Three Takeaways from Gro-Pro 20/20 2018: Change & Disruption, Collaboration & Process with Clients and Branding as Opportunity
Wednesday, June 12, Lowenstein & Sandler’s offices in New York City hosted the Gro Pro 20/20 conference, an event where high-level discussion of leadership, strategy and how to best position professional services organizations in today’s market. The sessions were on-point and the audience interaction was lively, as CMO’s from all over the country came together to discuss the issues facing their firms and seek insight and ideas from their peers. What follows is a quick wrap-up of three of the major themes that emerged from these discussions.
The Nature of Change & Disruption in Professional Services
It was widely agreed that change is the new normal in professional services organizations and that acting on those changes--taking steps now, to prepare for the changes that are en route is crucial for survival. Through panel discussions, the changes within in-house legal departments came up: the fact that in-house legal departments are increasing their size and their scope, and spending less on outside counsel. For example, in 2015, in-house legal departments covered an average of 5 practice groups--now, in 2018, they cover an average of 11. For working with these companies, ways of delivering not just the legal answer, but the business answer--in easy to digest, easy to use formats is crucial.
Along with the change that is already happening for professional services organizations, there is also the change that is to come--scanning the landscape, disruption is inevitable in the industry. Through a panel discussion, attendees took a deeper look at disruption and what brings it about--what gives companies like Uber & Lyft, Netflix & Amazon, WeWork and Air b’n’b, the opportunity to swoop in and change the way things have always been done--and it was determined that being annoyed, being frustrated, putting up with “$hit” was what created the groundswell that fuels disruptors. With nods around the room, and a discussion of “early indicators” of disruption, it was agreed that our industry was ripe for disruption--and the organizations that can evolve will do well.
Process, Deliverables, and Collaboration with Clients
Related to the need to provide the legal services companies want in an efficient, digestible way, much of the discussion at Gro Pro centered on the process. Through insightful examples, attendees saw real-life implications of how this can play out--how organizations can provide the types of solutions that companies want, usually in connection with those companies. To do this, professional service organizations need to focus on innovation in how they deliver the information--through the technology available to them, how can they condense and package the information so it becomes a tool, and not a stack of paper to be searched through.
But how to get there? Speakers encouraged attendees to go through a “process map” process, where they could look at how things are done in their organization--to be clear--how things are done, not how they are “supposed to be done” and this process usually leads to identification of places where there can be efficiency gains. In addition, going through this process with a client can help professional services organizations identify needs that the client has that are not being addressed--which can present an opportunity for cross-selling.
Branding as Opportunity
An in-depth, memorable discussion of branding also took place at Gro-Pro 20/20. While branding brings to mind long, drawn-out discussions incorporating the phrase “I don’t like the orange” and “Can we do this in blue?” panelists pointed out that is not the way it needs to be. For the longest time, many professional services organizations were using their talent as their major marketing asset.; however, tweaking that formula to offer your entire organization as a solutions-provider may be the way to move forward, according to the discussion.
With Branding in professional service organizations, the process is most powerful if it involves all levels of the organization discussing and analyzing who they are and what they do. If everyone is involved, the concepts discussed in the somewhat aspirational conversation are more likely to take root and authentically represent the organization. And by aspirational, it can be a discussion of not just “who we are” but “who we want to be”; a way to spark ideas for the organization. Much more than a discussion of typeface, it is a way to ask important questions of the organization and forge a path forward, and it can provide a map of authentic principles that the organization can use to guide decisions that need to be made further down the line.
The above is a small piece of some of the insights delivered at Gro Pro 20/20. The panels were all thoughtful and provided food for thought on how organizations move forward as new technologies and changing environments modify the professional services ecosystem.