Marketing and business development functions within the legal world often become synonymous with one another. There are distinct differences in their roles and lessons that law firms can take from the world’s leading professional services firms when it comes to driving change.
Someone who has brought ‘Big Four’ industry experience to his role in legal is Todd Arritola, Chief Business Development Officer at Winstead. Eugene McCormick has the pleasure of sitting down with Todd to talk about the changing role of Marketing and Business Development in the modern-day law firm and how they are becoming the catalysts for business transformation.
Eugene and Todd discuss:
- Todd’s career journey, from his time in some of the Big Four Accountancies to his current role at Winstead
- The key differences between Marketing & Business Development at the Big Four Accountancies compared to those within legal, and the lessons that legal Marketing and BD teams can learn from outside the industry
- How Marketing and BD departments can gain that seat at the table and have a real influence on the direction of the business
- What the move to industry focus vs practice focus in legal means for Marketing and BD departments and what their role is in that movement
- The importance of having a business mindset and thinking like a business partner when it comes to clients and how BD professionals can position themselves in that way
- What a successfully positioned marketing & BD team looks like and examples of firms that are headed in the right direction
- The challenges or potential pitfalls for BD teams looking to take this approach
- Advice for legal professionals looking to take their business development practices to the next level
Intro: Welcome to the Passle Podcast CMO series.
Eugene: Hello folks, and welcome to another episode of the CMO Series podcast. I'm absolutely delighted, today we've got Todd Arritola joining us. Now, marketing business development functions within the legal world often become synonymous with one another. However, there really are pretty distinct differences between the two. And indeed there are lessons that law firms can take from the world's leading professional services firms like the Big Accountancy firms when it comes to driving true cultural change. Someone who's brought that big four industry experience to their current role is Todd Arritola, who is the Chief Business Development Officer at Winstead. Now Todd, to kick us off, can you talk us through your career journey from your time in the Big Four accountancies to your current role of Chief Business Development Officer at Winstead?
Todd: Yep, absolutely. Thank you, Jane. I'm excited to be here talking to you today. So I'd love to say that I had my entire career planned out from the very beginning, but that would be a total lie. Luck definitely plays a part in careers and especially in the beginning of your career, and that was definitely the case for me. So being able to get into professional services BD really early on was really fortunate. So I began at Ernst and Young in the mid nineties, which was part of kind of a Big Six at that time. So that's where we are now. And that was at the beginning of seeing client-facing BD professionals actively in the market, which was really a new concept of professional services, seeing these non-partner BD selling roles. So I started in a sales support role and for the better part of 25 years, I've been fortunate to grow and develop through a variety of marketing and sales roles. And except for one or two instances, all of these have been in professional services. And as you mentioned, I've come up on four years have been with Winstead as the Chief Business Development Officer, which was actually my first role within legal.
Eugene: Yeah. And then your first role within what do you see the key differences between marketing and business development, the Big Four, and in legal, and maybe even going a little bit further, what lessons do you think legal teams within the marketing business can learn from outside the industry?
Todd: Yeah, I think kind of alluded to it just now. I think two obvious ones that jump out to me are kind of client-facing BB professionals out in the market and a much heavier focus on industry alignment. And with that, as for lessons that can be learned, we've all heard and I've experienced, and now sure many of the listeners have experienced that you hear that the legal industry may be a little slower to change because it's a profession built on precedent. Oftentimes you're looking out across the street or next door to other law firms to see if it's been done already to see if it's based. And there's nothing inherently wrong with that approach. I would just offer that you can find precedent from other professional services firms who have gone down that path already and learn from the mistakes and avoid the landfalls and landmines and pitfalls and get to success more quickly. And it's very helpful to know where the bodies are buried.
Eugene: That's the first time we've heard that phrase on the CMO Series podcast. We're talking about driving change. How in your position in the legal industry, how can someone in marketing and business development not only gain a seat at the table, but how can they drive that real change within the business?
