Business Trends in 2019

City of the Future
Source: Smithsonian

British Airways apparently has a panel of global trend watchers. In my words here is a selection of their predictions for 2019.

  1. Machine Vision – In 2019 there will be an estimated 44 billion cameras in the world and much better facial recognition capability. Bad for liberty but good for security and payment systems?
  1. Future Proofing – With the growth in Artificial Intelligence (AI), consumers will be increasingly concerned about how it will affect their jobs and lives. There will be opportunities for smart companies to help answer these questions. For example, I’d like to know if there be an ongoing need for blogs like this?
  1. Fairer Algorithms – There will be increasing pressure for fewer toxic tweets and less biased and more ethical decisions made by AI. Got to be a good thing.
  1. Bolder Branding – More brands will get off the fence on cultural and political issues. P&G and Coke have already done so on the issues of racial inequality and gay marriage, respectively.
  1. Personal Well-being – Nestle are already trialing a service using DNA swabs to provide personalised nutrient-rich supplements to maximise an individual’s health. Family sit down meals will be fun!
  1. City Slickers – More than 60% of the global population will be living in cities by 2030. This will lead to the need for innovation in many areas such as transport, construction and sustainability.
  1. Chinese Brands – Expect to see China exporting more of their successful local brands to western high streets in product lines such as telecoms and white goods. I wonder what Trump is going to say about that!
  1. Digital Detoxing – Parents remain concerned about their kids having too much screen time. Expect to see a trend towards reconnecting with the natural world, maybe even some tree hugging?
  1. Sustainable Food – After the success of non-dairy milk, a Chilean food tech company is using machine learning to recreate milk and mayo without the moo. Expect mainstream brands to follow.

What other trends do you predict for 2019?




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Skills Training using Video Conferencing Software – Does it Work?

Do you really need to fly people to attend training events to learn new skills? A good question when clients are baulking at the costs of such events and not clear they are getting value for money.

With the development of new technology, is it possible to deliver skills training using video conferencing (VC) software?

Well, I’ve done it and it worked better than I thought it would. Here’s how.

I started this enquiry from a small position of advantage…I had delivered several live webinars for an international business school with participants on several continents. But I wanted to talk to some more experienced specialists before starting to charge clients for designing and delivering VC programmes.

All the experts agreed that VC is easiest to use for knowledge transfer rather than mindset shifts or skills transfer. However, if you can maximise engagement using the right software (Adobe Connect was a favourite of some) and set up virtual teams, using virtual rooms, online team coaching, have post-teaching inputs, online case studies etc, it was thought that you can change attitudes and build skills.

To maximise engagement, I decided to complement the ‘lecture’ elements with short video clips using professional actors. These added dramatic inputs and provided examples of how to (and how not to) delegate, give feedback, build rapport, etc.

Other devices to stimulate engagement included ‘talking heads’ (ie two people having a conversation to bring out key points), panel discussions, interviews (eg with senior management and clients).

To ensure the quality of the VC training was at the highest level, I pre-recorded these videos in a studio near to the main office for convenience. The costs for these videos were small. The extra quality sound and better lighting were worth it.

We decided that all the participants would be together in a meeting room in their local office.

A typical 2 hour module was run like this:

  • Pre-reading to introduce initial ideas and encourage reflection.
  • Facilitated discussion in a meeting room in the office (30 mins). I drafted a discussion guide for facilitators to use
  • VC input, including models/frameworks/video clips from actors (1h)
  • Facilitated discussion on reactions/challenges etc and the setting of personal goals/homework (30 mins)
  • E-learning support was made available on the firm’s intranet
  • Sponsoring partners to provide on-the-job (OTJ) support for participants to practise the particular skill covered. This was reported on at the start of the next module.

The facilitated discussions were important and most firms lack people with such training skills in each office. So a train-the-trainer was offered to get enough people up to speed.

The initial VC training was offered to develop Business Development (BD) skills and I ran five modules, roughly one month apart. I delivered the training from each of the five main European offices, with all the other offices on camera.

After each BD module there was homework – invariably using and developing one of the BD processes covered in the module. After the first workshop, the participants agreed their priority clients and carried out initial research into relevant sector and company issues. After the second module participants made their approaches to these clients (ie they picked up the phone).

One of the benefits of a modular approach is that you can make the most of reflection. Participants were encouraged to keep notes of their thoughts and observations (as an MBA student would do).

So I came away from my first experience feeling positive about what can be done using VC software. It worked for BD skills and I can imagine it working for Leadership development programmes.

