Monday, September 03, 2007

Global Competition, the Thief in the Night!

…“later than same day, they arrived at cheese station C. They had not been paying attention to the small changes that had been taking place each day, so they took it for granted that their cheese would be there. They were unprepared for what they found; no cheese!....”*

Isn’t it amazing how we take so much in life for granted? For the early part of our adult lives we are in a learning mode, and then we settle into a career and begin to take things for granted. We get into the mode of ‘it has always been done this way, therefore…’ The number of stories that touch on the concept of complacency, if stacked, would be miles high.

Innovation not complacency is the key to survival in the 21st century. With the rapid expansion of the internet and multi-media tools the communication gap locally, nationally and globally is shrinking by the day. No longer must we concern ourselves only with local competition we are now faced with competitors all over the globe. Organizations all over the globe are vying for our business. These companies are slowly providing our clients with better service at a better price. The key to success, beyond survival, is to see clients in a long term light.

In a recent article entitled “The Secrets to Toyota’s Success”, the author discusses Toyota’s current and planned success. “Toyota’s set an ambitious sales target (planning to trump GM’s 1978 record of 9.55 million vehicles sold) but according to analysts, the goal is attainable.” “What’s the secret to Toyota’s success?” “Some people say long-termism.”

I am saddened when I see so many professional services organizations managing their client relationships they way they did 10-15 years ago. What many of these firms fail to realize is that the clients are smarter today? They have more knowledge and more tools at their disposal than they did 10 years ago. Therefore the methods of managing the relationship must change. Clients need more information in a more expeditious manner. Unlucky is the firm who simply can’t meet the requirement.

Those firms who have not broken free of the bondage of old practices, allow clients to control their banks. These firms have become their client’s bankers, by extending credit terms with their slow paying antics. With all of this technology, how does this happen? The management of the client portfolio represents the tie to the past; it is the missing link that has separated the ‘profession’ from any other type of work! With everything good, there must be bad to balance the equilibrium. In my career I have witnessed almost 50 firms die a painful death; some of these firms were small. Others were huge global firms. In many cases, they were unable to free themselves from managing their client portfolio.

In this day of rapid technological advancement and unprecedented globalization, a firm’s competitive advantage must be gained on the back of technology, as nothing is moving and advancing as fast. Bill Gates, in his book ­Business at the Speed of Thought¸ captured the essence of what organizations have to do today and will have to do into the future for their survival. For survival will be based on how organizations can leverage technology to create their own competitive advantage.

Finding your organization’s competitive advantage is the key to survival. Leveraging on technology to accentuate that competitive advantage will mean the difference between success and failure in tomorrow’s global economy.

Will you wake up one day and wonder who moved my cheese (clients) or wow, look at all the cheese (clients)? The answer is in your grasp today, don’t let it slip away!

In the coming weeks, I will spend time looking at some of the market forces that are acting on the legal profession and some of the possible changes we will see in the coming decade.

*Johnson, Spencer, (1998), Who Moved my Cheese? G.P. Putnam’s sons publishing, New York, NY

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