Todd: Yeah, that's a great question. I think it's a mind shift, really. A shift from that reactive to proactive thinking. So in many ways, it's really a culture shift. It's giving the team permission to lead, which definitely means challenging that status quo, not accepting what I call rinse and repeat strategy of we've always done X, so we're just going to keep doing X because that's just what we've always done. So marketing BD has unique skills and can deliver significant value. So we need to own that. And as you execute, the influence grows because the level of respect grows and there's real recognition and value delivered. Moving from that border or taker to expert.
Eugene: When we spoke previously told you, you said something interesting, you said you in marketing business development, you have to understand the business and the business needs to make money. Is that the glue almost for the marketing business development teams? Is it to tie everything together and give it that real focus about how do we bring a better product, a better service to our clients to drive better value for them, but also for our own bottom line?
Todd: Yes, absolutely. I mean, you have to know what's going on within the business and the direction of the business to deliver on that value for the partnership. Absolutely.
Eugene: And part of that focus, as you alluded to earlier, was that move from to an industry focus rather than that practice focus. What are the ramifications for marketing business development and what is their role in that movement? Because the practice focus is pretty tried and tested. It's pretty traditional.
Todd: Yeah, and I'll start off by saying the practice model isn't going away. The practice is how the attorneys do their job. That is where their expertise lies. From the industry focus, though, it's really fundamentally experiencing the world through the client's lens. So it's understanding the industry and offering insights to issues that deeply affect the client. The days of asking what's keeping you up at night? Are long gone. In fact, if you ever hear that question from a service provider, you should probably run. That's a solution looking for a problem. And as for what this means for marketing and BD departments, it's a shift to that whole firm thinking, thinking across practices and how we as a firm can assist our clients, which affects how we communicate our value. So I have a great example. One of our industry leaders, he works within the healthcare industry and he'll attend conferences that are filled with healthcare leaders. They think of nothing else besides their industry. So he'll have conversations with these leaders, talking about all the issues that they're facing, the risks, challenges, et cetera. And when they find out he's an attorney, you can just watch their eyes. Quite frankly, they're shocked. They thought they were talking to an industry consultant. So he isn't there selling his one service, but he does have that one firm cross practice mindset and he delivers from their perspective. He has a point of view that is valuable to them. So I think that's a great way of seeing it and thinking about it.
Eugene: It's less providing legal solutions and more solving customer problems. They've got this big thorny issue and they want to get it solved, but they're not looking at it from a specific real estate perspective. They've got a business problem, they need help with.
Todd: That's right. And obviously with the profession we're in, there's the legal aspects of that, but those have ramifications across the business. So that's where we need to be thinking about from that industry.
Eugene: Yeah. So I want to circle back on something you said earlier. It was really interesting. You mentioned about that business mindset, business partner, but also you mentioned that reactive versus proactive. How do you position your team internally not only to be a partner to your external clients, but actually to work with the lawyers. How do you sort of put yourself in the right position to be that proactive business partner? Because that's really a key part of that business mindset which you keep talking about.
Todd: Yeah, absolutely. And as you asked earlier about how marketing and BD can have that real influence on the direction of the business. I believe to influence a business, you have to understand business, both firm business and client businesses. So you position yourself by thinking about such things as how BD can help grow, for example, top line revenue, how do we increase frequency of matters or the number of matters with existing clients, or increase number of new leads and prospects and then deliver these proactive strategies based on market analysis, segmentation competitive research, etc. Etc. Help drive these top line goals.
Eugene: I'm going to play the devil's advocate a little bit here. What does that successfully position team look like? What does a good business development team look like? Because that sort of I keep coming back to that reactive versus proactive idea because a lot of my experience working with law firms. So, you know, the lawyer says X and everyone needs to jump. That doesn't sound like the team that you were with the style of a culture almost that you're trying to build at Winstead.
