On the occasion of Sorainen celebrating its 25th anniversary, Aku Sorainen, our firm’s founder, shares 25 tips for business leaders.
Great enthusiasm needed!
Great business starts with great enthusiasm and ends when the enthusiasm ends.
Identify a core purpose
At one stage the firm needs to identify its core purpose as it can’t be just making money – as if it is that then the enthusiasm will die sooner or later. After all we were born to this world to change it rather than maximize profit.
Identify the firm’s values early on
Get everyone involved as everyone needs to accept and adhere to them, or move on. Mutually accepted values are the cornerstone of corporate culture.
Grow a strong corporate culture
Especially when operating in several countries, pay attention to growing a strong mutual corporate culture as otherwise you will end up having many different local corporate cultures which may have little to do with the firm’s values and core purpose.
Create order out of chaos
When you start a business you have chaos, and when you grow a business you have even greater chaos. From early on pay attention to reducing chaos by building effective & efficient systems and processes despite some complaints about bureaucracy. Later, they will also come to understand.
Ensure transparent decisions
Ensure all decisions are made in the best interests of clients and the firm as a whole rather than in the interests of any individual, office, or team.
Pay a lot of attention to whom you hire
Hire great personalities rather than skills as you can teach skills while changing ones personality may be impossible. If you get the hiring wrong, the cost for the firm is huge! Besides, work is much more fun with great people around.
Expect everyone to be driven to reach the top and collaborate
In order to build an elite organisation everyone in the firm must have the drive to aim at becoming the best in the market in their field. It takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a world class specialist and it takes guts to put in that amount of hours, but the sooner you reach it the longer you can successfully compete in the market. However, remember that you are competing in the market and not with your colleagues ‒ support colleagues and collaborate actively in everything possible.
Help those people move on who don’t show potential to become the best match for the firm – the sooner the better for both
Separate gracefully and maintain good contact with your alumni as they will either grow business and goodwill for the firm or vice-versa.
Choose leaders very carefully: they need to be ‒ or have the potential to be ‒ role models in most aspects
Leaders need to be genuine, mature personalities ready to assume responsibility and able to attract others to follow them even without a formal title. Partners need a strong entrepreneurial spirit in addition. Train the leaders to lead in accordance with the firm’s core purpose, values and strategy. Never let them go on an ego trip once they get more power.
The biggest asset of the firm is its people and its reputation
Always protect both your people and the firm’s reputation as they are the preconditions for having great clients.
The more successful you are, the more modest you should appear
Successful people showing off will alienate others and they will enjoy ruining your success.
Don’t let people load their problems on to your shoulders, but ask them to come up with a proposal instead
Thinking of a solution will educate people always to think with their own brain.
Delegate as much as you can, yet check that people understood what you want them to do
As mutual trust grows you can and should delegate more. Many leaders burn out when they think they can do the job faster by themselves. A leader should focus on those tasks which shouldn’t be delegated (and they are many!).
The strategy of the firm must encourage innovation and contain a vision about the future ‒ and it should not to be changed too easily
It takes years before all stakeholders learn to remember the firm’s strategy and even longer before they actually start to implement it. It is a mistake to change the strategy just for the purpose of being able to entertain people with a new and fresh strategy presentation. The strategy presentation should align & unite and provide security by letting people know that you know where the firm is going ‒ and finally it is about calling for action.
You can’t realize a vision or implement the strategy unless you know what is happening at the grass-roots level
A leader needs the ability to understand the big picture while maintaining the curiosity and endurance to dig into the small details about how things are being done.
No matter how good the strategy is, one day along comes Covid-19 and you need to start to improvise
Once the situation is over get back quickly to implementing the strategy ‒ or change it.
Never stop investing and never stop hiring excellent talent when available
In times of downfall in the economy and shrinking revenue it is tempting to stop investing and hiring new people. Never stop completely as some investments may help the firm to recover and some talented people are on the move only because of the change in the economy. Don’t miss the opportunity to hire them.
Often the best strategy is just to offer excellent client service and ensure everyone is hungry for business
No matter how good a relationship you have with a client, if you lose enthusiasm and hunger for new business it will go to someone else.
Clients expect lawyers to take their worries away, so be quick to communicate that you understand what the client wants
Otherwise you have just added another thing for them to worry about.
You will drown unless you prioritize
In the early years you may feel that people are not showing enough initiative, whereas later you will find that too many people have too many initiatives.
When you need to make a change don’t try to change the whole firm at once. Start piloting with those who welcome the change.
Once the business case for change is proven then it is easier to involve others.
Scale your success by sharing your experience and knowledge, and ensure everyone else does that as well
The main point of building a large firm is that you can utilize certain economies of scale, while in professional services knowledge is the main factor to be shared.
At the end of the day, cash in the bank determines the firm’s success or failure
You can innovate and have a brave strategy, but always be conservative when it comes to finances.