, I'll share something about myself that I'm pretty sure no reader of Research.Reveal. knows about!
My life is an open book; isn’t everybody’s these days?
Given the readership of Research.Reveal. probably doesn’t know me at all, why don’t we start with the standard brand of car preference – let's be clear I am a FORD man.