One of the best things to do on a regular basis is to look outside the legal profession to find a fresh perspective on things, anything from operations to HR practices and certainly business development. Gay Gaddis, contributor to Forbes Magazine addresses entrepreneurs in many industries in this article entitled,  3 Networking Tips To Grow Your Business. Maybe the legal profession isn’t as different as so many believe…

1. Don’t get bogged down in your own industry groups. Although they can be helpful, I don’t spend much time with people in my field because they don’t buy our services; they are usually our competitors. Instead, I seek groups that bring together an array of industries and perspectives. Many times they are our clients and prospective client events. The big message is to get out from behind your desk. You should be your own brand ambassador because no one is more passionate about your business than you are. Your travel budget may skyrocket, but so should your bottom line.

In the legal profession there are two sides to this coin. A referral base of lawyers who don’t do what you do is one approach, and many have built an entire firm on this principle. On the other side there are many lawyers specializing in practice areas which put them smack in the middle of an industry that contains a gold mine of prospects. But do they regularly attend their trade shows and conferences… not often. Create industry teams with colleagues in your firm and network together. Participate as though you belong there… because you do!

2. Building relationships takes time. Follow up is imperative, but easier said than done. When you meet a person who you think will strengthen your business, you should be in touch at least once a quarter. Send something relevant and of value to them. This takes planning, discipline and creativity. Eventually you will be on their radar. If I asked your top five prospects, “Who wants your business,” and they cannot name you or your company, then you will never get their business.

I love Gaddis’ comment… if they are a prospect for you, your name should be on the tip of their tongue. Stay top-of-mind and sooner or later something will come your way. The incumbent will screw up or be too busy to return a phone call… and then YOU will be the one this prospect calls.

3. Get involved in a big way. If an organization is worth your time, you should be right in the middle of the action. Seek to serve on their boards and committees. Otherwise, drop out. When you are all-in, you will build relationships that matter. People will see how you work when you are at your best. These types of relationships build trust and friendships that almost always lead to business opportunities.

I can’t tell you how many lawyers I talk to that tell me they are members of 5,6 or 7 organization. This tells me all they are doing is building their bio…  not relationships! I believe like Gaddis that unless you are participating in a meaningful way in an organization… why bother. On the other hand if you are committed, participation is the best way to demonstrate your character, values and expertise. If you are a lawyer of your word; you return phone calls, you follow through, you do what you say you will do… that gets around fast. People will want to do programs with you because they know they can count on you. On the other hand, if you horde the project, grand stand and act like a bully… that gets around even faster!

Business development takes focus and commitment no matter what profession you’re in. Find what feels good for you and you will do it more often. Join organizations with people you like to be around, become friends with them… and it will be more fun than work.

If you would like to explore some of theses possibilities, shoot me an email!

 

Here’s a thought that may sound crazy… maybe it’s time to stop the clock, and listen for free! This is a great way to show your clients that you care about THEM, not just your fee. Listen to your clients’ business issues and their challenges. The more you understand about a clients business the better you can help him or her with legal issues. And by stopping the clock and just listening every once in a while you inspire loyalty and lay the groundwork for an even stronger relationship.

Black Pearl – Here’s a little food for thought: Chris Anderson’s book… Free: The Future of a Radical Price, presents a compelling case that free doesn’t have to be a four letter word and in fact can be a profitable form of marketing. So just maybe… some of those billable hours should be converted into a marketing and business development investment.

Shoot me an email if you’d like to discuss this further!

Successful people think about possibilities and how to get there. They don’t dwell on the reasons why it won’t work, they think that… it can be done and “I’m going to figure out a way!”  John C. Maxwell wrote a great little book… How Successful People Think and shares 6 ways that could open the door to new possibilities for your business development.

People with an it-can’t-be-done mindset have two choices. They can expect the worse and continually experience it; or they can change their thinking. That’s what George Lucas did. Believe it or not, even though he is a possibility thinker, he is not a naturally positive person. He says, ‘I’m very cynical, and as a result, I think the defense I have against it is to be optimistic.’ In other words he chooses to think positively. He sums it up this way: ‘As corny as it sounds, the power of positive thinking goes a long way. So determination and positive thinking combined with talent combined with knowing your craft… that may sound like a naive point of view, but at the same time it’s worked for me and it’s worked for my friends – so I have come to believe it.’

If you want possibility thinking to work for you, then begin by following these suggestions:

1. Stop Focusing on The Impossibility. The first step in becoming a possibility thinker is to stop yourself from searching for and dwelling on what’s wrong with any given situation.

It’s rare to be in a meeting with several lawyers when the first comment isn’t why an idea won’t work. I have a colleague that has a meeting rule… “We have to love every idea for 5 minutes.” Imagine what could be uncovered if you put all those bright minds in a meeting to work on the possibilities.

