For this issue’s “Perspectives”, we asked UK-based Board member Stuart Dodds to provide some thoughts and insights on how COVID has impacted his day-to-day activities – both professionally and personally.
Q: In addition to working remotely, what are some of the most impactful changes that you've noticed in your professional interactions since COVID began – both good and bad?
A: On the positive side, I’ve noticed some interesting patterns in the communication space. For example, there seems to be more regular communication amongst teams including a noticeable uptick in meetings starting on time (as compared to when conducted in person)! I am also seeing better communication from firms' executive teams to the wider organisations, both in terms of the immediate impact to fee earners and business professionals within the firm but also in terms of ways to engage with clients.
I’d say that firms are also leveraging opportunities presented by the pandemic. There seems to be a greater recognition of the importance of project management, both as a discipline to help support the coordination and communication within teams and as a function in terms of the role that skilled project managers can play - especially when it relates to communication, reporting, monitoring, and management of responsibilities.
Firms are also evolving in the way that they are thinking about their client portfolio. I’ve seen firms taking more thoughtful approaches to pricing with much greater use of differentiated pricing approaches based on client need and importance. In addition, some firms have initiated a broader process of reviewing their client portfolio such as how (or whether) they can best serve those clients along with associated pricing and delivery approaches.
Unfortunately, I think the pandemic has also highlighted where partners/fee earners are less confident in their value and their client relationships – including a willingness to do work at any price rather than at the right price which, of course, impacts both their personal and firm brands as well as an overall level of confidence in their pricing approach.
Q: What are some of your personal strategies for coping with the pandemic - particularly as the UK is now in its second lockdown?
A: It’s definitely a multi-pronged approach which is likely similar to what a lot of people are doing these days: Engaging in more outreach to colleagues, friends and contacts either via Zoom or socially distanced walks or similar; ensuring an appropriate balance to a working day by making sure to balance professional needs with well-being and physical exercise; and carving out time during the day for me to do non-work activities or just 'to think'.
I’ve also enjoyed taking advantage of the time required not to be travelling (whether travelling into London for meetings or further afield) by learning new skills (personal and professional), decluttering (a big one for me currently!) and taking the opportunity to review, assess and realign our client service offerings and overall business infrastructure.
On a different note, the changing restrictions in the UK can be quite confusing, as can peoples' varying interpretations of what this means which for some has meant that they are less comfortable venturing outside. Sadly, it also means that a lot of the hospitality and smaller, more boutique-type, retail stores are struggling so that we should be trying to help those out where we can by shopping local, patronising (in the right way!) those restaurants or bars providing takeaway services to keep them going – otherwise, we would certainly miss them when they are gone.