The 1% – looking for the marginal gains

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24 June 2016


By Joanna Swash, commercial director at Legal Futures Associate Moneypenny

Swash: Small wins are lurking everywhere

Swash: Small wins are lurking everywhere

Have you ever considered what running a law firm has in common with riding a bike? Probably not. It may seem an odd thought and an unlikely juxtaposition, but the truth is that there is much to be learnt from the world of cycling when it comes to business improvement.

You may have heard of Sir David Brailsford CBE. He is the former performance director of British Cycling and currently the manager of professional cycling’s Team Sky. He’s a man with impressive credentials, single-handedly elevating the national team from years in the sporting wilderness to 16 times’ gold medal winners in the last two Olympic Games.

He is also credited for championing the notion of ‘marginal gains’, a phrase that has now become commonplace in the world of elite sport. It’s a world in which the difference between winning and losing – a podium-finish and an also-ran – can be minute. Marginal gains is about making tiny positive changes across the board that will ultimately add up to significant improvements to secure a competitive edge.

There is a good deal law firms can learn from this. All businesses need to evolve and adapt, to look for ways to continually better themselves moving forward. Vigilance is key to this as the danger is when we stop seeing what’s right in front of us.

Think of your own home for instance: how many little things aren’t quite right but slip under the radar when you walk past them every day? It’s easy to get in a rut and not spot the obvious. In order to do this, we have to take a step back and look again, imagining we are de-cluttering and deep cleaning to display it as a show home. The devil is in the detail.

In Sir David’s case, among many other small changes, he asked all his cyclists to take their own pillows when competing and training away from home. Why? So they would sleep better and be at their absolute best each morning.  It was such a simple, yet highly effective, idea.

Think about your working environment: your physical surroundings, your work culture, the technology you use and the way you operate. Consider your partners, employees, where you sit in the community, your client touch points and how you communicate and promote the firm – every element of what makes you tick. With fresh eyes, be honest, open and bold and decide what you can do to make things better.

Important changes don’t have to be immediately noticeable or dramatic. Encourage everyone in the business to get involved and not be afraid to make suggestions. Here at Moneypenny we have MOJOs – internal awards given to staff who go over and above and to those who suggest ideas that can be implemented to enhance the experience of our clients or life for their colleagues.

Our winners have helped us introduce all kinds of improvements, including new lighting and changes to the air conditioning settings to keep people comfortable, a small alteration to our payment scheme for clients, modifications to our app, tweaks to our call-handling software, changes to our training programme, and helping working parents by organising childcare discounts with local nurseries.

Small wins are lurking everywhere. What first impressions are you creating in your waiting area? Is there more you can do to improve the comfort of visitors? Is your filing flawless? Can you improve on your image? When was the last time you took a fresh look at your website? Are you losing valuable time with meetings regularly over-running? Do you miss phone calls? Do all staff have access to healthy, nutritious lunches? Is there water on hand to keep everyone hydrated? The list is almost endless.

Take a look all around to see if you are doing the best you can on every level to nurture your people and deliver the best possible service. Happy staff and happy clients makes for great business.



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