Radha Curpen writes on How to Build a Centennial Brand for the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. She offers her thoughts on what it takes to build a business that stands the test of time as Bennett Jones celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2022.
How to Build a Centennial Brand
By Radha Curpen
Tuesday, 19 April 2022
Bennett Jones is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2022. Over the past century we have developed an esteemed reputation by putting clients first, expanding our enterprises across Canada, and maintaining our unique culture—all while adapting to ever-changing circumstances. Along the way, we have learned some important lessons about how to build a centennial brand.
Get the Right People on the Bus
From the beginning, Bennett Jones' leaders understood that success would depend on the ability to attract and coach bright, enterprising people with a strong work ethic. This is as true today as it was one hundred years ago.
Our recruitment of students and young lawyers has always been about preparing them to be our future partners and leaders. When hiring experienced lawyers, we look for alignment with the business strategy and culture of the firm.
Bringing the right people on the bus can include a combination of strategies when the right opportunities are there. We opened our Vancouver office with one lawyer in June 2014. We quickly grew and within four years, Bennett Jones merged with McCullough O'Connor Irwin. The move has exceeded all expectations. We continue to grow and we now have over 60 lawyers in Vancouver.
Know Your Clients' Industries
Being a trusted advisor means having a deep knowledge of your clients' businesses and industries. This knowledge can be gained by:
- Joining, and being active in, industry associations that are most relevant to your clients.
- Educating yourself on the critical issues facing clients by staying up-to-date on the latest reports, studies, news, events and government and regulatory developments.
- Speaking with your clients at both an operational level, as well as a management and governance level. This will give you a far better understanding about how their organization works and the key opportunities and risks.
- Working closely with them to find solutions to their complex problems.
There will be times when you will be able to grow with your clients as new industries or areas of business emerge. These are tremendous opportunities to help clients succeed and build lasting relationships.
Innovation is not just about technology. It is also about how team members work together and with their clients. A lasting organization should create the environment for its members to do what they do best. This can be developed through:
- Empowering people and motivating them with common goals.
- Providing employees with opportunities to grow as people. This elevates the entire organization.
- Embracing change and emphasizing the positive outcomes that come with it while dismantling barriers that stand in the way.
- Structuring the whole of your organization to serve clients. At Bennett Jones, this means working with our lawyers who provide the best solutions to our clients from across our offices.
- Innovating with best practices that are cultivated along the way.
Be True to Who You Are
An organization's culture and the core values that define it should be non-negotiable. Strong values and culture will stand the test of time if they are clear, driven from the top and lived every day throughout the organization.
One of the foundations of culture is the way that clients are served. When the priority is always the client's interests, a culture of teamwork and problem-solving can be created and sustained. With this outlook, individual interests shift to the peripheral.
Mentorship and sponsorship are critical to instilling an organization's culture and values in younger members. At every step of the way, it is imperative that words and organizational actions align to build enduring credibility.
At Bennett Jones, who we are can be summarized by our Firm First philosophy. This maintains that the interests and welfare of the firm and our clients are paramount. We have not wavered from this view since 1922 and it continues to define who we are today.
Organizations are not likely to last in the long run if they do not stay entrepreneurial and continuously look at what is ahead. They need to consistently focus on where things are going and what is beyond the curve. Opportunities naturally arise when this perspective is engaged.
Having entrepreneurial members in a large organization requires a balance—one that is best suited to its industry and people. At Bennett Jones, our approach is disciplined entrepreneurship. This is the pursuit of coordinated teamwork that does not inhibit the entrepreneurial spirit and independence of our partners, associates and other colleagues.
More information on Bennett Jones' 100-year anniversary is available here. Our centenary book, Firm First: 100 Years of Service and Trust, will be available soon.
Radha Curpen is Vice Chair; Vancouver Managing Partner; National Leader, ESG Strategy and Solutions; and Co-Head, Environmental and Aboriginal Law at Bennett Jones. She serves as Senior Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.