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The Power of Collaboration: Create Value for Your Business, Your Industry, and Your Community

The Power of Collaboration: Create Value for Your Business, Your Industry, and Your Community

Michael Ellenhorn
Decipher Investigative Intelligence
August 15, 2023

I run a company – Decipher Investigative Intelligence – that has 26 employees. We work in homeland security and in financial services, but the vast majority of our clients are law firms. We provide data, such as pre-hire due diligence, that helps clients grow more purposefully and profitably. In light of our small size, you might be surprised to learn that we have an established partnership with Thomson Reuters (TR), one of the world’s leading providers of news and information-based tools to a wide variety of businesses. They have over 25,000 employees and are traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The details of why they wanted to partner with us despite our small size are clear, but more interesting are the multiple benefits that this partnership has created – for Decipher, for TR, and for our professional community.

Because of the nature of our business, we have built a store of an enormous amount of data, and data of a very specific and unique nature. When a law firm or a company is preparing to make an offer to their next partner, board member, CEO, CFO, or General Counsel, they come to us to ensure they know everything they need to know about the person they are about to bring on board. We verify the information the candidate has reported, which, in the legal profession, is exhaustive, and we also look for anything that might not have come to the surface. It’s our job to crawl around, underneath, over, and in between the words and figure out what kind of person they are. Someone can disclose everything that you’ve asked them, but that’s not going to tell you whether they scream and yell at people in the office or do awful things to people after hours. Once we have gathered the information, which we have been doing for eight years now, we find ourselves with what turns out to be a very unique data set.

Thomson Reuters is massive by comparison, but some of their work intersects with ours. They have a branch called Thomson Reuters Legal, which does work in the legal space that is similar in some limited respects to what we do. In comparison with Thomson Reuters Global, the legal branch is relatively small, though still far larger than Decipher. They also have a branch called Thomson Reuters Institute (TRI), which is the arm of their business that mobilizes its own data set to advise its clients. We know many of the folks at TRI, and in particular, the director of advisory services, Brent Turner, has long been a friend of mine. He has watched me found and grow Decipher, and a few years ago, he and I started to see the potential for a powerful collaboration.

When we considered the dataset we had compiled at Decipher and the one they had compiled at TR Legal, we saw how powerful they would be together. We came up with the idea that we would take our collective data and put on a one-hour quarterly briefing for the market on talent trends and activity in the legal profession. TR primarily sticks to the financials, and we primarily stick to talent, so we divide the briefing that way. Brent brings to the table data on things like worked hours, worked recovered hours, billable hours, rates, demand growth, demand decline, etc., and we bring data on the actual people that are doing the work. We mesh it all together on a quarterly basis and we give it away in an hour-long briefing. Who tunes in? It’s the C-Suite: General Counsel, Managing Partners, and other senior executives. They tune in to learn about what’s going on in the market. It is extremely niche.

This answers the question about why TR would be interested in our very unique data set, which complements theirs so well. But it raises another – what value does this collaboration provide to TR and to Decipher? As I mentioned, we offer this briefing at no cost at all to the viewers. It’s clear that our information has enormous value to the industry, but if we have not monetized this service, how exactly does it add value to our respective companies? There are three main reasons why we feel this is worth our collective investment.

The first is a symptom of our Evergreen® mindset. We aim to be of service to our community and Purpose-led. It’s true that it is a good marketing tool and gets our name out there, but it’s also a ridiculous amount of work. To embark on something like this, first and foremost, you have to want to help your friends and colleagues out, whether they’re customers or not. Brent and I share this perspective and we are thrilled to be able to offer something that is worth a great deal, even if it is to a select few in a specific industry.

Second, we have something that we do better than anyone else. As a result of the fact that we do this so well, we have created something of great value, and even a huge company like TR can see that. The pooling of our data analysis benefits both TR and Decipher, as it helps us round out our understanding, expertise, and ability to serve our clients as best we can. As you consider potential partnerships or initiatives that might allow you to be of service and add value to your company and your industry, ask yourself what it is that your company does better than anyone else.

Third, in the words of Sy Syms, pioneer of off-price retail in the 1970s and 1980s, “an educated consumer is our best customer.” Whether they pay us for it or not, the better our customers and potential customers understand the industry landscape, the more meaningful the work we do. The single largest expense in any business is people. If you are running a business, you know that the failure rate of newly hired employees is extraordinarily high, even at the senior level, where they make a lot more money and have a lot more impact on the culture and value of the businesses they serve. Every time you can solve this problem – we call this the point of higher solutions ¬– and dodge one of those bullets, you are literally saving millions of dollars. The better our customers understand this, the more we can be of service to them, so it’s ultimately a win-win.

A partnership and an initiative like this might not be a fit for every company. But if you are Evergreen and Purpose-led, if you aim to be of service, if you have something you do better than anyone else, and if you want your customers to be educated, consider looking for opportunities that might allow you to accomplish all of those goals at one time.

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