Firm Owners: 3 Risks and 7 Rewards of Running a Flexible Firm

December 11, 2018
Firm Owners: 3 Risks and 7 Rewards of Running a Flexible Firm

How necessary is it for your employees to be at work every day? Are your reasons for having everyone in the office based on pragmatism or legacy? At FirmChecker, we independently analyse professional services business models. This gives us insight into what works best.  This post outlines the costs and benefits of running a flexible firm.

There are net benefits to running a flexible firm

There are potential costs of running a highly flexible firm, both real and imagined.

Risks

  1. Less face time. Potentially reduced capacity to innovate due to less time together;
  2. Distractions. Undisciplined employees might work ineffectively without supervision;
  3. Less personal client service. Lower ability to meet and convert prospects into clients.

Professionals, particularly in law, are often risk-averse people. As they’ve historically extracted substantial income from doing things a certain way, change can be slow. In fact, part of their job description is spotting risks and problems. So, risk-aversion is understandable. But, as the market becomes increasingly a buyer’s market, balancing these risks against the  rewards of doing things differently is crucial.

Further, if these principles are followed, the risks might be more imagined than real.

Do you need all your floor space? If you’re a flexible firm, probably not.

Rewards

1. Savings on overhead.

You can sub-lease office space or down-size your current floorplan, saving you overhead costs. If you’re concerned about not being able to have meetings easily, hire specially designed, short-term meeting space. Also, think critically about which meetings are really necessary.  Meetings always have significant opportunity costs (Time Spent x Number of People x Value of Their Time.) Being selective about meeting place and frequency can make you a leaner operation.

2. Happier employees.

People hate commuting. It’s good practice to hire people who live closer to your office, but better to not make them commute unnecessarily. This allows you to recruit from a bigger pool. Those that you do hire will be grateful for the flexible opportunity.

3. Proactive Employees. 

Flexible work arrangements are conducive to proactive people who don’t waste time. If you hire well, a flexible workplace can self-select for a self-starting team.

4. Practising Essentialism.

Sometimes it is best to do only do what’s essential. Working virtually can focus the mind on exactly what needs to be done. It allows you to plan things other than work in your day, motivating you to work efficiently.

5. Client-centricity.

You are forced to meet with clients in a way that suits them. Videoconferencing and visiting their offices means that you add maximum value at minimum hassle.

6. Time savings.

This is a theme in several of these cons but is worth its own point. One of the tragedies in modern office work is that everyone is required to spend 40 hours (at least) in one place every week. The result of this inflexibility is that people waste time – they can’t work with 100% intensity for that long.  Allowing people to take time away from their desk means they can spend time on other meaningful activities. So, when they are working, they do so with a fresher mindset.

7. Diversity.

There is strong evidence to suggest that diverse viewpoints, backgrounds and skillsets make more effective teams. A flexible workplace is better able to cater to a diverse work force for whom a rigid 9am-5pm (or 8am to 11pm as the case may be…) might not be possible. In pursuit of diversity, flexibility makes sense.

 

Further Reading

About the Author

Ben Farrow is the Managing Director of FirmChecker and consults with Beaton Research + Consulting, the leading management consultants to professional services firms in Asia-Pacific. He holds commerce and law degrees from the University of Melbourne and digital marketing certifications from Northwestern University.

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