Writing good objectives is challenging, but essential. Harvard research confirms that where firms invest time in objective setting and collaborating on them across practice groups, they will increase revenue, profit and client loyalty.
Objectives set the path for a firm’s success and it’s best to keep it simple:
- Set the overarching strategic direction and plan
- Give your partners a clear set of themes linked to the plan
- Partners set objectives aligned to the plan and themes
- Create a culture of accountability by making objectives and progress visible
- Foster collaboration by creating forums to discuss and review common objectives
- Acknowledge and reward success
Sharing our unique insight, from working with firms for over a decade on objective setting, here are the top six objectives every partner should have.
1. Grow existing clients
Existing clients are the best source of new business. The cost of sale is lower and it is usually easier to upsell an existing client than sign a new one. Despite this, partners often overlook these opportunities, particularly if they focus too narrowly on their own practice area. Naturally, not all clients warrant the same degree of investment so partners should focus on those who:
- Have the most potential for future growth
- Contribute to industry expertise
- Generate brand recognition for the firm
When measuring success, increasing revenue is important but isn’t the only important measure. Assess how well the client is embedded across the firm. Set targets related to the number of practices, partners or departments servicing the client. The more practices involved, the more likely it is the firm will move from transactional to strategic work which drives higher margin. You can measure client satisfaction through surveys, but you can also infer it through data like the number and frequency of instructions, timeliness in payment of bills, and degree of write off.
Key Question: What will you do to embed and expand existing clients?
2. Win new clients
Winning new clients takes significant time and effort so you need to ensure resources invested in business development will deliver the greatest return. Partners should be specific about the type of clients they are targeting, how many, and how much revenue they expect to achieve. Without this focus, and named target clients, you are more likely to be reactive to events and not get the best return on your business development investment.
Your target clients should be those within the firm’s key industry groups, geographic markets or those that offer growth opportunities for others. Look for clients similar to those you service well today and where you have good references with similar clients. Your chance of success will be stronger in clients where you have delivered similar work.
Key Question: What will be the benefit to the firm if you deliver?
3. Build market profile
Reputation and profile building are important but they often suffer from a lack of focus. Without focus, you can waste time on profile-building activities that produce little tangible benefit. Rankings matter if you’re not included in them, but don’t carry much weight beyond that.
Instead, think about goals that more clearly deliver value, such as recognition from client industry bodies or the ability to use a practice’s reputation to attract and retain new talent. Increasingly digital media and placement influence prospective buyers of professional services, so think about where your potential prospects go for digital insight and consider how you can influence them. Finally, carefully consider how much time you should devote to these activities to ensure that there is a return on investment.
Key Question: What is the most effective way to advance your own market profile?
4. People & leadership
All partners are leaders and that is an important responsibility with big implications on the firm’s success. Leadership isn’t a title – it’s a role that requires a set of skills and behaviours. It sets the culture tone and drives the behaviours and actions of others. Investing in leadership skills, and measuring the output and results, is really important to performance and retention of a firm’s key people. Partners need to have clear objectives to excel in this role, for example:
- Support the pathway for promotion of an associate to partnership
- Improve working practices in a team in way that drives performance and retains key skills
- Facilitate others to share insight and knowledge for the greater good and performance of the team
- Collaborate with other colleagues and partners across industry groups and practice groups
- Organise a new practice or industry group
Make sure you set KPIs around what success looks like in leadership to truly measure the outcomes and progress you’re making for the firm.
Key Question: How will you support others for the benefit of the firm as a whole?
5. Knowledge & learning
Firms rely on internal knowledge sharing to help maintain people’s professional development. Partner contributions to the shared pool of technical expertise, industry knowledge and business skills are crucial in order to develop and retain key talent. A partner’s role is to optimise the output and talent potential of the wider team and careful thought needs to be given to how a partner can make the biggest impact.
Key Question: What would benefit most from working collaboratively?
6. Collaboration Matters
Collaboration is proven to be one of the most powerful ways in which a firm can drive growth. Collaboration across practice groups, and between partners, will increase the value a firm can offer clients and will improve revenue and margin. Effective collaboration needs skill and time invested to make it work. It won’t just happen therefore partners need to set some measurable tasks and outcomes, then commit to making them happen.
Key Question: What important contributions can you make to the firm’s shared knowledge?
Achieving your objectives
Setting the right objectives is only half the challenge. Over the next quarter, six months and year partners need to work on achieving the objectives and tracking progress against them. Objectives need to ambitious and the outcomes need to be clear.
Accountability and transparency are necessary to drive behaviours. Without inspection and focus, daily tasks will get in the way and the things that really move the strategic dial of the firm will not happen. Having a centralised, clear and transparent record partner objectives will drive alignment, collaboration and execution of your firms most important strategic objectives.
By collaborating more closely with colleagues, and sharing information on clients and potential work opportunities, firms can achieve faster growth and be more profitable. To find out more, contact Objective Manager today.