2. Stay Away From The “Experts.” So-called experts do more to shoot down people’s dreams than just about anybody else.

There are lawyers in every firm that are “expert business developers” and usually they think there is only one-way… their way! Don’t listen when someone can only see his or her way. Find your unique path and do it your way!

3. Look For Possibilities in Every Situation. Becoming a possibility thinker is more than just refusing to let yourself be negative. It’s something more. It’s looking for positive possibilities despite the circumstances.

This is a great one when put into practice because there is always a nugget to be learned from any situation. We are all rushed and short on time… But if we don’t focus on looking for possibilities and opportunities, the moment will pass and the possibility will be lost.

4. Dream One Size Bigger. One of the best ways to cultivate a possibility mind-set is to prompt yourself to dream one size bigger than your normally do. Let’s face it: most people dream too small. They don’t think big enough.

When I ask clients to tell me their dream client they are seldom thinking big enough. They only think of the dream clients they know how to go after.  If they can’t see the path to reach a possible client… they don’t list them. I say, don’t worry about the path, just set your sights on them and the path will emerge.

5. Question The Status Quo. Most people want their lives to keep improving, yet they value peace and stability at the same time. People often forget that you can’t improve and still stay the same. Growth means change. Change requires challenging the status quo.

There is always a better way, more efficient processes, more enjoyable practice areas, colleagues to work with that are better team players that you enjoy working with… so move in those directions, everyday. Challenge the status quo!

6. Find Inspiration From Great Achievers. Find some achievers you admire and study them. Look for people with the attitude of Robert F. Kennedy, who popularized George Bernard Shaw’s stirring statement: ‘Why? I dream of things that never were and say, ‘Why not?’

Inspiration is all around us. Take the time to find those that fuel you and revisit their thinking often… be it a book, a quote or simply their image to remind you of their philosophy and accomplishments.

Let’s face it, you didn’t go to law school because you wanted to develop business!  Some are natural born business developers… but most are not. It’s a learned skill. It takes commitment, focus and the ability to see the possibilities.  Put Maxwell’s 6 tips into action and maximize your results. Why not?

If you would like help in developing these skills, shoot me an email.

Do you have a giant client that gives you more than 50% of your revenue? That can be good news and the bad news. The good news is you can concentrate on the needs of that client giving them exceptional work and client service. The bad news is they consume your time and you have nothing left to develop other clients. Which leaves you with the looming question… “What would happen to my business if they took their work someplace else?” That one can keep you up at night! I know from experience the sleepless nights and the havoc it causes your business when it happens. I learned a few lessons that could help you minimize the havoc.

Don’t worry about the “what if.” But don’t put your head in the sand either! Ride the wave for as long as you can. Give this giant client your undivided attention, save money and deepen every relationship associated with this work, inside and outside their company. So that when they do move on, you have enough money saved that you can weather the storm and enough contacts that you can leverage your experience. If that still causes you sleepless nights then you need to get into action…

1. Build a diverse client base. This one will require a bit of discipline and a different mind-set. Right now you probably have a pretty clear sense of priority every day… anything your giant of a client needs you to do, you do before anything else. So in the new mind-set, you will need to carve out time to spend on business development giving it the same sense of urgency as you do your giant client. Thirty minutes a day to reconnect with your other contacts, three times a week to have lunch with one of those contacts… believe me, a commitment to those two initiatives will make a huge difference in your business development results.

2. Leverage your depth of knowledge in their industry. You have acquired industry knowledge working with this giant client. Use it! Who else do you know? What industry publications should you be reading and possibly publishing articles in? What industry conferences should you be attending to gain even more knowledge and forge new relationships?

3. Maximize your knowledge of the giant clients company. If you understand the “in’s and out’s” of that company why not try and spread your knowledge to other departments or divisions within the company. Multiply your relationships, so that your work isn’t dependent on only one or two people.

When you put these initiatives into place, you’ll find you sleep better. And when the day comes (I hope it will be later than sooner) you will be prepared. The impact to your business and health will be minimized.

Shoot me an email if you’d like to discuss this further!

“I’m getting my name out there.” I hear that a lot. That isn’t a strategy! Strategy doesn’t have to be long and complicated. But… there are 3 simple requirements of an effective strategy.

1. Determine the WHY. Why are you doing this initiative… whether it’s a new blog or a meeting with a potential referral source? You have to start with the why. The global why is “to develop business” but you have to get more specific than that. If it’s a new blog, are you trying to build credibility so that when potential clients and referral sources Google you, they can see that you know what you’re talking about, and it gives them a strong reason to hire you over others?  Or are you doing it solely for search engine optimization purposes to drive traffic to your website. Your answer, even if it is “both”, will drive the content focus of your blog differently.