Todd: Yes, you're absolutely right. And as we said earlier, it is a cultural shift. So I think it's a team that is totally aligned with the business goals of the firm and it's respected in earning a seat at the table. And you'll know when you are making progress, when you're getting more green lights than red and what that looks like here, I knew the team was really beginning to affect noticeable change when a comment was made during a call that I lead with the industry group leaders on a monthly basis. And one of the leaders made a comment that his marketing manager wasn't just reacting to requests. So back to the proactive comments, this person is driving the group forward. So our industry groups have monthly leadership planning calls, quarterly all-hands meetings and our marketing managers, the industry group managers play a major part in formulating the agenda, lead the discussion with the industry leader, they formulate the go-to-market plans, do the tracking, record results, etc. And so that's what it looks like when you start going in the right direction.
Eugene: So in essence you have your team almost acting like internal consultants, corralling the right people at the right place at the right time, setting the agenda, always bringing it back, A to that top-line growth for yourselves, but also for the client. What is the industry problem we're trying to solve? As opposed to this is your specific area of the Law. How do we take this holistic cross-industry approach across team approach and actually solve the proper problem for a client?
Todd: Absolutely. And that is that mind shift change that I'm not just supporting this one practice group, I'm supporting the firm as we go to market from this industry perspective. So I may work with, for example, real estate attorneys, but going to market with this specific industry, we may need to pull in some construction folks, we may need to pull in some tax folks, we may need to pull in other cross practices to really solve broad problems for our clients.
Eugene: Yeah, 100%. And it really is that consulting mindset which you're bringing from the big four. Now there's going to be a lot of listeners, Todd, are going to say that sounds too good to be true, we have to get on to it. What are the challenges or pitfalls for business development teams looking to take this approach? I'm guessing in your instance A, you're not there or where you want to be yet, B, you’ve probably had a couple of bumps in the road.
Todd: Yeah, absolutely. Great comments to a great question there and yes, this is a long, long process. It's funny, when Gillian Ward was on this podcast just this past summer, she said something along the lines of I'll paraphrase, but it was something along the lines of the firm has to be ready for change. And I totally agree with that. This is an instance where too fast can hurt. So Mario Andretti’s quote about if everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough. Definitely doesn't apply here and in law firms in general. So without supportive executive director, board, firm leadership, which I'm blessed with here, it's going to be a challenge. So definitely an instance of culture eats strategy for breakfast.
Eugene: 100 percent. And you are obviously taking those little steps like you have those monthly meetings, you've got those quarterly meetings with your partners in the business trying to say, okay, this is what we're doing, this is the update. And you're getting those little bits of anecdotal feedback or sort of show you, we are making headway. But of course, it's not overnight.
Todd: Right. And as I said earlier, you'll start seeing a few more green lights than red. And that trust. And respect has to grow. And trust and respect grows slowly, as it should, right? And with that comes more opportunities as that trust grows, to say, okay, we're listening, we're learning, and we're seeing these really great opportunities and we're seeing things come to fruition and let's see if we can take it further.
Eugene: What's your role in all of this? Is your role to put your team on a pedestal and give them that confidence to be successful? How do you orchestrate this? My role really here is to be an advocate for my team. There's definitely going to be questions and issues that will arise and someone's going to come to me and say, what's this about? What's going on? I'm the relief valve, the pressure relief valve sometimes just to say, trust us, let's give this a shot. This is a good opportunity for us. They know what they're doing and let's give it a go.
Eugene: No, it's really interesting, and it's interesting that you've got this team of people who are extremely knowledgeable. It's just putting them in the best position, not just to be successful, but for the wider business. And it sort of leads me to my final question. There's a lot of change going on in the legal space? And you touched on the Gillian Ward podcast from a month or two ago. She had some very sound advice for people looking to progress in their own careers. You were very clear that you wanted to talk about business development and differentiate that from marketing. What is your bit of advice for anyone within the legal space looking to elevate and take their business development practices to the next level?
Todd: Yeah, well, I'll start with what really follows on what I was saying just a bit ago, that you need to have a strong foundation in place before you try to build Skyward, for sure. So we got to get the right people in the right roles, and match the organisational needs with what the individual is good at and what is meaningful for them. So that's the start. And then it's a strange thing to say, but almost giving the permission to make that switch to we're not here just to be reactive or to do something that we've always done and it's okay to push forward. And quite frankly, that's part of my role to what we talked about is I would much rather have a team that is causing maybe a little discomfort. So people have to come to me and say, what's going on here? If they're pressing too hard or too fast, that's a much better environment than I think of the rinse and repeat.
