Monday, July 23, 2007

Fast Start -- Meeting Number Three and Beyond

The first two meetings were primarily devoted to gathering information and becoming comfortable as a group. Now the real work needs to begin. -- meeting three is your opportunity to establish the checking-in and reporting regiment for the group. From here forward the primary business of each group is discuss each members business and relationship development activities. There may be other things to do, but most importantly it has to always be about checking in. Here are the items I recommend you encourage group members to report on (since the group meeting):
  • Meetings with people not related to a client matter (referral resources, potential clients, events, social engagements, etc). Encourage members to talk about potential that may come from their activities.
  • Client involvement since the last meeting. Don't allow the discussion to digress into an exchange about legal merit or technical issues.
  • New clients.
  • Upcoming meetings/events that other members of the group could attend.
  • Information about competitors.
Down the road you can selectively add:
  • Have one member bring an in-depth report on one client. Discuss business issues the client may be facing.
  • Assign single-meeting leadership of the group to different members.
  • Have one member each meeting bring in an article on business development for discussion.
In truth, a group of eight attorneys will use most of an hour just checking in and discussing their activities, which is just fine. As long as check in is firmly established anything else can be whatever you want.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hanging in for the Long Haul When Targeting New Business Relatonships

The good folks over at the private wealth group of Deutsche Bank in Orange County are a great study on commitment creating business relationships. Until a year ago their people and ours rarely, if ever, crossed professional paths. I'm sure we've shared clients or transactions but nothing was brewing between our two firms. Then one of their VP's got in his mind that Deutsche needed to be connected to my firm and has set out to create the relationship(s).

He contacted me, stated his goal, and asked, "whom should we know?" They did have one loose relationship with one of our partners from a RFP referral a few years prior (which they won), and wanted to target five-seven more partners to put their relationship plan in play.

Once I made recommendations on who to know they sent an invitation to hang out with them at a ball game. As with all new things, not much happened. A few months later it was hanging out in a suite at an Anaheim Ducks game -- people where a little warmer. Then last night they came to our office and conducted a private wine tasting (bottles in numbered brown bags, rating sheets, the whole thing). Talking to one of the partners today I can report the Deutsche is definitely front-of-mind with my folks.

Considering their diligence thus far I imagine they will keep creating new opportunities to get together with my folks. As far as I know no deals or referrals have moved back and forth yet, but, it is a tough thing to get on the go-to list of people that already have trusted resources.

Deutsche is doing all of the right things in a long haul effort to get on the inside. Consider this story when you are trying to create new business relationships for yourself or for your firm.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Learning to Make Small Talk

Tonight I was at a business event and found myself talking with a private wealth executive. He asked me a great question to get our conversation going. He asked, "Tell me what you did today?"

Is that a cool question or what!? I walked him through my day quickly, and he through his, and from there came a fountain of things to talk about!

Try this simple question next time you are searching for what to talk about next. It really was a perfect question.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How Much Time Should a Lawyer Commit to Business Development Activities?

It is a question I am often asked by lawyers. Most asking the question are thinking about how they might squeeze anything non-client or non-family related into their busy schedules.

Here is my answer. "How much time are you willing to devote to taking complete control of your work and your life?" Every successful rainmaker I have ever talked to completely gets this question.

I believe that at a minimum a lawyer should never eat lunch alone (like the title of the currently popular business book). That translates to approximately 7-8 hours a week. This minimum is a great starting point -- whether the time is spent entirely on lunches or spread into phone conversations, other meals, receptions, etc. Depending on how many hours you work in a week this will translate to 10% to 20% of your time at your firm.

Are you committed to taking control of your work and life?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Fast Start -- How to Help Your Slow Starters

Not every volunteer in a Fast Start group is ready to take off at blazing speeds. Some lawyers are junior in their own practice and complete rookies at business development. Some lawyers may have been heads down for so long they've lost most of their connections outside of personal clients, or maybe they have only worked with the clients of other lawyers. In most cases these lawyers will have few, if any, obvious connections outside the firm. Here is what the facilitator can do to help ramp it up.
  • I target specific lawyers to accompany me to external meetings with professionals in my business network. It could be an event committee meeting, a catch-up lunch, etc. At the meeting I make certain to talk about the lawyer I am with, make introductions, and then encourage the lawyer to schedule their own one-on-one meeting where appropriate.
  • I help the lawyers target specific business associations and events for them to attend. If needed I will accompany them on their excursions. After an outing we will discuss individuals met and target someone for a follow-up one-to-one.
  • Encourage your more active rainmakers to include an additional lawyer in their business development activities. They do not need to swing them any business, just give them a chance to be out there and find some of their own.
  • Revue their Outlook contacts (friends, business contacts, service providers) and discuss any potential opportunities for networking they might have overlooked.
To turn the corner on a potential "slow start" remember that the best help you can offer is to help them create relationships.

