Now I know Richard reasonably well, we never walk past each other in the street without stopping to chat and we’ve had a few coffees together and a discussion about the whole legal services situation.
I always ask how he is getting on and how his firm is getting on and he always exudes positivity. Things are great, they have merged ( err...taken over) a few other firms and are “well placed to meet the challenges that the coming changes might bring”. Or so he says.
The firm Richard manages is a Limited Liability Partnership (an LLP) so the accounts are available online. I’ve looked. In fact the last few years accounts are available online. I have them.
From what I can see, Richard is taking home nearly 40% less now than he was 5 years ago. Turnover is £2m down on what it was and I know for a fact that his staff have taken pay cuts, some have left and as a firm they’re not hiring. I’ve also done a bit of secret customer work on them (as on a few other firms) and called up posing as a customer looking for legal services. They never called me back. But then again, neither did 7 of the 12 firms I called, so nothing unusual there.
But what’s odd is not only does Richard say everything is alright, I think he actually believes it’s alright. There is even a psychological term for this called confirmation bias. It’s where we look for evidence that we are right; or that things are the way we believe they should be. Bias is stronger for emotionally charged issues and deeply entrenched beliefs and I know from my conversations with Richard that the issue of Alternative Business Structures is an emotionally charged issue for him.
The unfortunate thing is that although this makes Richard feel better it means that his behaviour is worse.
Like a rabbit caught in the headlamps, he is looking at the wrong thing and worse still, he’s not moving out of the way because he’s only focussing on evidence that confirms his position.
He tells me that social media is a fad, twitter is a waste of time ( “I don’t want to know what you had for breakfast!”) blogging is ridiculous, online documents will never work, we don’t need to spend money on marketing, we don’t need to take credit cards and so on.
He looks around his office and sees busy employees, the court department is buzzing (it has to its holding up the rest of the firm!) and all the clients they inherited from the “mergers” has boosted their list of customers, WIP remains strong. What’s the problem?
I asked Richard how he could sustain a 40% drop in income. He denied any such thing despite my logging in to Companies House to show him how I knew. Then he went on to tell me that he no longer had any school fees to pay, so his disposable income had actually gone up.
Well, that’s ok then.