Eugene: Definitely. And then you've got those indicators as well as that proactive. We're trying to improve things, we're not trying to do the same thing over and over again. I think that's a really nice confidence boost. A lot of people who will listen to this podcast, so thank you for that. We could probably go on for another hour in the effort of being pithy. We're going to wrap it up there. I just want to say thank you very much, but we're not finished just yet. I've been instructed that we have to do a little bit of fun at the end and a bit of quick fire. So we got five quick questions coming, so hope you're ready.
Todd: Okay, I'm ready. What's your favourite business and non business book?
Todd: So, the business book, it's interesting. I think these kind of changes depending on where you are in your career. Right. But for this business now, I don't think there's a better book still, with probably 30 years on David Maister on managing the professional services firm. And for what we do, part two of that book, which I think is chapters five through twelve, which titled Client Matters, is absolutely vital. Non business, so I'm a huge Ian Fleming James Bond novels, so it would have to be one of those. But if pressed, it may be too hard to pick one, but it'd be one of those.
Eugene: Nice. What was your first job?
Todd: OK, now you really want to get embarrassed me here. So my first job, I just turned 16, was at Taco Bell. And to my mother’s chagrin, and I say this because as part of the uniform, I needed a pair of black tennis shoes. And this being the Reebok just coming out and was so popular, I asked for a pair of those and those were not inexpensive. So when I stayed at that job for about two weeks and then never wore those shoes again, she literally still gives me a hard time about that one question. What was yours? You embarrassed me. What's yours?
Eugene: Oh, God. My first job was, I think, working behind a bar at an event for an events company back in Ireland. And I lasted a little longer than you, but not much longer, but it was a great way to earn a few quids during the summer and get to see different parts of Ireland and sort of behind industries and things that you never would have imagined. But it's in no way as interesting as your first job.
Todd: I don't know yours sounds more fun.
Eugene: It was quite good craic back in the day, I must be honest. Tell me this, what are you listening to at the moment? Podcast, music, audiobook? Anything like that?
Todd Yes, I listen to a lot of things, but I'll try to be concise and pick a few. I just finished an audiobook titled The Win Without Pitching Manifesto a guy named Blair Enns and the title kind of gives it away, but it's such a fantastic book. And obviously besides this podcast, others that I listen to one is called Rattle and Pedal and that's a great podcast for people in professional services, marketing and sales. The newest one I'm actually listening to is called Time to Sing Your Song which is hosted by a guy named Mike Kearney. And Mike was the guy who created and used to host Deloitte's Resilience podcast when he was CMO of one of their advisory groups over there. Now he started this new podcast and he talks to people that were able to follow kind of their own voice or vision of their life and ultimately find greater success. So it's really good.
Eugene: Nice. I'll definitely look that up. Favourite place to visit and why?
Todd: Well, that's easy. That's London. It's just a magnificent city. I love history, the culture. Obviously it plays well with my love of Ian Fleming, and it has Duke's Bar, so you really can't go wrong.
Eugene: I've been lucky enough to go to Duke's Bar once and it was quite an experience I have to admit. Last question and actually quite a relevant one. What makes you happy at work?
Todd: Yeah, coming into this industry there are so many opportunities to learn new things and try to figure out how my experiences can help make a difference here, which then ultimately plays kind of hand in glove with serving and my team, which I talked about earlier. They have so many different perspectives and experiences, so it's great to work with them. They kind of bring their entire selves, not just their business experience to the table and then I get to work with them and then we get to chase all these opportunities we're presented with together. So that's probably what makes me happiest.
Eugene: Lovely. I think that's a very very nice note to end on. Todd, I want to say a big thank you from all of us here at Passle for taking the time out of your busy day. And yeah, thanks a million for being a part of the Passle CMO series podcast.
Todd: Yeah. Thanks, Eugene. I had a great time. Appreciate it.
Eugene: All the best.