Monday, June 26, 2006

NOT for Sale!

When I meet with executives and attorneys to talk about how our firm has a positive, supportive culture with eight core values which are living and breathing I am often asked what I would do it we were approached by a firm who wanted to buy us out. I know where they are going with this question, because history shows that companies that grow by merger and acquisition often merge themselves out of being able to differentiate and are victims of what I call the "lowest common denominator effect." Our industry has seen extreme M&A activity in the past 15 years that has caused just that, which explains the difficulty that firms are having in differentiating their services from other firms as well as the perceived commoditization of legal services (after all, this business is about people). Just look back at the historic marriage of Coopers and Lybrant with Price Waterhouse. Coopers was larger by far than Price Waterhouse and Coopers had a positive and unique culture than was second-to-none. Price Waterhouse had a very competitive and distrusting culture. When they combined, which one of the cultures do you think infected and spread in the new organization? Of course, the negative one. This is the lowest common denominator effect at work. That being said, our firm is being built on a better way of doing business starting with a team of people who are happy, team-oriented, business savvy, and supportive. They are counting on their leaders to make decisions that preserve the culture of the firm they are integral in building. My first duty, above all, is to the great people that make Exemplar what it is today and which will no doubt continue to shape its future. For them and for you, I put the sign out in our yard that Exemplar is "NOT For Sale!" Money cannot buy the teamwork that happens when delivering on a complex client engagement, or the interest we take in advancing the personal lives of the people that make us "real." Perhaps the most important lesson is that money cannot buy the most important things in life . . . the things that make all of the difference. Money certainly can ruin it. As guardians of the vision, it is our promise not to lose sight of this reality as we continue to grow and expand.

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