Have you ever found yourself wondering whether to pursue one or another course of action for business development purposes? Absent a crystal ball, unfortunately, it’s often difficult to know in advance what will get you the maximum reward. But if you track your results, you’ll be able to use the simplest system ever. Here’s how.
- Keep a record of your activities. You can make this simple or quite complex, but you’ll probably find simple to be more actionable. The simplest way to do this is to create a spreadsheet with spaces for date, activity, results, next step, and decision. Every time you complete an activity, note it.
- As you begin to see results (or the lack thereof), update your spreadsheet. Many activities will get immediate results of one form or another (inviting a contact to lunch, for instance), but some may have a longer gap between action and result (actually having lunch with that contact and waiting to see whether you get work, introductions, or some other next step as a result). Schedule a monthly review to keep track of those longer-term results.
- Note your next steps. Assuming you’re going to continue this activity, what would your next step be? Ideally, you’d complete this entry after you see results, but if your activity is more prone to long-term results, you may need to project a next step based on the results you anticipate. If that’s the case, be sure that you go back to confirm whether those results actually came to pass. (If not, all the more reason for you to track your activity carefully and improve your predictions!)
- Once a quarter, review your activities and results, and decide whether you should stop or continue the activity based solely on the results you’ve attained. You might choose to overrule that decision (if, for instance, your results represent a promising midpoint toward a meaningful outcome), but this decision should be based purely on the evidence you see.
- For each “stop” you note, ask yourself what activity you might start to replace it. Use the evidence you’ve gathered to hone your ideas. If every indication is that attending bar association meetings is not beneficial for you, don’t add another bar group and hope for a different result. Instead, investigate an industry organization or a business group.
Want to get even better results? Ask a mentor or trusted colleague to help you determine what to start, stop, and continue. The benefit of this process (adapted from the performance review context) is that you’ll quit making decisions based on emotions like hope (“but if I keep doing this, I might land an amazing piece of business”) or fear (“I’m really comfortable doing this, and if I start doing that instead, it’s going to be hard and I might fail”). And when you remove emotion, you’ll see clearly what to do.
What should you start, stop, or continue?