Sorting the basics
Sure, we all want to be ahead of the pack and it is easy to chase the latest fads and glitzy products. But you really need to have the basics in place first. That means having a good practice management system which has been updated to a relatively recent version and which has been regularly reviewed against your current business priorities and processes to ensure you have implemented the correct features for your business. It also means having good document management and reporting systems in place, whether as a part of your PMS or as separate but tightly integrated products.
Agile working is important for all sorts of reasons. Some staff need to work outside the office as a part of their role such as visiting clients at home or going to the courts. Staff also travel for other reasons whether for their day to day commute or to attend seminars, business development meetings or off-site training. Apart from travel, there are also benefits in people being able to work from home. This can make staff more productive and can also attract good quality staff who have to look after children or other dependents.
Agile working also gives a firm added flexibility for unexpected events. The current Coronavirus crisis may well be taking things to a whole new level of ‘unexpected’ but there have been, and will always be, events such as adverse weather or terror-related incidents that may preclude staff from gaining access to your offices.
Staff security training
IT security is as important as ever. It’s your data and more importantly it’s your clients’ data. It is also your reputation on the line. Your IT team probably has lots of technical solutions in place to protect your systems (although even they might not be security specialists). But most experts agree that the weakest link is usually human and that means your staff. Sending out emails reminding them not to click on suspicious email links is not enough and these internal emails may well be ignored. Consider instead some dedicated security training from an external organisation.
Financial awareness across the firm
Many firms are quite secretive about their finances although some of the best firms that we have seen are more open when it comes to keeping staff appraised of the firm’s current financial position. Certainly, your key staff such as partners and team leaders need to have a full understanding of the latest picture so that they can focus staff time on the current priorities such as cash collection or business development. As a minimum, all staff should have a very clear picture of their own statistics such as billable hours, WIP, etc. Dashboards can make this information accessible and easy to digest.
Improved enquiry handling
Winning new business is never easy so make sure you capture those opportunities that come to you. That means having good processes in place from start to finish right across your firm. Do receptionists and call handlers know how to deal with new business enquiries, who to pass the calls to and where to record vital information? Are such calls answered promptly and are they dealt with and followed up? It goes without saying that these enquiries should be recorded and analysis should be performed on the success rate of converting them to new business.
A good quotation system
Following on from improved enquiry handling, you should also consider having some quotation systems in place. These should be based on past experience of what work is profitable and how much similar work has cost in the past. Having a grip on this information means accurate time and cost recording on previous matters as well as detailed analysis. Getting it right means making work profitable instead of employing ‘busy fools’.