Blog3

Chocolate biscuits back in the meeting rooms?

With most of the services sector indicators now showing that the worst of the downturn is behind us, I wonder how many managing partners are simply relieved, and how many are actively planning for the next economic cycle.

Things have been bad since 2008 - there is no getting away from it.  And yet some firms have been remarkably profitable over the last couple of years.  It's hardly rocket science, but having taken some tough decisions (although I do wonder how tough they really were) at the beginning of the downturn, they began to reap the dividends of those decisions while the market conditions were still fairly grim.

The anguish caused by taking chocolate biscuits out of the meeting rooms; asking partners to share a secretary; not tolerating under-performing staff; it was all forgotten within days.  They were, after all, the right decisions that had to be taken in the circumstances.

But things are getting better now, so how should a managing partner react.  Quality of life is important.  Dedicated secretaries; chocolate biscuits; being staffed up for that sudden surge in demand; they are all things that make the life of the over-stressed partner that little bit more bearable.  But they come at a price, and so there has to be a value judgement somewhere along the line.

 My point is a simple one.  I don't care about firm's staffing levels; I don't even care whether I am offered a chocolate biscuit when I attend a meeting.  But I do know that, in any partnership, there will be some who would prefer to earn less and work in a more comfortable, supportive environment, and there are others who would like to continue to operate as though we were still in the depths of a recession, earn more money as the firm enjoys the continued economies, and spend their increased earnings as they see fit, rather than as the firm dictates.

Both points of view are perfectly understandable and both have merit.  The important thing is for the managing partner to recognise that there is an issue to address and make sure that all the partners understand whatever decision is taken - and go along with it. 

To muddle along into indecisive confusion would be a mistake.