I was listening to a podcast recently when I heard a phrase that’s stuck with me since: little hinges swing big doors. We can use that phrase in a number of ways for business development, but let’s focus on one of the most common blocks lawyers hit: being “too busy” for business development activity.
If you find that your business development plan keeps getting pushed away by billable work or other responsibilities, ask yourself what small step you could take that would further your plan. Such steps must be purposeful (your step has to fit in the context of an overall plan) and might include:
- Make a five-minute call or email to a key contact: maybe you’ll set up a meeting (which constitutes a bigger step), but maybe you can share some news or a resource you’ve found that they might like, in which case you’re done in just a few minutes.
- Post an update on LinkedIn to share an interesting article or to highlight something that a contact or colleague has accomplished
- Comment on someone else’s LinkedIn post
- Add one idea to an outline for an article you plan to write or a presentation you plan to deliver
- Identify people you should contact to renew and build a relationship (see this post for an easy way to do that)
Will any of these steps individually yield new business? Probably not. What they will do (if they’re selected in the context of an overarching plan) is keep you moving, keep you focused on your business development plan, and prevent getting stuck.
Perhaps most importantly, executing on small steps gets you in the habit of consistently working on your business development plan.
Don’t get me wrong: big objectives belong on your plan as well. Writing an article, creating an infographic to help clients or referral sources understand some aspect of your practice, or putting together a panel presentation that will give you a forum to speak as well as to invite other speakers and attendees—these and similar tasks can make a bigger splash as well as spin-off more small steps. Break these projects into manageable steps and carve out time on your calendar to complete them. (That’s another of little hinges that swing big doors.)
But when billable work or other responsibilities are claiming almost all your time, it’s the deliberate small steps that will allow you to keep making progress until you can return to bigger objectives. You see, consistent and calculated small steps will always move you toward your goals more quickly than short bursts of significant activity with long breaks in between them.
Take five minutes to list a handful of purposeful small steps you can take. Put them on your calendar. When you get to the appointment you’ve made for the small step, if it feels like too much, try timing yourself (our estimates of how long something will take can be wildly inaccurate especially when busy), or remind yourself that you’re taking one step, not a walk.