Website Problems

I have tried to log into the Iwan Thomas Associates website content management system to update the site. For some reason access is being denied (a problem for many others, according to the support forum).

Until the issue is sorted out, any updates, interesting offers and so on will appear on this blog – so keep visiting!

How is Your Operating Platform?

I spoke to a manager from Amey yesterday, who told me of their use of technology to manage some of their subcontractors on their contract with Birmingham City Council. For example, tree surgeons have hand held devices on which jobs and instructions can be allocated and work recorded.

This makes communication quicker, but particularly limits the need for worksheets and invoices. There is no dispute over what work has been done, and information is common (and accessible to the Council as client).

This led me to think of the importance of operating platforms for small businesses. This means everything that the business uses to “get the work done” – people, facilities, processes and technology. How these fit together make a huge difference to the success of the firm, and hold the key to productivity improvement. It is worth mapping processes and making step by step improvements.

And remember that one day you will not be there, due to retirement or otherwise. How well will your operating platform function without you?

Delegating is Hard Newsletter

It always seems easier to do it yourself than to delegate to someone else, but a growing business depends on delegation. Learn more in our latest Law Matters Newsletter, as well as details of a VIP Day offer, and a free lawyer joke. Download NewsletterVol8No1

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Adult Apprenticeships

I had coffee with Nick Thompson of Dudley College yesterday to discuss Adult Apprenticeships, with particular reference to law firms. They do not however deal with Legal Apprenticeships (others do).

Instead they assist a number of law firms to develop nonlegal skills such as in business administration (ie office skills), customer service and team leadership. For instance, someone in a client facing role is likely to be more effective if they learn how to do it, rather than being told.

Qualifications are at various levels, up to degree equivalent. NVQ’s are based on work based training and assessment. Cash investment by the firm can be minimal as the scheme is government funded, unless the firm wants something bespoke. It will however need some time from the employee and encouragement from the employer.

This could be a very cost effective way of increasing skills, staff retention and profitability. With the revolution in the legal industry (and if we talk ourselves into a Brexit recession) firms that train and improve their staff will have a better chance of thriving.

So contact Dudley College for more details (or find your local equivalent, if you are outside the West Midlands).

Perils of Accidental Managers

I was at the MacLaren Memorial Lecture at Aston University this week. Tristram Hunt gave an interesting speech on the history and future of Birmingham, and the part of business in this.

Before his talk, there was a brief presentation from the CMI (co-organisers of the event) which raised once again the issue of the “accidental manager”. This is the manager who starts by doing something else, but becomes a manager without any training, and without being selected for management ability (but often for seniority). This is a particular problem for the legal and other professions, but far from confined to them. According to the CMI, 71% of businesses give little or no training to new managers.

The knock on effect is that 43% of line managers rate their own line managers as ineffective, and low levels of employee engagement lead to low productivity. If that applies to industry as a whole, it can be even more of a problem in people-centric professions such as the Law. Add a recession together with all the changes in the profession and this makes the situation worse.

The solution? Develop leadership and management skills at all levels. Even baby steps can help, provided that they are consistent, as these should lead to the ability to run. Do it now!