2023 has been a transformative year for Sprintlaw. We began the year named by the Financial Times as Asia Pacific’s fastest growing Legal & Accounting Services business for the second year in a row. But after 6 years of fast growth, we were beginning to see some signals that slowing down our growth for a period of consolidation and investment in the long term might be a good idea.
After lots of consideration, we made the decision to take our foot off the pedal in 2023 and spent much of this year investing in improving our offering and team efficiency as we navigated uncertain economic waters. The goal was to ensure our customer experience and company culture would remain amazing as we grew, and to support our mission of making legals simple and affordable for smart businesses everywhere.
The result was a year of immense change, during which we launched an array of internal and customer facing projects that transformed Sprintlaw and has set us up for a very exciting 2024!
Why we changed gear
In last year’s round up, we noted that 2022 was a year of fast expansion, as we grew our team to 45, expanded our practice areas and launched in New Zealand. But as we began our annual planning for 2023 over the new year break, we started to feel like it was a smart time to look at slowing things down a little and planning for the long term.
While our past experience during the pandemic (during which we experienced fast growth) had suggested Sprintlaw may be fairly resilient to changes in the economic cycle, we hadn’t really experienced a recession since founding and the prospect of rising supplier costs and increased price sensitivity certainly had the ability to impact our business.
Secondly, after the ‘tech tumble’ hit markets in 2022, access to external capital was becoming limited by the end of 2022 and reserved for companies focussed on ‘sustainable growth’ rather than ‘growth at all costs’ – as reflected in Sequoia’s much-circulated ‘Adapting to Endure‘ deck which did the rounds in mid 2022 advising companies to quickly and decisively slow down and adapt to market conditions.
Thirdly, while our client base and team had tripled between 2020 and 2022 as we capitalised on the excitement around our business model spurred by the pandemic, we were beginning to experience some ‘growing pains’, including slight drops in our NPS as well as drops in the efficiency of our sales team and our legal team. This had in turn increased our cash burn, and if we were going to continue growing at the same pace, we’d urgently need to raise a funding round by mid 2023 to survive.
This image, courtesy of Everhour, captured in essence what we were experiencing; a rapid period of unsustainable growth which needed to be followed by a tactical slow down, to reorient the business into a more sustainable growth path.
The art of changing course
Choosing to slow down felt like a risky decision. Our team had great momentum and we’d been in a growth mindset since inception. Slowing things down meant risking losing this founding momentum and we were worried it would be difficult to recapture it. We also needed to move fast; if we weren’t raising funding, we had about 6 months runway to get profitable and be self-sufficient.
To manage this process, we did a few key things:
We set and communicated a very tight, open strategy. We transparently shared all of the context to our team in our monthly ‘all hands’ meeting and set the goal that we had 6 months to get to breakeven. We identified three key strategic areas which, if we could achieve them, would mean that we’d get to this goal:
- Grow Revenue Efficiently: Can we find ways to more efficiently utilise our marketing budget to generate growth? (e.g. reducing and tightening our CPC budget, investing in new partnerships and organic channels, making ‘quick win’ updates to our website, or engaging more with past clients)
- Improve Legal Team Efficiency: Can we find ways to reduce the cost of delivery of our services? (e.g. automation, team re-structures, process improvements, knowledge base improvements, simplifying delivery)
- Reduce Ops Costs: Conduct a detailed review of all our operational costs – are there any opportunities for reducing unnecessary expenses, bundling services or changing our billing models to be more efficient?
Once we’d set these strategies, we told the team explicitly:
“Everything we do in the next 6 months should be to fulfil one of these 3 goals.”
We prioritised each task by how much the task moved the needle. We ideated a series of projects in the strategic areas then used a ‘impact’ matrix to measure how much each task improved our profit/loss position, and how fast it was to implement. We used this as a ‘ranking’ methodology to identify our areas of focus, knocking out the quick wins (easy + high impact) immediately, before moving to harder and lower impact opportunities.
We reminded the team this was a phase. We began every meeting with the Everhour picture above, and emphasised that periods of ‘consolidation’ like these are a natural phase in a company’s long term growth quest!
Our 2023 Highlights
In line with our matrix, we quickly got to work rolling out a litany of high impact transformation projects throughout 2023:
- Proposal Tool: We launched a new app to enable our team to rapidly generate detailed digital proposals in under a minute for prospective clients. This greatly improved our customer experience, and helped drive efficient growth by improving our lead to conversion rates.
- Auto Allocation: We replaced our manual allocation process (where client legal work was manually assigned to lawyers) with a sophisticated auto-allocation algorithm, which ensures optimal matching of clients with lawyers based on specific needs and expertise so that clients can engage a lawyer at lightning speed.
- NAB Partnership: We announced our partnership with one of the big four Australian banks, National Australia Bank (NAB), providing a discounted version of our Membership to all NAB Business Transaction Account holders (read more here).
- Knowledge Platform: We launched an upgrade to our internal knowledge platform. With a repository of over 5,000 legal resources, including detailed checklists and precedents, this app equips our lawyers to provide top-tier, data-driven advice to our SME clients. It plays a pivotal role in reducing costs and enhancing the quality of legal services offered.
- Webinars: We created a new webinar series, attended by thousands of guests covering a range of legal educational topics for our members and SMB clients, including data and privacy, intellectual property and trade marks, and a ‘business legals 101’ covering contracts, employment law, financing and more. You can view recordings of our recent webinars here.
The net result of the above was that we achieved our goals; by mid year we were at breakeven, operating self-sufficiently and generating solid, sustainable organic annual growth despite massive reductions in our marketing budget. As the year comes to a close, we’ve doubled our subscriber base in Australia and tripled it in the UK, with over 1 million visitors to our websites globally (up 25%).
We were also recognised in many industry awards in 2023 including:
- 2023 Financial Times: APAC High Growth Companies
- 2023 Australasian Lawyers Excellence in Tech & Innovation
- 2023 Modern Law Awards (UK) Marketing & Comms Strategy of the Year
- 2023 Innovator of the Year at Australian Law Awards
- 2023 Employer of Choice at Australian Law Awards
- 2023 Sydney Young Entrepreneur Awards
… and we also launched our Sprintlaw TikTok account (which was quickly taken over by a few of our TikTok loving team members… check it out here!)
Our 2024 Plans
Having spent much of 2023 building efficiency and scalability into Sprintlaw’s operations, we now have a great launchpad to kick up the growth engine again for next year – and we’re gearing up for a massive 2024, with visions to take Sprintlaw to superstardom.
We have quietly been working on a major upgrade to our member platform, which we’ll be launching in the first few months of 2024, with tonnes of new features including AI integration, contract management, legal health management and more. We’re really excited about this and we think our clients will love it; it’s aimed at making managing small business legals as simple as possible.
We’re also looking at ways we can further reduce our pricing, as we know that the cost of legal services is prohibitive for small businesses – and we’re working hard to invest in our efficiency so that we can bring down the cost of our services to a point where they are affordable for businesses everywhere.
To all our clients, thanks so much for your support in 2023 and we hope you all enjoy your holiday break – and we hope only clause you’ll have to worry about over the next few weeks is Santa!
Our team is available over the break so if you do need help over this holiday period, get in touch and we’ll do our best to accommodate your requests.
For more updates as we head into 2024, sign up to the Sprintlaw newsletter.
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