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How to oil the wheels of cooperation

1st May 2017 | Beverly Landais

It is a shrinking world. Technology enables lightening-speed communication. International travel is readily and cheaply available. Global brands create a common language and appetite for goods and services. However, access to the means is not the same as acting global successfully. It is no more starkly apparent than when marketing professional services in an international context.

Presence, or the ability to tap into local expertise in different countries, does not automatically create a seamless, quality experience for clients. Nor a sense of belonging to staff spread across continents and cultures. It is not enough to adopt a universal visual identity and call it a brand. Consistent look and feel provide an important clue for clients and staff as to what a firm can offer, but it is purely cosmetic dressing unless there is something more fundamental at work within the business.

Anyone who is serious about getting to grips with marketing in a global context must begin by considering the articulation of business strategy and the deployment of resources. Is this done for the benefit of clients or is it historical and internally focused? Are resources allocated to strategic priorities or are they diluted by being spread across a multitude of different projects and favourite ‘hobby horses’?

In my experience, to successfully market global professional services, the people who provide those services must be aligned, trained and motivated to work to a common end. Such teams are usually virtual and fluid. They come together and work to deliver whatever is required to meet the client’s need. The ability to do this swiftly and efficiently is essential. Local expertise combined with the know-how to provide global project management must underpin an excellent understanding of what is on offer. As is knowing how to access, organise and motivate the people and resources that are right for the job.

With the continued proliferation of mergers in professional services resulting in ever larger international practices, never has it been more important to think beyond the immediate integration. A merger is like a marriage. You must work at it. You must be prepared to listen to understand, learn to trust, keep promises and be flexible. None of this happens by chance and must be worked upon and improved. It is unrealistic only to ask people to work together without proper planning, training and support, then expect the outcome to be a success.

Bringing people together for international meetings and client conferences, where they can get to know each other and exchange experiences, is tremendously important to strengthening the glue of the firm. In my experience, people benefit greatly from such interaction. Ideas spark, understanding grows, cooperation increases and opportunities uncovered for smarter working with better end results for the client as well as the business.

A growth strategy requires cooperation, focus and discipline to create a standout service experience. It involves the tactical as well as the strategic. For strategy has no point without specific actions that delivers practical implementation. From honing processes and making smarter investments in the business, to creating better and more inclusive governance and providing purposeful leadership. All of this supports a culture of high innovation, creative talent management and results in good client outcomes.

Excellent organisation, customary working practices and clear communication are vital. Key ingredients include establishing the infrastructure and framework for professional development to set standards, capture know-how and share the signature practice that is the hallmark of an authentic brand. Done well, this can create the sense of direction and purpose that is so critical to oiling the cogs that drive the wheels of cooperation.

1st May 2017 | Beverly Landais

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