2. Determine WHO is your target market? The key word here is target. I once asked an audience of lawyers… Who is your target audience? And someone in the back of the room said…”Anyone in a hospital.” I’m sure he was just being a “wise guy” but the sad truth is that most lawyers think on that big of a scale instead of narrowing their focus. You cannot market to everyone… when you try to do that, you connect with no one.

3. Determine WHEN you will meet milestones, and when the initiative will be completed. A specific timeframe is important to keep you on track. This is easier when the timeline is a day or two, but can be more difficult when the initiative requires more time. Setting milestone deadlines will be very helpful in keeping you focused and giving you a sense of progress.

I would caution you not to let tools, like blogs, websites and social media drive your goals and strategy. They are simple tools to help you achieve credibility, visibility and differentiation from the rest of the lawyers who work in your practice area. Give your potential clients a reason to hire you. And make sure that you’ve determined the WHY, the WHO, and the WHEN before you begin!

Shoot me an email if you’d like help with this process!

Our lives are complicated… juggling work and home; overloaded and overwhelmed. Most lawyers are looking for shortcuts for their business development initiatives. When you boil it down to the essence, business development is actually very simple. Most lawyers have a pretty good idea of what to do…. but do they do it? No, it gets put off day after day. Here are 4 simple steps to follow every single day that will make a big difference in the long run…

1. Do It! Yes, as Nike says… “Just Do It.” Make the phone call, start the article, set up a meeting. Take action! Don’t wait to have a block of time. Stop for 2 minutes and do the one thing that will put you one small step closer to your goal.

2. Observe. How did it go? Were you pleased with the outcome of the meeting? Do you need a better agenda for the phone call? How could you find more topics for your articles that are even more relevant to your target audience?

3. Adjust. What did you learn from your observations that could improve your next call, meeting, article, etc.?

4. Repeat. Plain and simple… you will never master the art of business development if you don’t do it over and over and over again.

Four simple steps. Remember that big projects can get done one small step at a time. Now do something every single day!

If you need some help creating a strategy and a system to make this happen, I can help… just send me an email!

A positive attitude is an essential ingredient for success. I’m not talking about a dreamer’s attitude. I’m talking about the confidence and enthusiasm for building relationships that will grow your practice. Do you need a little boost? Inc. Magazine contributor Geoffrey James writes… 8 Ways to Improve Your Attitude – A positive attitude make success easy: a negative one makes success pointless. He offers great tips that will help keep you on track and get you back on track, when you get derailed…

1. Always act with a purpose. Before you take any action, decide how it will serve your greater goals. If the connection is weak or non-existent, take that action off your to-do list. Aimless activity wastes time and energy.

Create a plan… who is your target market? Networking for networking’s sake makes no sense at all. When you write who are you writing to, why would they care and what impact do you want to make? Writing just to write is a waste of time.

 2. Stretch yourself past your limits every day. Doing the same-old, same-old is depressing, even if your same-old has been successful in the past. Success is like athletics; if you don’t stretch yourself every day, you gradually become slow and brittle.

Move beyond your comfort zone. Take small steps… give a 10 minute speech or write a 500 word article, before you embark on starting a blog or conducting a two hour seminar. You’ll find the thought of doing these things is worse than actually doing them.

3. Take action without expecting results. While you naturally must make decisions and take action based upon the results you’d like to achieve, it’s a big mistake to expect those results and then be disappointed when you don’t get them. Take your best shot but don’t obsess about the target.

Building relationships take time… a long time. Do things to build relationships because you really want to, not with the expectation that you will get a piece of business to work on next month. You will be disappointed if you expect immediate results. Believe me, it will happen over time, although it may not come from that person directly. It may become a winding road.

 4. Use setbacks to improve your skills. Rather than feeling bad if you fail or get rejected, look back at your actions and see what you can do (if anything) to improve your performances. Remember: the results you receive are the signposts for the results you want to achieve.

No matter how thick skinned you are, rejection doesn’t feel good. However, learning from every setback is very powerful. Always ask yourself “what would I do differently and what would I do again?”

 5. Seek out those who share your positive attitude. It’s a scientific fact your brain automatically imitates the behaviors of the people around you. (It’s because of something called a mirror neuron). Therefore, you should surround yourself with positive thinkers and shun those who are excessively negative.

Surround yourself with people who are focused on business development with the sense of possibility… not dread and negativity.

 6. Don’t take yourself so seriously. If you want to be happier and make those around you feel more comfortable, cultivate the ability to laugh at yourself. If you don’t (or can’t) laugh at yourself, I guarantee you that the people you work with are laughing behind your back!

I love this tip… we all want to laugh a little and if we can’t laugh at ourselves it will make the journey of business development a dismal one. So, laugh and laugh often! Remember this isn’t brain surgery.

