I was working with a law firm a little while ago, helping it through some changes in it’s practice. The managing partner said to me “You know, were really just a collection of sole practitioners”. That summed up beautifully one of the business models have I come across many times when working with firms. I explore 2 business models below.
Collection of Sole Practitioners
So, what did my client mean by this phrase? I think it was as much attitude as size. The attitude would be one where the clients belong to the solicitor (partner). The connection is personal. They either do the work or they direct and delegate to their team – which might be a secretary, team of secretaries, paralegals or suchlike. Each partner operates independently of the others and brings to the partnership the fruits of their labour. In this model the business is the sum of the parts that each brings.
The Integrated Business
In this model the interests of the business are placed above those of the individual owners. All effort should be aimed at driving value into the organisation. This takes more effort and is not natural to many people working in the professional services sector. The risk is that everything can become less personal – which is not good when the business is focused on providing a personalised service to clients. However, that can be avoided with good management. If the business has invested in its processes, it can better withstand the departure of one of the owners or staff. The business can be more than the sum of the parts. This model is seen more commonly in other areas of our economy but can also work in the professional services sector.
These are just a few thoughts. What will be appropriate will depend on the circumstances in each case. A typical consultant’s comment! There are other business models and ways of doing things. I’ve only looked at 2. Seeing the variety is part of what I enjoy.
We’d be very interested to learn people’s views and hear of other pros and cons and people’s experience.