Fifteen years ago Tom, a partner in a national accounting & advisory firm and leader of a specialty practice group, was attending his firm’s annual partners’ meeting. As he listened to the managing partner Steve’s address on firm strategy, he heard the words: “and partners, we may even tinker a bit with our old friend the matrix.” These few words struck Tom with terror. He loved the existing matrix. He loved his practice group and having his “own” P&L. He had achieved 20% revenue growth in each of the last five years. In short, he was successful and had the present system all figured out.
A week later Steve called Tom to arrange an in-person meeting. When they met, Steve told Tom that he was ready to organize the firm by industry groupings, eliminating almost all other P&Ls. Steve explained that the firm was going to be managed in alignment with its go-to-market industry strategy, and he was looking to Tom to provide a meaningful contribution to all of the industries. Steve was sure that Tom’s growth could be accelerated to 50% a year under the new structure where the industry group P&L leaders would help drive client penetration for all services aggressively in their respective industries.
So, Steve asked Tom: “what do you think?” Tom, dumbstruck, mumbled back “I’m about to lose control of my destiny and have my revenue goals increased by 150%.” Steve smiled and replied: “we are going to collaborate to increase your revenue by 150%, and you are going to freed from administrivia — freed to sell, sell, sell. Just think of the possibilities.” Tom left scared about his future, but with a clear message about what he had to do to be successful.
Six months later, Tom had adjusted to his new role and was truly enjoying it. He exceeded his revenue goals in each of the next five years, leveraging the power of his partners to help sell his services. Just recently, Tom and Steve, now both retired, met at a retired partners’ meeting. “Steve,” said Tom, “what you did in 2000 took real courage, betting the firm’s future on a new structure.” Steve smiled as he replied: “no it didn’t. I knew our great partners would continue to serve our clients, sell work and bill and collect for our services. I was sure the risk was minimal, and the rewards could be great. What you did took courage, accepting my decision and trusting your partners. Let’s play some well earned golf.”