 7. Forgive the limitations of others. High standards are important, but humans are, well, human. It’s crazy to make yourself miserable because other people can’t do a job as well as you think you could, or when people don’t share your vision with the same passion that you feel.

Let’s remember this one! There are some things in your legal practice that are non-negotiable, but in other areas make room for people to add their style and point of view… IF you are looking for a collaborator.

 8. Say “thank you” more frequently. Achieving an “attitude of gratitude” requires more than simply being aware of what’s wonderful in your life. You must, and should, thank other people for their gifts to you, even if that gift is something as simple as a smile.

This can make all the difference in your practice and your life. I’m sure you have experienced a day when you didn’t think things could get any worse and someone showed you a little kindness, and it made the day melt away even if for just a moment. THAT my friend is a gift! And we have the ability to give gifts like that every day… many times a day. Acknowledge a job well done, a kind gesture, a happy smile and certainly when a colleague goes above and beyond! It will make you feel good and make their day.

If you would like someone to work on these with, I can help… shoot me an email!

Our days turn into weeks and our weeks into months… and before we know it the year is gone. We often look back and are stunned that so much time has gone by and we didn’t do the things we wanted and needed to do. How can we change that? The author and blogger Peter Bregman has a great idea

Here’s the question I’d like to propose you ask yourself throughout your day: What can I do, right now, that would be the most powerful use of this moment?

What can I say? What action can I take? What question can I ask? What issue can I bring up? What decision can I make that would have the greatest impact?

Asking these questions — and answering them honestly — is the path to choosing new actions that could bring better outcomes. The hard part is following through on the answers and taking the risks to reap the full benefits of each moment. That takes courage. But it’s also what brings the payoff.

The MOST powerful use of a moment. That could be a game changer. That would mean that its not just about finding something constructive to do at the moment, or going down your “to do” list in the order you wrote it. It means that we have to stay focused on the big picture… our client service values, business development goals and commitment to accomplishing them. That’s where we will find the answers to Bregman’s question… “What can I do, right now, that would be the most powerful use of this moment?”

I worked with a client this week that has made this concept real. He has taken action and has created  a business plan that he will present to his managing partner without being asked. He has made the most powerful use of many moments, and I can promise you that when the year ends and he is reflecting on 2013 he will be glad that he spent his time the way he did.

If you would like some help in this area, I’d love to chat… just shoot me an email!

The past few years have been difficult in the legal profession, and many lawyers have been given the mandate to build their book of business… and FAST. Some lawyers got into action and started learning best practices and developing new skills. Others started the long litany of complaints. Isn’t that someone else’s job? I do the work! Isn’t that why we have a marketing department? I’m not a salesperson! I hate that stuff! I went to law school to practice law, not schmooze clients!

Have you heard those words? Or maybe they came out of YOUR mouth? Maybe when you went to law school you couldn’t imagine that there would come a day that you needed to do more than print business cards to develop business. That day is here… like it or not. Every lawyer who wants to be in charge of their own destiny must develop their own book of business. It is no one else’s responsibility. Not your partner’s and certainly not the marketing department’s. Can they provide support? Absolutely… but ultimately it is your responsibility.

I ask you… when are YOU going to do the things you need to do to start building your book of business? If not now… WHEN? Business development takes time and everyday you delay, you fall further behind. You don’t have to do it the way other lawyers do it… you can do it your way. So, start! In my book, to delay is not an option!

Need some help getting started? I’d love to chat – shoot me an email or give me a call!

Building a book of business can include many different sources… referrals from other lawyers, colleagues, family and friends. We are generally looking for new clients. But you often overlook what’s right under your nose… existing clients. Yes… you should focus on the legal work you need to accomplish in order to do a great job for your client. Most of the time you are focused on the legal work to the exclusion of business development. And the biggest culprit is often your BILL.

Let’s face it, as a lawyers you probably hate keeping time and even more than keeping time… you hate documenting what you accomplished for the client. On your bill, your accomplishments are reduced to “sent emails,” “meeting” or “telephone conference.”

Quite frankly ANYONE can do those things. You haven’t demonstrated value and at your rates, you better demonstrate value. Otherwise, when the client reviews the bill, you have sent the message that YOU didn’t value your work more than an email.

So how could you do this? Describe the time spent with the issue or action that you know your client values… “Spoke with opposing council to negotiate a settlement, got closer.” Yes, it seems so obvious… but it’s critical. This is business development NOT an administrative task.

When in question, look for what the client values… not what you value. Tell a story and be specific. Take EVERY opportunity you can to reinforce your value to the client and it will result in additional matters, as well as referrals.

The bonus? Your bills get paid without hesitation and hassle.