So you pooled your firm’s resources, pulled a few all nighters and presented a winning pitch. But what happens next? After the adrenaline of the tender process subsides, the reality of life on the roster can be a little slower than you’d like. And it can stall altogether if your winning bid was one of many.
So if the leisurely pace of incumbency is getting your firm down, here’s a 100 day plan to kickstart your enthusiasm and make sure you immediately impress when you do get the call.
1. Thank the people who got you there
Begin by letting the rest of your firm know about your win and tell them who the people were who helped you get there. Then get in touch with each of these people personally. Offer to provide a reference. Give them a LinkedIn endorsement. Do what you need to to make sure they know what your win means to the firm. And make sure you include people other than fee earners who helped you along the way, including the coaches, supporters and suppliers you called upon for help.
2. Get into a Scrum
At some stage the congratulations will need to end and, when that happens, heads can drop. But I find one of the best ways to keep up the pre-pitch momentum is to start again. That means moving on from the pitch phase altogether to appoint a new team that will actually look after the account. (These don’t have to be the same people who won. In fact, they probably shouldn’t be.) And, for my mind, there’s no better model for doing this than the ‘Scrum’.
‘Scrum’ projects work by putting together a team of three-to-nine people, including a ‘Client Relationship Owner’ and a ‘Scrum Master’. The team meets regularly to discuss progress and to let people know what they’re working on.
The Scrum Master doesn’t manage or coach the team but looks to act as a facilitator for the client relationship owner while keeping alive the vision of what you want to accomplish from your end. They also get charged with the authority (and have the availability) to make sure it gets done and that nothing slows you down.
You can read more about scrum methodology in SCRUM: The art of doing twice the work in half the time by Jeff Sutherland.
3. Get to know the decision makers
Now that you have your team, send them out to meet the client, even if you’ve been working for them for some time. After all, it’s a different relationship now. So meet with the decision makers as soon as you can.
There will usually be a formal debrief process too but this can provide sanitised information where you’re told how wonderful you are. To get the real story ask your contacts how your firm is perceived and positioned 60 days after the formal debrief.
You should also be open about talking through their strategy and concerns. Identify what success looks like for them and what wins would make them proud of in the next 12 – 24 months. Importantly, talk about how your teams will engage, how you’ll communicate, and get permission for another high level strategy session down the track.
4. Now get to know how they really function
Now that you know how the top echelons of your client function, it’s time to get down and dirty in the trenches. In my experience you can only really know how a company works when you engage with the people who’ll actually be using your services and hold the power over allocating work (unfortunately, the CEO will have nothing to do with workflow).
I find there’s also no substitute for visiting a client’s offices to see exactly how they work firsthand. Watch the relationships and workflow dynamics carefully. (You’ll find they’re often very different to the neat organisational chart). Find out how they work and what hurdles they need to jump to get their job done. See if you can get an insight into their reporting deadlines and even how their performance is judged. After all, your job is to partly to make them look good.
While we’re on the topic, try to get a feel for how the money flows too. Try to get a meeting with procurement. Understand who their firm’s most important clients and stakeholders are and how their business wins work. Where are they expecting to grow or cut back? And how do they the keep their relationships going?
While this may not seem relevant to your business, it is - not least because it lets you understand their drivers and even gives you the opportunity to put them in touch with people who can help make their lives easier.
5. Plan, but not before pre-planning
Next, it’s time to create a master list of everything you need to deliver to make your vision of great service happen. Companies like Atlassian take this a step further by creating user stories to describe what they need to deliver from the client’s point of view. By putting yourself in the shoes of the users of your service you can prioritise, based on what will have the greatest impact on their business.
But before you get onto the planning of how exactly you’ll deliver this, I think you need to pre-plan…. Plan before you plan, you ask? Why bother?
Well, your pre-planning meeting will identify what you have ready to go and will where you can take short cuts. You’ll be able to match your systems with the service level agreement. What processes do you need and what are missing? For instance, do you have the right systems for reporting progress, raising invoices and producing matter summaries.
Set up your financial reporting now too. If you’re going in with fixed fees or scheduled rates then your management system needs to track the cost to serve by the work types. You should also take non-billable time into account. Be transparent in reporting this information so the client team understands the margins they have to work within.
At the pre-planning stage you should also make sure that everyone on your team has actually read both the RFT document and your submission. And include your IT, Finance, HR and BD team members in this. At least that way you’ll have a common focus.
6. Start sprinting
Now it’s time to get something done. Once you’ve worked out what you need to achieve , start pencilling in 30 minute weekly or fortnightly time-boxed meetings (ie you can’t get out of them, no matter what) where you assign work, report on what you’re doing and what’s to be done. In Scrum methodology this is period is known as a Sprint.
Set a calendar for the next three months, and agree to review your performance then. Note the promises you made and the aspirational goals you agreed to (eg regular formal client feedback reviews, introducing innovation, reducing your fees through efficiencies, working consultatively with other providers, pro bono targets such as 35 hrs/per lawyer per annum or diversity targets) and report on how you’re measuring up against all of your promises.
You should also be checking your value adds. If you promised services such as training, secondments, brainstorming ideas or innovation discussions don’t forget them. In fact, why not really show your value by scheduling some in ASAP.
7. Connect and follow
Finally, you should make sure you’re across everything that’s happening to your client, at least everything that’s public. With Google Alerts and social media, that shouldn’t be too hard.
Check in at least weekly with their website and see the latest company news, as well as the ‘Hiring’ section. Set alerts to receive any stock market information too.
And connect with who you can on LinkedIn - so that you can see each other’s feed and circle of contacts.
Now we’re cooking…
With this 100 day plan you’ll hit the ground running and get off to the best possible start, even before the first billable work comes your way.
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