Sunday, 15 December 2013

Jo Worby




Jo Worby is one of those rare people in business who is more interested in talking about other people's success. She is also rare in being a female managing partner. She has developed ambitious plans for her law firm, Maidstone-based Brachers, since taking on the role and a lot of them are focussed on engaging the people in her business.

"A strategy has to be delivered through the people in a firm.  The legal profession is arguably facing its biggest challenge ever in terms of the changed business environment in the post-Legal-Services-Act world, with new types of competition in the form of Alternative Business Structures that lawyers have never had to face before" [new types of legal business often referred to as "Tesco Law" that are a far cry from traditional partnerships]. "We need people to adapt as we reposition upstream and focus on higher-value-add services and our sector specialisations, away from the volume businesses challenging high street firms. And we want our people to be excited by this challenge. There would be little point in me deciding on a new direction for the firm if nobody bought in to that. We simply wouldn't move very far forward. The key in my view is to involve everyone in the journey from the very outset, so we all share in the plan, all pull together in the same direction and all share the pride when it is successful."

And successful it most definitely has been, with Brachers involved in the most headline-grabbing deals, redevelopment projects and other initiatives this year in its chosen region (Kent and surrounding counties), including many that in previous years would naturally have gravitated to London firms: the sales of Kent Pharmaceuticals and Cambridge-based Digital Healthcare, also a key role in the high profile regeneration of Betteshanger colliery to create a world-leading green technology and R&D park, to name just a few. It's been a good year for Brachers.

Jo's emphasis on bringing everyone in the firm along with her, everyone working together on a shared vision, puts me in mind of a study shared on Twitter this week by Bird & Bird's Keith Hardie, revealing how seldom employees know their employers' strategies. The Towers Watson Global Workforce Study was profiled on the website of the International Association of Business Communicators in an article headed "Strategy minus Communications equals Suicide: what's the point of creating a strategy if nobody gets it". A subject very close to my heart as a communications professional: communication is absolutely vital to strategic success.

The study surveyed 32,000 employees worldwide and rather alarmingly found that only 34% said they could articulate their company's strategic goals. And when those 34% were asked to articulate those goals, 51% got them wrong! O dear. So if so few understand their companies' strategies, how on earth can they be expected to implement them on the ground effectively??

For Jo, it's not just the people inside the business that pre-occupy her, but elsewhere too. She once described Brachers' business to me as "legal expertise delivered through people and for people" and this speaks volumes about her approach. "As a partnership we need to concentrate on getting the relationship bit right", she tells me, "...relationships with clients, with staff..and with each other. And this emphasis on relationships needs to be shared by everyone in the firm. We need to listen closely to what our clients are saying to us to understand what is really important to them. Equally, we need to listen to staff and colleagues, perhaps even listen to ourselves a bit better, to understand what motivates us all to do our absolute best in and for the business. If we can unlock these secrets we will be able to put so much more in to achieving our common goals.

"We have some clear financials goals too, so it's not just about the soft stuff. These are essential for achieving our growth plan in the ever-changing legal landscape. Honing our services around where we know we add most value to clients is central to this, hence the importance if listening to them! They tell us it's our deep sector expertise and also the level of engagement with clients that delivers them the most value-add. We are known for being highly creative in the way we apply our legal expertise to find solutions to clients' commercial problems...and at the same time for having stringent supervision and management controls to sanity-check this creative thinking. A compelling combination, as one client put it.

"So we know what clients prize in our work for them. And we need to keep feeding this back to everyone in the business, making sure everyone is crystal clear what makes the difference from the clients' point of view."


This chimes with another conversation I had this week, with Riverview Law's @Jezhop who talked to me about "Moments of Truth": the interactions in the customer experience that are the most important to them.

2013 has been a stellar year for Brachers under Jo's leadership. Given her skill for inspiring and engaging those around her, the future for Brachers looks even brighter.
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We all enjoyed another classic from Legal Cheek this week, who shared with us his bizarre find of the US divorce attorneys named after iconic indie band Joy Division and using the strap line (of course) "Love will tear you apart".  His Twitter pic of the firm's logo, and suggestion that more firms should be named after bands, was retweeted over 250 times within the first few hours of posting, sparking the inevitable Twitter repartee including such choice gems as "Do they go to court and ask for a new order?"  Nice one @jezrobson.

So come on then, what other bands do we think should be commandeered as legal brands? Insolvency specialists Dire Straits? Wills and estate planning boutique Megadeath? You must have played this game before, so let us know your best selection.  
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Are you all set for the release of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues? With three teenagers in the family it's big news in our house and we have our VIP tickets booked for the release date at our local Vue. 

I've particularly enjoyed the creative promotional campaign for the film, from the Movember-perfect posters at the start of the push (see pictured); to the viral video of the four 
lead actors' a capella rendition of Afternoon Delight at the Sydney premiere. (If you're a fan of the first film you'll understand the significance); to the inspired tie-up with Virgin trains, bringing Ron Burgundy's voice to a series of special onboard train announcements, brightening up the daily commute for legions of work-weary passengers in the week running up to the release.

Just hope the film can live up to all this wonderfully inventive hype. I'm optimistic. Should be a perfect way to fire up the festive family fun :)  Ho ho ho.

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