Virtually every day, the news includes reports of additional law firm closures, layoffs, and compensation reductions.
What is driving these decisions, and what does it mean for your firm?
Without question, catching any developing problem early makes it easier and less traumatic to take appropriate action, increases confidence in management, and enhances the likelihood of achieving real stability.
With early recognition of critical issues as the objective, here are seven early warning metrics. Smart leadership is always keeping an eye on these, but each is worthy of extra attention in today’s marketplace.
Decline in Relative Production
Productivity ebbs and flows in any market and proactive management is always seeking ways to prevent dips. But when historically predictable dips turn into unprecedented declines, this is symptomatic of a deeper issue and is rarely the kind of normal fluctuations a firm has planned for. It is time to take note.
The movement of talent has become a characteristic of the industry. An abrupt loss of key contributors, often beginning with an individual or small group, may hint at decreasing confidence in a firm’s prospects. In the worst case, it may foreshadow mass departures.
Loss of Clients
This one is so obvious that it seems elementary to point it out. But it is surprising how often a firm finds ways to reason away a client’s decision to align with another firm. Proactive client communication should catch it before the fact, but the loss of clients is almost always about more than the impact on revenue.
Tough Credit Terms
Decreasing dependence on a line of credit is, for some, part of a strategic approach to cash management. Still, if lenders are becoming more demanding and terms are less viable, the reliance on credit is an indication that resource management is misaligned with reality.
We all know this. Quoted standard rates are meaningless if what is ultimately collected doesn’t cover the cost of doing business. Every firm should have a crystal-clear understanding of what must be realized in order to be profitable. As realization tumbles closer to that known minimum, the market is sending you a warning.
Increased Reliance on Debt
This is closely related to realizing stricter credit terms. But plenty of firms were still able to negotiate attractive terms right up to a month or a quarter before they faced closure. If debt is funding operations or draws, it is past time to rethink operations.
Increase in Receivable Age
It can be caused by a number of realities, but when the payment of invoices takes longer and longer, it is likely to snowball. More credit is necessary. Credit terms become less tolerable. To collect there may be a temptation to discount value, and so on.
.If any of these early warning signs occur, now is the time to develop and implement responsive solutions.
Firms that respond early have a much greater record of successful management of the transitional issues related to these challenges.