Monday, 14 September 2015

Selling Common Sense

I speak about this a lot, so please forgive me if you've heard all this before. In my defence, if more businesses would do what they say is obvious, then I'd stop going on about it so much.

I'm talking about common sense.

Most of what I do is just common sense. Working with people in a corporate environment is common sense; developing a strategy is mostly common sense; running a business - common sense.

I sat in a meeting last week with a partner in a law firm. I won't give any more details except to say that it was a fair sized business. This partner had been given my contact details by a friend at another firm where I had helped to mediate peace in a partner fight a few years ago. My new potential client was having problems with some of his fee-earning team leaders and with the marketing department. I sat with him for an hour and asked a number of questions in order to understand the problem a bit more. After about 50 minutes he was clearly bored and finally snapped saying "There's no point in going on an on about what the problem is! What should we do about it?"

I sighed rather deeply and started to outline a project to get into the firm and to start talking to everyone concerned - to understand what the problem with the fee-earners is (no-one in a law firm does anything to get in the way of increasing revenues without a good reason) and to see if we couldn't get the marketing guys either working more effectively or demonstrating that they were working well (and probably both).

My client sat back after a few minutes and said "Is that it? Is that all you do for the money? Anyone could do that!"

I explained - politely and patiently I hope - that, yes almost anyone could do it, but for whatever reason, no-one in this firm was doing any of it. I was, as usual, trying to sell a doubtful client common sense.

General management is mostly common sense. Treat staff and colleagues well; look after the important numbers; report quickly and in plain English; treat everyone well. It's not rocket science.

Yes of course - when developing a strategy (whether for the whole business or a marketing strategy) or when starting a new enterprise - a flash of genius is a great thing. But actually getting the business involves common sense and hard work - and not much more.

I didn't manage to persuade my client that he needed external support to solve his firm's problems ("If it's that easy we'll do it ourselves") - but I'll give him a ring in a few months and see how he's getting on.

I'm sometimes asked (by the few people who read this blog regularly) whether I'm exaggerating the characters I write about. Honestly - I think I usually dial them down a bit when I write about then to make them at least a little believable!

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