I was recently referred into a law practice with about 20 employees by another attorney. One of the managing partners expressed their frustration to the attorney that referred us. Everyone in the firm was frustrated with issues that seemed to be occurring over and over again: Phones were regularly losing dial tone. Calls were even being cut off in the middle of conversations. Employees were unable to print regularly. Email and calendars were problematic.
Before my initial visit to the firm, the partners asked me to review the invoices they had paid to their IT vendor over the past year. I did, and during my visit with them they asked what I thought of the invoices.
My response was not what they expected; Instead of focusing on how much they were being charged, I responded with what I thought was far, far worse for the firm. I shared: "Over 90% of the work described on these invoices is to correct the same set of symptoms related to the phones, email and printing issues. There is no solution outlined or presented to you for review and consideration, and no project work to implement a solution to prevent the problems. The other 10% appears to be recurring charges for monitoring."
Why this was worse was what I explained next. "The cost to the firm associated with each of these events is roughly 15-20X the cost of each hour you've been invoiced for. Each one of the paralegals and office employees is supporting one or more attorneys. If they can't work, the attorneys become delayed and there's friction in the office. Each person who's not an attorney is taking 2-3X longer to get things done, and days are constantly interrupted, with distraction costing about 50% of their day. If things are taking that much longer with a 50% day, you're paying for 8 hours and probably getting at best 1-2 hours of utilization. And each attorney is losing at least two billable hours for every hour of disruption. Multiply that times 6 attorneys and that one tech issue - it's costing you about $3000 per hour." The looks on their faces was both knowing and at the same time shocked and disgusted. They knew this was an issue, but rarely, especially when people are busy, do you stop to ask what it's really costing you.
It was about two months later after my proposal to replace their IT service that I received the call. The pain had finally become too great. In my estimation, the additional two months probably cost them more in billable hours and FTE hours paid than the entire years' worth of invoices from their prior IT vendor. Why did they wait?
For many business owners and managers, it's extremely hard to take action regarding a poorly performing resource. It's a natural problem that nearly all managers, owners and principals are confronted with their entire careers: The pain of letting go of someone seems higher than just putting it off a little longer. "I'll deal with it later," that classic decree of procrastination, allows us to tuck the thought away so we can focus on things that appear more pressing.
Do you have a poorly performing resource? Ask yourself: Are you putting off the inevitable?
Next, ask yourself, what is the real cost of putting off the inevitable? What else is there that you don't know that's likely a problem too? Often we're only aware of what we're feeling. When it's time to inspect, the results always present what we already suspected. Ask yourself: What would you save by dealing with it now and righting the situation?
If you believe you may have an issue with an underperforming tech resource, whether it's an employee or a consultant or a company, that needs to be dealt with, please feel free to contact me for a confidential call to discuss the situation. The benefit to you and your firm from taking action is worth your time.