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!



Lawyers Stress and Performance

The last in our Spring Series of no-cost webinars for lawyers is on 28th June 2016. Lawyers are under pressure to constantly perform at a high level, yet stress can hamper performance.

Our webinar looks at how managing stress and developing mental toughness can help. Click here to register via Eventbrite.

Protect Your IT – Cyber Essentials

Cyber security is very much in the news, with hacking of law firms, denial of service attacks and so on.

No security system is perfect, but there are some simple steps to start with.

  1. Use a reputable anti-virus/anti-malware software on all your devices, and keep it updated
  2. Similarly use a software firewall – they will often be packaged together with anti-virus software
  3. Keep your operating system and other software up to date, such as by allowing Microsoft automatic updates. It a software provider stops supporting a version of their software, buy the latest version (less of a problem as Microsoft is moving to a constant upgrade model)
  4. Backup! Ensure that your data is backed up at a minimum once a week, and preferably daily (it depends on how often your data changes). Ideally the backup data should be off site. Regularly check that your data can be restored to your system – if you cannot restore your data, the backup is useless.
  5. Use strong passwords, preferably a combination of letters (including capitals), numbers and symbols. Apart from “password” and “1234” the worst passwords are ones easily associated with the user. So the Liverpool FC mug on the desk may suggest that “Anfield” is the password. That said, the password needs to be memorable, so one technique is to substitute numbers and symbols for some of the letters in a memorable word.
  6. In most cases, not all your staff need full access to all your system. Restrict access to start with, then add access as necessary on a person by person basis.
  7. Keep your website secure, including access and passwords.
  8. Train your staff on security, and on such things as email vulnerability. Many are used to clicking on “you’ll never believe this!” links, which can be malicious.
  9. Think about encrypting important documents, or at least password protecting them.
  10. Cyber liability insurance is available to cover the costs of putting right problems arising from cyber attack. It is not necessarily expensive, and protects against loss.

For more information, visit the Government’s Cyber Essentials site here.

WANTED: 2 New Clients to help with certificate

We are looking for 2 new business clients to help us with applying for business coaching certification with a different institute. The training element is complete, but we need to carry out a business assessment followed by the preparation of a coaching plan.

Since this involves some business details being disclosed to the Center for Executive Coaching (so below the usual standard of confidentiality) we are prepared to offer the assessment, plan and 6 months of business coaching at a substantially reduced rate.

This offer is only suitable for CEOs and business owners, ie for those running a business in any sector within the West Midlands.

If this of interest, please use the form below and we will contact you.