This is part 10 of our industry focused practice series.
Does your firm organize and assign all or some of its professionals into industry teams?
If your firm is going to focus on serving specific industries, many of your services will be provided by your industry experts.
Before you can address your clients’ industry needs, you need to identify who those industry experts are, what their skill sets are, and which industry (or industries) they’re passionate about. It’s also an opportunity to find out who might be interested in delving deeper into an industry of focus.
Once you have your industry experts identified, group them into dedicated industry teams to maximize their expertise and efficiency.
It doesn’t have to be a physical reorganization of your firm. Think of it as creating communities of practice within the company. Teams don’t necessarily have to be in the same physical office, as long as the channels of communication and collaboration are open across the group.
The process of creating industry teams can also be looked at as a way of developing careers and cultures. Identify those people who want to be industry-oriented, as opposed to those who prefer to deepen their technical expertise and apply that across multiple sectors. It’ll help you figure out not only how to group them, but also what their longer term career trajectories could look like.
Start with your core experts.
These are the people who are 100% dedicated (or close to that) to just one or two industries, and are often seasoned veterans of your firm and/or industry. As individual teams grow, industry knowledge will trickle down to the junior ranks and the senior experts can take on mentorship roles to help younger professionals develop their expertise.
Effective industry experts can have broad business conversations with your clients, while drawing on other experts and resources within your firm to help solve technical problems that lie outside their purview. They drive cross-selling to their clients because they deeply understand the clients’ pain points and can think creatively to recommend expertise and services outside their own professional niche.
Above all, they’re passionate about their industries and have their clients’ best interests in mind.
How do you grow an industry team?
Start by asking for volunteers within the firm who want to develop a focus on a specific industry. Ideally, they’ll be the people who are comfortable developing long-term client relationships and are confident in their colleagues so that they can make intra-firm referrals as necessary. Depending on your firm’s current level of industry experience and plans for growth, you may need to look for external hires to help round out or spearhead growth in specific clients, sub-sectors or service areas.
Some employees won’t want to be limited to a single area of focus, so by asking for volunteers, you’ll know that those who raise their hands have a strong interest in furthering their industry expertise.
For example, when I was at Arthur Andersen, the firm’s European practice recognized the need to develop telecom industry skills and I volunteered to go on secondment to the US to gain industry knowledge and skills. The firm also made outside hires to fill gaps, and parsed the team into sub-groups to address the unique needs of mobile versus fixed line telecom.
Creating industry teams is as much about individuals’ career development as filling roles for the sake of filling roles. In the next few posts, we’ll talk more in-depth about the details of using industry focus as a means of performance evaluation and bringing the best out of all the members of your teams.
What are your biggest challenges in building an effective industry team?
Let us know in the comments below what challenges you’ve faced, or what has worked well for you, in building a strong industry focused practice.