Connells First Estate Agents ABS

From the Solicitors Journal here.

The pace of change quickens, as does the pressure on High Street firms.

The move appears defensive at this stage, given that referral fees are in doubt. One of the interesting points though is that they are authorised by the CLC, a case of regulator shopping.


How to Waste Technical Advantage

Some thoughts prompted by an article in the Daily Telegraph, touching on the Midlands Car Industry.

The article itself, celebrating 50 years of the Ford Cortina, is here.

The Cortina, once they decided not to call it “goat dung”, had a lot going for it. However, it was outsold by the Morris 1100. This was technically much more advanced, with a transverse engine and front wheel drive. It packed a great deal into a small package, and built on the success of the original Mini.

Ford, of course, is still going strong. The Morris brand disappeared in 1984. How did the technological foresight (most cars now follow a similar configuration) not translate to business success?

1. As the article notes, BMC ended up with 6 different badges on the same basic car. The MG version might give a particular sporty image, but Austin and Morris were both volume manufacturers. Duplication of sales effort resulted.

2. Manufacture also became inefficient due to the differences in design, even when minor. Famously, when it came to the Mini, Ford determined that BMC were making a loss on each car (in part leading to the Cortina). Query whether enough design input went into making manufacture profitable.

3. The technological edge was not maintained, nor was the “chic”  image of the original Mini built on. In part, this was due to the organisational culture of BMC. This had been set up in 1952 by a merger of Morris and Austin companies, a merger in name only. As was noted by Parliament “. . . although nearly twenty-five years had elapsed since the BMC merger, not even Austin and Morris, the two volume car manufacturers that formed the core of the original merger, had integrated to a significant degree. Stokes illustrated the immensity of the problem presented by the merger in 1968 by referring to the former Austin and Morris companies having been ‘scarcely on speaking terms’. Sixteen years after the formation of BMC, like the other former Nuffield companies and Jaguar, each possessed different management systems, approaches and methods, and like the other companies in the group they were ‘running on their own’.”

There is no finishing line in business, so the race is never won. Good ideas and product developments have to be successfully exploited commercially. Organisational issues have to be addressed, not ignored.

Too Many People of Color Feel Uncomfortable at Work

“The corporation for me is a theater, and I try to remember to stay in character.”
That’s the blunt response from one African-American executive to a dilemma that dogs many people of color in American workplaces: Even as multicultural fluency is increasingly prized in today’s global business environment, the very people who represent that diversity feel shut out.

Read more here.

Obviously, this is an area where US and UK experiences could be very different, or quite similar. What is immensely difficult is having the conversation, from either side of the fence. This HBR blog post is therefore valuable in raising the issues, and giving managers possible avenues to explore with suitable sensitivity.

Bear in mind as well that African-Americans are the third oldest ethnic group in the USA, so this issue may be relevant for some time.


Most Unusual Absence Excuses

Since I have been struggling with a fluey cold over the last few days, this report from CareerBuilder struck home. Not being an employee, in my case it is work or starve!

Again they find (in the USA) that 30% calling in sick are not ill at all. It reminds me of a partner I once worked with who would sweetly turn up on the doorstep of a sick employee with a bunch of flowers. Um, not all of them were in.

And the other excuses are interesting, and often self-inflicted.

Do not forget that simply sacking someone in the UK will turn out to be expensive. Getting legal advice and following proper procedures are vital.

H/T Stephen Booth


Sweat Your Office Space?

Fascinating article from the Lawyer 200, comparing the cost and utilisation of office space among law firms. Full article here.

As they point out, property and people are the biggest expenses facing law firms, with property falling squarely into the fixed costs category. Headcount can at least be changed according to the fortunes of the firm. It therefore makes sense to maximise its utilisation.

However, this does need to be tied to capacity planning, so that a firm does not suddenly run out of space. It is often possible to take additional space in nearby building, but at the cost of increased management difficulty and reduced cohesion.

Allen & Overy’s Belfast office is mentioned, essentially a support centre in a cheaper location. A creative approach to managing property costs can pay off, even without formal outsourcing. Even 30 years ago I worked for a firm with offices in the City and in leafy Surrey.