I regularly speak to audiences of lawyers, accountants and consultants about the challenges of making partner. In my talks I often share the ten lessons that my clients have learnt along their journeys to make partner. In this blog post I am going to share the fourth lesson, create a strong, personal brand.
It can be exceptionally tempting to do this
When someone comes along and asks you “what do you do?”, do you claim a specialism or hedge your bets and decide to be a “jack-of-all-trades”. After all, you don’t want to miss out on a piece of work by being too niche. Or do you? That’s the thing. I see so many accountants, lawyers and consultants trying to make themselves as attractive as possible to a wide as range as possible of clients. In the process becoming attractive to no-one.
Clients want to work with an expert
Let’s imagine that your mother needed to have a brain tumour removed. Who would you want to operate on her? The top brain surgeon in the country, or a general surgeon who will “give it a go”? Of course, you want the top brain surgeon. Whilst your clients may not need a brain surgeon, the work they need doing normally carries a high degree of risk, as well as personal financial and reputation repercussions if they don’t solve their issues. This is why the FT Effective Client Advisor Relationship Report 2012 identified that 67% of clients want to work with an expert. I suspect in the intervening years that this figure has increased not decreased.
Let’s look at this another way
Most professionals’ business cases are based on growing a practice to increase the overall size of their firm. This means a firm can’t have an aspiring partner aiming to grow a practice, which cannibalises part of a partner’s existing practice. This means you need to become an expert in an area where the referrals will naturally come to you rather than to your partners.
When to specialise?
So, you get the arguments for needing to specialise. The question is when to specialise? My opinion is the sooner the better. The more you get known for a certain type of work or client, the more likely you will get sent or given this type of work. And so a virtuous circle starts. Of course, if your partners need you to do work outside of your specialism, then of course you say yes….
The sooner you specialise, the higher your internal and external market value will become. Trying to be a “jack-of-all-trades” in today’s business climate is career suicide.