Focusing your business on the clients' needs first is a
traditional business axiom. But, conventional thinking does not
fully encompass Collins Barrow Toronto's mission.
We believe the best way to serve clients is to build a structure
that fits the needs of the professionals you want to attract and
keep. By internally consolidating our company culture before
turning our attention outward, we ensure that our clients receive
the extraordinary service they deserve.
As a mid-market competitor, this strategy is advantageous when
competing against billion-dollar global firms as well as smaller
Collins Barrow Toronto LLP, a member of the Collins Barrow
National Cooperative, has grown in five years from a team of 70 to
240. Profitability per partner – already a strong facet
dating back to our inception – has increased by 50%, while
revenue has grown from $10 million to $50 million. We did this in a
world where giant global competitors are treading water, doing
their best to maintain existing client relationships, trimming
their costs and reducing their partner headcount to artificially
maintain their income per partner. Over this same period, we have
had no trouble attracting experienced talent from these firms,
including from the coveted partner level.
How can you replicate our model? This two-part series will
explore the key strategies mid-market firms (sandwiched between
smaller independent organizations and larger multi-billion dollar
competitors) can employ to expand client base, talent pool and
Find out what your top talent wants – then give it to
If you want to attract top talent, the first step is to learn
what highly skilled, in-demand professionals' want on their
employment wish list, and then build a package that reflects what
Make it easy for the best and brightest professionals to join
you. For instance, someone joining us at the partner level can buy
in at a rate that reflects the net book value of the assets of the
firm, without being charged anything for goodwill.
We make sure our team members stay because they want to be here,
not because of 'golden handcuffs' in the form of a rich
pension or an overly oppressive partnership agreement. If
professionals want a comfortable retirement, they should build it
themselves through saving, not by burdening future members of the
firm with heavy pension obligations.
We have also done away with the non-compete clause for our
partners because if someone does not want to be here, we don't
want to stop them from leaving. There is simply nothing worse than
unhappy professionals in a professional services organization.
Make employees feel at home, at work
From the time they arrive at work until the time they leave,
make sure that your professionals have a positive work environment;
and keep in mind that the little things have a tremendous impact.
Our survey of potential employees found that a top wish-list item
was having a desk of their own, a seemingly simple request that has
fallen by the wayside at many larger competitor firms.
Another unpopular trend embraced by our competitors is
"hoteling." Like an adult version of musical chairs, the
losers in the game are expected to work from home, from their
clients' offices, using Wi-Fi at a convenient cafe or wherever
else they can find a perch. The hoteling practice exists because of
relentless pressure to cut margins – and thus costs –
to painful levels. The result is happy cost accountants, but a
culture where partners and staff do not feel valued or secure.
We've taken the opposite approach by investing in premises
that say, "you are valued here." Everyone gets a desk and
partners each have a home ("office") of their own.
Investment in our downtown Toronto office space also reflects
our commitment to providing a positive environment. We found a
building that has plenty of floor-to-ceiling windows, offering a
wealth of natural light, and invested heavily in state of the art
Additionally, Collins Barrow Place is in the heart of the
financial district, so our staff can easily walk to many of their
meetings. Streetcars, trains and subways take you directly (or very
close) to our location, and the newly refurbished central train
station is 10 minutes away, which makes for easier commuting. We
are true believers in the saying "if you build it, they will
come" and the proof for us is in our numbers.
In Part 2 of this series we will explore the "challenger
brand" strategies and innovative management practices, which
have lead to our dramatic increase in revenue at Collins Barrow
Toronto. Stay tuned!
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