Is VC training as good as getting people together? Probably not. In particular you lose the opportunities for colleagues to network and build trusted relationships. But the cost savings are huge.

The VC software didn’t always work perfectly but I guess the glitches will be ironed out pretty quickly. So I’m a convert!

Hope this is interesting. I’m keen to hear the experiences of others pioneering in this area.

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Tips on Negotiating a Rise in Fee Rates

Some firms struggle to negotiate increases in fee rates. As Oliver Twist demonstrated, it can be hard to ask for more.

But with staff getting annual salary increases and with inflation rates starting to go up, it becomes more important to have these conversations and to do them well.

Here are some tips:

Negotiate face to face. You may want to ask for a meeting by email but try to avoid ask for a fee rate increase by email. I appreciate that this can be a challenge for international clients. A phone call might be ok as a last resort, but probably only suitable with a long-term and trusted relationship.

Pick a time of least pressure and distraction for you both to have your conversation.

Emphasize your value to the client, not what you need to make your life easier. Remind the client of the value added you have provided.

Try to take a “What’s in it for them?” approach when you outline why fee rates need to be raised. Examples might include benefits and risks, such as:

  • more experienced staff able to provide greater added value,
  • improved efficiencies through greater experience working with the client,
  • the importance of creating win-win for a stable long-term relationship,
  • risks of cost cutting to maintain margins that might diminish benefits to the client,
  • continuity of supply, etc)

Avoid ultimatums. Remember this is a collaboration. Ultimatums can damage your working relationship seriously.

Suggest your percentage figure. Allow your client to put questions and challenge. Have your supporting evidence. This might include information about the client’s product price increases. It seems fair that if the client’s prices have gone up, yours do too!

Have a list of other requests that might be open for negotiation should fee rate increases not be available or be negotiated down.

Follow-up with your requests but be professional at all times. For the long-term success of your relationship, you need to be seen as a trusted advisor.

Give it a go! After all, Oliver Twist ended up well!


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Are Some of Your Partners Losing Their Mojo?

As a coach I meet lots of partners who are admitting to me that they are, frankly, a bit bored! They probably don’t use those words. They might not even recognise the fact themselves. But after some probing questions from me, the reality is all too frequently revealed.

And this state of affairs doesn’t surprise me. After all most of the partners are doing the same as what they were doing as a senior associate some 10 or so years ago. Same old points to negotiate. Same old clauses to draft. Same old challenges dealing with the team. It’s all a bit repetitive. Nothing new.

What they typically need is something more stimulating – a new challenge perhaps and something the partner would enjoy and have a talent for. For example there are:

  • sectors to focus on and develop, such as retail, banking etc
  • geographical areas to stimulate referrals – perhaps the partner has a language skill that could be used
  • specific clients to develop a relationship with – perhaps a subsidiary of an existing client
  • new roles within the practice group, such as recruitment or marketing
  • CSR programmes to run

There’s an important role for practice group heads in assessing whether your partners are fully motivated and in helping them find stimulating new challenges. Use those partner review conversations well.

The other aspect to recognise is that most partners don’t have any kind of career plan. As an associate there was partnership in the dim distance. But now you’re a partner, you’ve arrived and now there’s nothing on the horizon!

I really urge law firms to think about this. What career plans can you offer your partners? If you don’t have an offering, you risk mojo loss and the downsides of that might be greater than you first think. A partner wondering around with a demeanour that’s, say, less than the joys of Spring, affects the morale of the whole team. Might that be why you’re losing some talented associates to rival firms?

Let’s get their mojos back!

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Research Findings on What Motivates (and Demotivates) Lawyers

Source: businessnewsdaily

I’ve asked more than a thousand lawyers over the last ten years what motivates them at work.

I’ve asked lawyers across Europe, Asia and the Americas.

I’ve asked lawyers in big firms and small firms.

The results are somewhat consistent and are perhaps not surprising. What is surprising is the extent to which their supervisors are behaving in ways that demotivate them!

What Motivates Lawyers

A minority claim that what motivates them is a high salary or bonus. US lawyers have money as a higher priority – maybe because of the high cost of their legal education.

But the vast majority confirm that the main motivators relate to the work itself. It’s receiving challenging work that provides a sense of responsibility, autonomy and ultimately achievement. And it’s being appreciated and recognised for their contribution.

What Demotivates Lawyers

A surprising number of lawyers say they are not given stretching work. Their workload seems trivial and mundane. They also say that they don’t feel valued or appreciated.

I receive comments that there seems to be an unequal allocation of work and they sense others are not pulling their weight.

