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It is hard to overstate the importance of starting well: The opening words of a speech, the early lines of a novel, the first few bars of a song….

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As an audience, a promising start gets our immediate buy in, creating a wave of positive expectation as we react to the feeling that we are in good hands. We sit up, read more closely, turn up the volume. In short, we focus our attention, caught up in the anticipation of good things to come.

Get it wrong at the start though and you’ve lost us: we drift off, shut the book, cut the volume. These days we don’t have the time to expend on things that don’t offer promise.

Fortunately, as with any new job, as a new Strategic Pricing Manager you’ve got a bit longer than 30 seconds to make your mark. But you haven’t got forever. Time, as they say, is money and so it follows that there will be a finite period by which you will need and want to have impressed your audience: to have made measurable and demonstrable progress in your new firm.

In “The First 90 Days”, his excellent book on career transition, former Harvard Business School professor Michael Watkins suggested a career transition period of 90 days (roughly one business quarter) as being the time in which a new recruit sets her or his compass firmly towards success or failure. Of course, shaky or slow starts can be recovered from but it is an uphill task, especially in today’s tough and unforgiving economy.

It isn’t though simply about surviving in your new role. Those first 90 days can ultimately set the tone for just how far you can go in terms of your opportunities to influence and to progress. And 90 days will soon tick by. It’s hard to believe that it is about that long since the current British Prime Minister began her own transition period into the top job. Regardless of your political leaning, the regular updates on her 3 months in the spotlight provide a fantastic insight into the early challenges faced during transitions into new leadership roles.

Career transition is something I feel very passionately about, having spent the past 15 years working with senior level hires at exactly this point in their careers. I’m therefore conscious that it is hard to do justice to the complexities of making a successful transition in a relatively short blog post. What we can do though is look at some of the key areas that you will want to consider in those first 90 days:

  • Understand your purpose: Just what is the scenario that you have been brought in to and what is it that the firm wants you to do? It sounds obvious but it is crucially important. At best the lack of an agreed plan between employer and employee will make a new recruit slow to build momentum, at worst this can lead to the appointment being deemed a “failure”. Are you establishing a new function or building on the success of an existing one? Does your leadership team want you to develop and promote a culture of market-disrupting pricing strategies, or are you to focus on improving struggling revenue streams and bringing better pricing consistency throughout the business? Your approach and focus will be need to be different depending on the circumstances around your role.
  • Plan to learn: You don’t have to provide all the answers on day one, in fact it can be detrimental to think that you can arrive with the answers before you understand an organisation and how it has arrived at it’s current position. You will need to understand the law firm’s culture and politics in order to be effective and to avoid making early mistakes. Work out exactly what you need to know and also the most time-effective way to build your knowledge. This is likely to be through a combination of hard data but also through talking to people, both inside and outside the organisation.
  • Identify and target the low hanging fruit: (this too can form part of your learning agenda). Early wins will help you to build personal credibility and also momentum for change. Make sure that the wins you target are also important to your leadership team. Work to understand their expectations in terms of your delivery. While doing this you will also want to use your transition period to establish what your longer-term key goals should be.
  • Develop your internal coalition: This will be crucial to the success of a Strategic Pricing Manger, not least because of the interplay and overlap between the pricing function and that of finance, business development and the partners themselves. Your leadership team should be able to advise you as to who you should get to know. Understanding the dynamics of who influences who and on what will be invaluable when looking to advance future initiatives within the business. You will also want to understand which people internally are likely to support or oppose you and your role and also those swinging voters that can be persuaded. From this point you can devise strategies to deal with the relevant groupings.
  • Keep your discipline: Throughout your first 90 days be strict with yourself about planning. Get into the habit at the end of each day and week to assess where you are in relation to your set objectives and also to plan ahead. This will help to give you structure and a greater sense of order at a time when your new role may seem frankly overwhelming. It will also allow you time to adjust your priorities as you learn more about your new firm and your role.
  • Invest in yourself: Don’t underestimate the personal challenge of being immersed into a totally new work environment. You will be putting extra time and energy in your work life in these early months as you push hard to get up to speed. You will need to find time to relax and refresh yourself in order to be at your most effective. Career success is after all a marathon not a sprint!

If you would like to discuss your pricing career development or your interest in setting up a transition program into the world of pricing please contact me at [email protected]

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