One business group of a major professional services firm was under threat. A very competitive market was driving down rates, the group was loss-making and faced the same likely fate as their equivalents in rival firms, most of whom were in the process of axing the specialisation in question, or asking the partners to resign and set up on their own.
Tackling the problem head-on
One Regional group head was convinced that his office could be made profitable by responding positively to the ‘commoditisation’ of their service and becoming increasingly efficient at processing work in bulk. Vybrant were asked to provide him, his second in command, and a number of other key people with coaches as they tackled this challenge together.
Creating goals and facilitating development
Regular one-to-one coaching sessions were set up, backed by email and telephone communication when needed. The coachees also met from time to time with one of the Vybrant coaches acting as facilitator. The coaching focussed initially on creating the goal – a picture of the group, in profit, functioning efficiently and just as its leader wanted it to be. The current situation was then examined in detail, including the market forces, actions taking by competitors and so on.
Out of the sessions a series of initiatives emerged, each one targeted at improving efficiency in a particular area. The sessions also provided valuable milestones for checking the progress of each initiative and overall progress against revenue and profitability targets.
Throughout, the coaches’ function was to create awareness and facilitate the development and implementation of new thinking, but the coaching team was also able to play an important part in the process by comparing similar situations in other sectors and industries and pointing out the effects of different reactions and strategies in some of these other areas.
The main focus of the coaching was on two areas: New Business Development and Internal Efficiencies. Internally, efficiencies ranged from new filing methods to new physical filing systems, a new office layout, a number of methods of reducing interruptions for those focussed on fee-paying client work, and the introduction of home working. Although this idea met with resistance initially results have been spectacular. On average a fee-earner working in the office for a day bills 5.7 hours to clients, working at home yields an average 7 billable hours.