Two Sides Of Business Development Disaster

Two levels of activity can undermine your business development efforts: doing too much and doing too little. Think I just won the obvious award? Stick with me for a minute.

It’s no secret that doing too little business development activity means you won’t build the kind of practice you want. If you want word about you to filter out so potential clients come looking for you, you’d better help that word spread. If you think you’re going to inherit a book from a retiring mentor, you’d better have a thoughtful transition plan and a backup approach since clients don’t always want to be part of an inheritance. If you sit and wait for clients to come to you, you may find yourself waiting for drips of business that will never quench your thirst. 

But can you fail to build a book of business because you’re doing too much? You bet. No matter your situation, your time and energy are limited. This is especially true for senior associates and junior partners in larger firms: you have billable responsibilities, administrative responsibilities, professional development responsibilities, and you may well be busy personally as well, with a young family or supporting elderly relatives. And, of course, client demands can come in a cluster, leaving little time for anything else.

If you’re just starting to take on a particular business development activity (or to take on business development in general), you may be tempted to jump into the deep end and cram in as much work as you can that might lead to business. Unfortunately, that isn’t how business development works in most practices.

Taking on too much at one time is a sure recipe for disaster. You start out with great intentions, and maybe even clear plans, but everything falls apart with one little slip. (This is why diet challenges like the Whole30 often don’t work either: imperfection means failure.) You’re more likely to find yourself overwhelmed and discouraged, experiencing a crash-and-burn rather than kindling a brightly burning flame that will power your practice.

Business development is a career-long marathon, an endurance race that requires you to keep moving no matter what. If you try to complete that marathon in short order, you’ll discover it can’t be done. And far too often, those who try to do it all burn out and give up, at least for a while, before realizing later that they still need to build a book of business and now they’re further behind than ever. So take a step, then another, and keep moving as those steps begin to form a road to success.

Action step: what are you planning to start, or what business development project has stalled?  Break it down into doable steps and calendar those. Keep your commitment to yourself and your plan, and you’ll see real progress.
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