Malcolm Henke explains how successful companies can recruit the best people to grow their business

' Consider this scenario: after many years of steady but unspectacular growth, of returns on investment that are quite satisfactory, but nothing too special, you find yourself in the position to really grow your business.

Your successes are noted, new business leads increase, which then translate into hot leads and new client wins. Fee income rises.

The reputations of your leading players become enhanced, they win peer group praise and word gets round the market that yours is the place to be.

The number of inquisitive CVs arriving in the post room and via email skyrocket. Firms of search agents and head hunters circle above. There is an urgent need to recruit; but what type of employee are you looking for?

You know the sector well - the firm has been established for many years and your senior staff have well-established reputations. You have loyal and supportive colleagues who are well looked after.

The vexing question is how do you manage the growth of your company? How careful do you need to be in recruiting people who won't upset the apple cart, but who will give the business some "oomph" and really add value?

At Greenwoods Solicitors, we have recently met such a challenge, we think successfully. The key to this was the very careful recruitment of people with not only the professional qualifications, but also personalities that we felt would fit the culture that we have. So, the challenge was to make our firm attractive to the right people.

The first step was to identify the right people. Fortunately ours is a small world and key players mix in similar circles - indeed many were already friends or acquaintances with whom many a glass of wine had been shared in the past.

Relished a challenge
The secret was to identify those who would work together, those who had something special to bring to the party and those who relished a challenge.

Once we had identified the candidates, there followed a series of lunches and late nights selling the Greenwoods vision and philosophy to individuals who were already happy with their lot.

Maybe they realised that our enthusiasm was genuine. In any case we built up the rapport to a level where we knew that we could work with our like-minded friends.

We believed that we had the sales pitch right and this is reflected by the views of a couple of new colleagues.

First, we attracted a very senior catastrophic injury specialist, whom we had known for many years. He needed a break and wanted to pursue other interests, such as lecturing. He also preferred to work remotely and spend time on the Continent.

Flexible working
Our IT setup made this perfectly feasible - in fact the arrangement was of benefit to us as it reduced pressure on office space. Here are his views:

"In a nutshell: flexible working practices, that is, the opportunity to work on only
catastrophic injury cases in the way that suits me best, albeit subject to the firm's overriding requirement for compliance with quality, including utilisation of the firm's case management system.

"It seemed to me that the firm had already attracted a number of experienced lawyers who saw Greenwoods as a centre of excellence, but not one that would restrain their individual flair.

"The Greenwoods approach to people like me is the very opposite of that of many firms where the 'sole practitioner' mentality is discouraged. In addition, I have been freed of the burden of management which I suspect comes to dog most people who reach my time of life and career."

In another case we had a particular need. Together with the client, we identified the 'dream' candidate - someone we had worked together with many years ago, when she looked after this major client at another firm. Both parties liked and rated the candidate. Here are her views:

"First, I came to Greenwoods because it worked for a major client for whom I had worked many years before. The quality of the work is good and it has a proactive approach to litigation.

"Second, I was happy to join a practice that had systems in place which allowed efficiency and gave me the freedom to do what I do best - client handling.

"Third, profitability. As a partner, management and profitability are very important.

Finally, geography and reputation. I practised in the North. My contacts there knew Greenwoods and rated the firm as an excellent defendant practice."

The result is that we are now comfortable with our rate of growth and the message has come through loud and clear.

Listen carefully to what the client wants and how he wants his business to be looked after and then provide the framework for the individual staff member to work with freedom and on his or her terms. Getting the balance right is the key. IT

' Malcolm Henke is a partner at defendant insurance law firm Greenwoods Solicitors