The Winners’ Formula: Learning from the winning firms of the MPF Awards

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The Managing Partners’ Forum (MPF) annual awards represent the best in class and current best practice amongst professional services firms. They provide a rare opportunity and set of current data to gain an understanding of what cultural traits the most successful professional services firms exhibit.

Just in case you are concerned about the credibility of the winners, The MPF Awards are judged by an independent panel that consists of fellow management consultants and professionals based in the UK and across the globe.

So what key cultural traits do these market leaders exhibit and what are the lessons that can be learned by other professional services firms?

1. Client Focus

The one single factor that differentiated winners from other firms, despite all of the excellent submissions, was an unrelenting client focus. Rather than solely internal reorganisation, the winning firms were wholly focused on the needs, requirements and ambitions of their clients and how they could create measurable value.

In practice, client focus means:

i.   Undertaking regular research, actively listening and always looking for ways to contribute and be helpful.

ii.  Adapting to the changing needs of your clients to offer an efficient, streamlined service that both improves experience and satisfaction.

iii. Being transparent with your clients, through regular dialogue and tailored communications.

Client focus is a long term, on-going strategy. Winning firms are part of their client’s journey and know their ambitions, motivations, pains and goals. Award winners demonstrated that understanding the client’s mind is essential if they are to differentiate themselves from others firms who perhaps, from a client’s perspective, offer very similar services.

2. Propensity for Change

An ability to embrace change was the second significant cultural trait demonstrated by this year’s award winners. Winning firms were willing to get rid of old comforts, be forward thinking and stop trying to polish the past.

Common to all winning entries was a willingness to be creative, to foster innovation and encourage entrepreneurship where Directors and Senior Partners were willing to take calculated risks.

Propensity for change does not mean an inclination to taking unnecessary gambles but appears to mean having ambition and the guts to embrace newness and to adopt a culture where new ideas and modern practice are rewarded.

3. Internal engagement

The third common cultural theme demonstrated by all the award winners was internal engagement among the workforce. Engagement is often a result of a common mission, inclusiveness, staff satisfaction, a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement through learning and development.

Award winners appear to have made it a priority for everyone within the company to understand the organisation’s strategy, vision and goals. This engaged mindset is usually only achieved within firms who have fostered a culture of dialogue, trust and honesty.

Continuous learning and development also drives internal engagement. By encouraging employees to continually improve, often by using innovative learning methods, award winners ensured workforce loyalty and commitment – particularly relevant to the Millennial generation with their specific attitudes and values relating to career progression and development.

The Winners’ Formula:

After analysing each award winner and the explanations given by the judging panel, it becomes clear that success (growth, profits, client satisfaction and awards) is a function of three recurring cultural themes that make up what we have called “The Winners’ formula”:

Success = ƒ(Client Focus + Propensity for Change + Internal Engagement)

1. Client Focus – understanding clients’ context, market research, commitment to service, tailored communications, dialogue and resource alignment.

2. Propensity for Change – creativity, forward thinking, innovation, ambition, vision, and entrepreneurship.

3. Internal Engagement – collaboration, clear strategic direction, internal efficiencies, dialogue, tailored communications, shared goals, inclusiveness, promotion of learning and development.