Other aspects that demotivate lawyers are:

  • Not receiving any constructive feedback
  • Others taking the credit for your work
  • Inefficient matter management
  • Poor work-life balance
  • Supervisors who are overly nit-picky

Advice to Supervisors

  1. Try finding out what motivates and demotivates junior lawyers in your team. Ask what matters they’ve enjoyed most and least.
  2. Consider more carefully what stretching work you can delegate. Try to avoid the view that ‘it’s easier to do it myself!’
  3. Delegate thoroughly so juniors know how best to carry out the work. This minimises the risks of work needing to be redone.
  4. Give constructive feedback so junior lawyers can learn. This is particularly important for Millennials.
  5. Give a few more ‘well done’s’. And make these real by being specific about what was good.

Remember, all your new hires almost certainly started off very motivated to be great lawyers. Let’s try to keep it that way!

For more see


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Giving Feedback Using Radical Candor (or Candour for the Brits!)

Avoid the feedback sandwich – too much bun!

Kim Scott tells a great story about getting feedback from Sheryl Sandberg whilst working at Facebook. It goes roughly like this…

After a presentation, Sheryl said: ‘You know you say ‘um’ a lot.’ Kim, who thought she was a pretty good presenter brushed this off politely. Sheryl than added, ‘I know a good presentation coach’. Kim brushed this off saying she’d think about it. Sheryl went on to say, ‘You know, when you say ‘um’ every three words it makes you sound stupid!’.

Kim finally got the message (after the third attempt) and started wondering why nobody had told her this before.

She also wondered why she’d taken the feedback from Sheryl and concluded that it was because:

  • She had the skill to challenge me
  • She cared about my personal development

Obnoxious aggression, as demonstrated by the Meryl Streep character in The Devil Wears Prada, doesn’t work – lots of challenge but no care. Nor does what Kim calls Ruinous Empathy, where there is lots of care and consideration but not enough challenge.

Too many managers want to liked too much and are frightened to be more challenging. As Colin Powell said, rather bluntly: ‘You got to be willing to piss people off to be a good leader!’

And we need to be careful using the feedback sandwich. You know the sort of thing. Lots of bun (praise), a bit of meat (criticism) and lots more bun (praise). The criticism gets lost and we don’t enjoy the sandwich!

For more on motivating your team members see:

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All Advisers Should Have a Personal Marketing Plan

And it’s easy to write one…here’s how!

Firstly, why is a personal plan important? There are several reasons, but a key one is that it makes your career less open to random chance and makes you more focused on doing the kind of work that makes you fulfilled.

Strategy first, plan second

You need to be aware that a plan should follow some strategic thinking. Otherwise your plan will probably be unsustainable. It will just be a wish list.

A quick tip on strategy. It’s a matching process. Start by assessing your marketable assets:

  • What knowledge and experience do you have?
  • What are your skills?
  • Who is in your network and thinks well of you (inside your firm and outside)?

Now consider the market you are in. What areas of work are big? What areas are likely to grow? What types of work are more profitable than others? You don’t need to quantify anything. Just rank the areas as High, Medium or Low in attractiveness.

Then match your marketable assets to the more attractive sectors or areas of specialism. As you do this, ask yourself whether you feel passionate about doing this kind of work? This passion bit is important! It will have you through the tougher times.

Choose two or three areas to focus on and then write your plan.

Headings for a personal marketing plan

Many firms have long complicated documents that make planning a tedious and potentially bureaucratic process. I recommend having just four headings and you can get your plan on a single page. The headings are:

  • Objectives – ‘Smart’ objectives are important (ie specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) so you can measure your progress
  • Profile-raising activities – to make yourself the ‘go-to’ person internally and a bit famous externally
  • Key clients and target clients – make sure you don’t put too many on your list, so you’ll have enough time to invest in building these key relationships
  • Product innovations – to ensure you have something with more added value than your rivals to offer your clients and can legitimately charge a premium (eg risk-sharing pricing options, project management processes, checklists etc)

Final comments

Many professionals (consultants, lawyers, accountants etc) work in what seem like hierarchical organisations. Too many staff members believe that their role to do the work handed down by a more senior professional. I urge all professionals to be tactfully assertive on matters to do with your careers. Too many talented juniors are leaving because they are not fulfilled. The problem is that the grass is rarely greener somewhere else.

So it’s actually in the interests of professional firms to encourage staff to produce personal plans. It’ll be a win-win!

If you’d like to receive the proformas that relate to this process of producing a strategy and personal plan, just ping me an email ( and I send them to you.


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