Functioning as an extension of a company’s marketing team, InnerWorkings works to bring its clients’ strategies to life. With 67 offices in 30 countries, operations around the globe, and yearly revenues approaching $1 billion, the company’s legal team must handle a diverse set of issues in numerous jurisdictions. At the helm is Ron Provenzano, a 20-year legal veteran who previously built a global function for RR Donnelley. Now, he’s applying lessons learned at the print-services company to align his current team with InnerWorkings’ growth objectives.
“Each company’s situation is totally unique,” says Provenzano. “An effective general counsel needs to build knowledge in many areas of the law and have the ability to totally understand the industry in which his company operates.”
InnerWorkings, a marketing-supply-chain company, helps clients drive their brand growth through a decidedly different approach to marketing execution. The firm provides internal creative talent, subject-matter experts, a technology application that powers decisions through data-driven insight, and a range of capabilities that enable Fortune 500 brands to wholly outsource their marketing execution activities. The company is growing and increasing its footprint across the globe. Still, Provenzano works with just four internal legal professionals. “Whenever you have resource constraints, you need a small but very effective team, and you have to look for a certain type of individual,” he says. Provenzano has hired versatile individuals who are “dedicated, business-minded, practical, and willing to learn.”
A legal function that is fine-tuned to its company’s culture is especially important. Since InnerWorkings has a strong entrepreneurial DNA, Provenzano empowers his colleagues with agility. Unlike large corporations with layers of bureaucracy and approvals, InnerWorkings thrives on speed and needs to work quickly to win jobs and beat competitors. Provenzano has built a team of legal professionals that are flexible, fast, and responsive. And until he can justify a 15-person law department with specialists in every discipline, he’ll continue to rely on those who can work in all areas that impact the company. “We have the same set of legal issues and challenges that touch larger companies that have bigger legal teams, and we need to be capable of addressing all areas of the law,” he says, adding that it is part of his job to identify lawyers who are comfortable navigating diverse legal areas.
Having already built another international team, Provenzano has seen firsthand the impact it can have on a business’s bottom line. At InnerWorkings, he’s focused on trying to improve commercial agreements and their terms to drive and increase financial returns. Secondly, his team works to support the creation of legal entities as the company continues to grow. Other key activities that support its corporate growth objectives include governance, litigation, information security, and risk management. As InnerWorkings grows outside the United States, the legal team is drafting and negotiating large, multicountry, multicontinent outsourcing deals.
More now than ever, InnerWorkings’ customers are looking to outsource their marketing spending on a global basis. That trend benefits the company, but only if Provenzano can build a strong internal platform to capitalize on it. “International expansion has been a big part of our growth, and I’ve tried to hire people that can support issues and cross legal cultures,” he says. “It’s not just a skill set, it’s a mind-set.”
Today, the US team works to support all international operations. Provenzano is relying heavily on external counsel, but hopes to decrease outside spending in the coming years. To do so, he hopes to hire full-time in-house lawyers at key international locations, starting in Europe, Latin America, and ultimately in Asia, with the lawyers brought on as versatile generalists that can tackle a broad range of legal issues important to InnerWorkings’ purposes. In-house lawyers, unlike external ones, are fully immersed in the business and can “provide more informed, relevant, and practical advice and contract support,” Provenzano says.
Since starting with InnerWorkings two years ago, Provenzano has evolved from a one-man shop into the leader of a robust function meeting the company’s legal needs and business goals. And as InnerWorkings moves towards its goal of becoming the uncontested world leader in outsourced marketing execution, Provenzano’s hand-picked group of versatile professionals is clearing the path.