Wednesday 15 June 2016, London

Lateral hires are an important part of many professional services firms’ growth strategies. But successful lateral hires are notoriously tricky and tend to fail more than they should. But why does this happen, and what can marketing and business development teams do to help guarantee success?

In most areas of professional services, not a day goes by that another major partner or senior-level hire doesn’t splash across the trade press headlines. But the challenges inherent in making these hires work are aplenty. At this month’s London PM Forum event, a panel of three industry experts – Yolanda Cartusciello, Paul Deacon and Mark Grant – provided practical advice on lateral hire integrations and how to make them succeed, particularly from the business development and marketing perspective.

Do your due diligence

According to the panel, everyone is in ‘sell’ mode when bringing in a new partner/senior-level and things move at a very fast pace. This means that due diligence processes can get overlooked, the firm and the potential joiner don’t ask the necessary confrontational questions and key issues aren’t always addressed. The result is often a cultural mismatch between the firm and individual.

Business development expectations

The individuals are assessed, among other things, on their business development skills but, because of the fast pace, key questions might not get answered (or even asked). How is the promised pipeline going to materialise? Has the firm considered possible conflicts between current clients and the clients the new joiner is planning to bring with them? Without knowing these things, the book of clients and revenue the firm expects them to bring with them might not be such a sure thing.

Top tips for a successful lateral hire

To help avoid these pitfalls, the panel shared their top tips for how marketing and business development professionals can add value – both before and within the first crucial 18 months of the partner or senior-level hire joining the firm.

  • If possible, get involved in the hiring discussions and decision-making process. Review and question the individual’s business case and help build the firm’s business development plan for the lateral hire.
  • Be aware of and respect the individual’s restricted covenant, and put plans in place for when it ends.
  • Know and respect data laws. Advise the firm and the individual on what information they can bring with them, and ensure it is managed and stored correctly.
  • Develop and/or provide support for the internal communication plan, and get it ready ahead of them joining.  Ensure they’re meeting with the right client service and practice group teams, as well as the relevant support teams, as soon after joining as possible.
  • Agree a marketing and business development strategy with the lateral hire at the outset, and ensure any deviations are communicated effectively.
  • The first sixth months in the new role are crucial to the success of the lateral hire. To help them succeed with their marketing and business development plans, offer them support and suggest monthly review sessions. To ensure success, they need to hit the ground running: all their necessary phone calls should happen within two weeks of joining, all internal meetings within two months, and they should have all their business development meetings set up within three months of arriving at the firm.
  • Provide the new joiner with a ‘buddy’. Their buddy can help with the transition to the new culture, answer any questions, introduce them to the right people, and guide the new hire on the ‘dos and don’ts’ of the firm, which may be different from the culture they’ve come from.
  • Have someone from the marketing and business development team focused on lateral integration, if you can. They could act as buddy and provide a concierge-like service to the new joiners and help ensure their marketing and business development plans are effectively implemented.  

Judy Armstrong