Thursday, 29 May 2014

Steve Blundell

So nice to see old friends getting together in a shiny new business venture. Redstone Consultants launched just two months ago in February, but I've known quite a few of its consultants separately, and thought very highly of them, for a very long time. 

Managing Director Steve Blundell is one of the most famous names in law firm business strategy, familiar to me since my earliest days as a junior marketing assistant back in the (ahem) 1980s, when professional services marketing first began.  He was then marketing manager at Touche Ross (I remember Kim Tasso introducing him to my then boss) and one of the first members of the profession's "Informal (ie meetings down the pub) Marketing Forum" the pre-cursor to today's PSMG, its then half-dozen members being the only marketeers in the entire world focussed on the professions. Oh what a Brave New World it was. Since then Steve has had a blazing career, with roles in-house in both accounting and legal firms (Baker TillyPWCDenton Wilde Sapte) before co-founding his own consultancies, first Gracechurch (10 years ago) and now Redstone. Few have such an impeccable personal brand so like most people I'm always interested in What Steve Does Next. So when Redstone invited me to a "Strategy Room" breakfast discussion, I took the opportunity to ask him what his new consultancy is all about and how it differs - not only from its closest competitors, but what Steve himself has done before. 

"I'm a strong believer that creating and implementing competitive strategy is as much about leadership, organisational design and tackling internal cultural issues as it is about analysing and responding to external market factors – though these are critical too. Successful strategy is about bringing to bear the full suite of functional skills you find around a boardroom table, but the professions often struggle with the softer skills side and with the part that's focussed internally. But HR, IT, Marketing and Finance functions are all equally key to the piece; it's the COMBINATION that makes for success in the most competitive and challenging of markets" (domestically with ABSs and globally with the rise of the far East). "You can see this in the complementary skill-sets of our founding directors. Clients tell us our most vital contributions are in the areas of strategy, organisation design, culture, positioning, business development and relationship management. Clare, you and I both agree that Jo Larbie is second to none when it comes to HR, professional development & learning. Your interview at the time of her book launch (How To Make Partner and Still Have a Life) highlights exactly the skill-set and wisdom that our clients say adds the value; then we have Keith Wells, a genius when it comes to brand strategy; Katie Dignan" [another good friend of Kysen] "is one of the profession's very best sales developers, with in-house sales and BD roles under her belt at top firms Herbert Smith, and Pinsents" [where, incidentally, she coincided in-house with Kysen's own Clare Turnbull] "Marco Smith worked as BD director for DTZ before becoming head of European BD at Baker McKenzie; Moray McLaren, has a most unusual reputation as both academic and practical marketing specialist, beginning with a stint as Head of BD at the IBA, then at SNR Denton, then Associate Professorships at the Catolica Global School of Law and IE Business School's MBA programme - and now a continuing role at the groundbreaking internet-enabled global classroom Law Without Walls; and Peter Cornell, Chairman of our Advisory Board.  Peter was Global Managing Partner of Clifford Chance, went on to work with Guy Hands at Private Equity firm Terra Firma and now is a partner with Metric Capital; that’s just some of the leading lights in our team. But before any of these individuals engage with a client, it is of course diagnostic skills that are the most crucial; being able to pinpoint where a law firm's critical challenge is (it's not always where it's senior management think it is) and identifying what type of intervention, and in which parts of the business, is going to help the firm most in moving forward ahead of competitors.  Is the real issue for the business about staff engagement and incentivisation? Is it about the need to migrate lawyers' skills to capture opportunities in a very changed market? Is it about improving profitability and helping the senior team understand the levers behind the figures?"

Clearly Redstone is no one-size-fits-all consultancy. They are all about getting under the skin of what clients' issues really are and delivering bespoke solutions. Their big advantage is their strength in depth, and the sheer range of management skills they offer across such different disciplines, and from which they can draw teams in Europe, North America and Asia to deliver just the right kind of mix to meet clients' very particular needs. Now that's what I call value-add. 

There's no doubt Redstone will do well, given both the pedigree of its advisors and law firm leaders' need for support as the legal profession faces an unprecedented level of change. But what excites me more is the thought of all the firms that will fare so much better, now this particular brand of management consultancy support is here.
Prize for Story of the Week has to go to "human cannonball" and former lawyer Gary Stocker, the "high-flyer" who gave up a six figure salary to "launch" himself on a new career path. Gary gave up a lucrative job as law/writer and legal recruiter, and switched his £1million home for a caravan, to develop his circus act. Yes, the press had fun with this story; you can count the puns hereHe says his new job is much harder and pays a good deal less, but gives him much more freedom and variety.

Someone should put him in touch with Lawyers On Demand. Doesn't he know theses days you can have it all? A fun circus job AND a continuing career in law? But then that's quite a juggling act to pull off.... 
Guest post by Honey de Gracia.

The Kysen team walked with the Lord Chief Justice and over 8,000 people at this year's London Legal Walk. The event was aimed at raising money for the London LegalSupport Trust, which funds Law Centres and pro bono agencies in and around London. We know these agencies do a fantastic job; helping London's most vulnerable citizens receive the legal advice they need makes a huge difference to these peoples' lives, reducing debt, poverty and homelessness, and combating discrimination and injustice. And we also know how short these agencies are of funds to be able to continue their work. 

It was a pleasant day to walk for the cause, as the sun graced us with rare pro bono stints. Just like last year, our colleagues in the legal industry exchanged their usual suits and wigs for athletic gear... and then some. We bumped into clients from Fladgate, Serle Court and Squire Sanders to name a few; some journo friends from Legal Cheek; and we walked alongside inspirational academics, also civilians who strongly support the Trust. 

The route went on for over 10k and by the time we got to the finish line at The LawSociety our legs, feet, and bodies were sore. The Trust had rewarded finishers with a small street party which involved food, drinks and entertainment - even massage beds! The biggest reward, however, was knowing there's so many people prepared to go the extra mile to support the cause for legal aid. Literally.

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