Incentive to share

At many professional service firms, the emphasis is on the individual. Employees work alone, acquire their own clients and are rewarded for their individual efforts.

While this methodology may be good for the individual, it’s probably not good for the company as a whole, says Jim Hill, managing partner of Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP in Cleveland.

“It’s an issue all service firms face of client origination and client expansion,” says Hill. “It’s like people sharing offices in a confederation versus people working as an enterprise.”

The only way to change the process is to change people’s mindsets.

“It only works if the people within your firm buy into the idea that at the end of the day, that people will get credit for participating as a team and, if people don’t participate as a team but continue to hoard client relationships, that it will be to their discredit,” says Hill. “It certainly is not an incentive for you unless it’s clearly articulated by management to go out and do that.”

It may require changing some established policies and reward structures and finding way to limit internal competition.

“You need to have a more enlightened compensation system,” says Hill. “You have to be a more enlightened partnership.

There may be resistance to this mentality in the beginning, says Hill, but people who want to be independent don’t add value to your firm, they only add value to themselves.