Business succession is challenging regardless of size or type of business. Success is a testament to the clarity of the succession plan, company vision, client service ethos and staff culture.
There are no shortcuts or proven steps.
With my first full financial year as FilePro’s CEO now complete, I wanted to share my learnings and give an update on where to next.
My journey to CEO has been a long-term evolution. I was not the founder, but rather entered the business at the bottom of the food chain and worked in the trenches with our team for many years. I believe this has certainly helped people to engage with and invest in FilePro, whether that be as an employee, a new client, an integration partner or in any other capacity. My experience with and passion for everything FilePro runs deep, which most likely provides others with confidence in the longevity of our brand and experience.
This journey has highlighted that a critical skill to develop is how to keep healthy – mentally more than anything. The transition into management, and then our Board and finally the CEO role has been challenging.
Working on your personal wellbeing is paramount if you plan on running a successful business, while still maintaining some level of work/personal/family balance. This is something I continue to work on and encourage our team to do the same.
When ALTA recently asked me: ‘You’re about to go back in time to give yourself one piece of advice at a time of uncertainty. What do you say to your younger self and when?’
I would probably choose 2016, as we took the first steps as part of our company succession plan, and say ‘Todd, you don’t need to learn everything at once! Put one foot in front of the other and you will get there.’
Authenticity, shared values and relationships
The prospect of becoming a Director and eventually steering the FilePro ship was exciting, yet daunting in 2016. Plus, it was a turbulent period personally. So another lesson learnt was the need to find ways to alleviate the imposter syndrome that set in at that point in time.
Little did I expect to take the reins a few short months before the most turbulent event in recent times. In March 2020, major decisions were needed without time to plan and execute, which challenged my usual well-considered approach to all things.
What anchored myself and our Directors was our long term FilePro experience as well as our strong, stable business and family relationships and an overriding commitment to keeping staff safe and our clients operating.
With much gratitude, our client base and the team grew during this period. I am told that the authenticity of the leadership team was a key factor in successfully navigating through the past 18 months, shining a light on the importance of relationships based on shared values and goals.
As one new client recently commented:
“What became evident during the extensive due diligence process was the alignment of cultures, visions and business evolution between the two organisations. These synergies gave us the confidence to proceed with FilePro.”
Where to next?
My recent shift in responsibilities, i.e., less focused on leading National Sales and Marketing and more on CEO strategic activities, has been significant which bring into focus leadership opportunities and challenges that every CEO faces.
Together with the Board, we are cementing our 5-year strategy, which includes:
- Accelerate software integration enhancements. At the present time, we have 17 integrations that will be added or enhanced over the next 2-3 years (some recently discussed in our webinar series);
- Research, invest in and deliver new functionality, where it provides the best outcomes for our clients and without forcing their adoption unnecessarily; and
- A focus on identifying and taking on strategic new business opportunities to facilitate sustainable growth, in line with trends and demand across the legal profession.
We expect to achieve these goals against a backdrop of a growing team. Of course, we will continue to operate maintaining our core ethos – staff and clients will always come first.
Taking FilePro to the next stage is an exciting time. What I am sure of is that my ongoing learnings will emphasise my mantra to ‘Put one foot in front of the other and you will get there’. I will strive to make my steps slightly bigger along the way!
Whilst not an expert and nor is my journey complete, I am happy to share succession experiences with anyone about to undertake a similar journey or seeking to step up.
In the meantime, our experience in tailoring your software platform for any type of business restructure is available to law firms and lawyers preparing to merge, amalgamate, divest, start-up etc.