Next: Meeting Number 3 and Beyond

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Marketing Catalyst Named a Top Blog on Law Firm Marketing

Legal Marketing Reader named Marketing Catalyst among eight selected as one of the "best of the best" that they are tracking on their headline gathering website (a one-stop resource for seeing the latest news and information on law firm marketing). Thank you!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Fast Start -- Defining the Role of the Facilitator

Two of the questions that are being repeated in email is, "Who is the right person to facilitate a Fast Start team and what do they do?

I've already commented that your facilitator needs to be someone that is actively engaged in developing relationships or opportunities (a rainmaker or business development professional at your firm) -- but it does go a bit deeper than just that. Think teacher - mentor - leader - servant. Here are some of the critical duties of a good facilitator in a Fast Start program:
  • The facilitator is part of the team in all things including homework, goal setting, and meeting expectations.
  • The facilitator is NOT "the leader" -- simply a guide. Allow every team member the elbow room to take charge of their own destiny.
  • The facilitator never dictates how to accomplish goals. Certainly the facilitator needs to have a head full of ideas for sharing but leave final choices to the individual.
  • The facilitator needs to be comfortable in challenging team members. Sometimes individuals only need a gentle push to step up to what they wish to accomplish.
  • The facilitator needs to be willing to accompany team members on prospect and client calls if support is needed. Some of the business development process will be very new to some attorneys and having a companion, in some situations, will be encouraging.
  • The facilitator needs to open their calendar of appointments to the team(s). Allowing team members to tag along on your appointments and events is a great mentoring opportunity.
There is so much more... but this is a good start. Call it being a facilitator or being a coach -- either way the individuals in your teams must ultimately accomplish their own feats of business development.

Next: How to help your slow-starters.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Fast Start -- First Meeting and Rules for the Road

The first meeting is an icebreaker and your chance to agree on the rules of the road -- how will this group operate, what's expected, and what do we hope to accomplish. Here is the outline I followed:
  • Introductions around -- Even though most attorneys already knew each other I had them introduce themselves nonetheless. Each person stated his/her name and his/her area of practice. This step is important because it is the first step in ultimately refining how each person presents themselves to clients, prospects, and referral resources.
  • Review the rules-of-the road (which are not open for discussion):
    • Purpose: To assist individual partners and associates in ramping-up their business development activities.
    • Participation: The program is voluntary and is open to partners and associates.
    • The program will provide specific steps and tactics for developing business relationships, mentoring on development skills, and a structured setting for growth.
    • Members must attend all formal meetings (every two weeks). If 2 meetings are missed in a row the group can/will replace the individual.
    • Member is required to report on and meet group-established expectations (amount of external activities, face-to-face meetings, etc.) If not member will be removed from the group.
    • Members agree to assist other group members with introductions, relationship opportunities, and securing new business.
    • Group(s) will be capped at 8 members per. A combined meeting of all groups will be held quarterly.
  • Establish a baseline of business development activity that each member must achieve each week. All of my groups settled on 1-2-1

    • 1 meeting per week with an existing or potential client (a meal or meeting not focused on an existing billable matter).
    • 2 meetings per week with existing or potential referral resources.
    • 1 attendance at an event (industry or community) per week.

  • Next, the group is given its first homework assignment for presentation at the next meeting:

    • Create a list of your top 8 clients. Some partners and associates may not have any they can call "their own" yet... which is a great reason to be in a Fast Start Group.
    • Create a list of your top 8 referral resources (professionals outside the firm that could or have referred business to you)
    • Create a list of the professional and community organizations that you belong to and your role in each organization.
So far pretty simple, yes? Here are a couple of other things to discuss:
  • The group facilitator must do all homework and meet the 1-2-1 goals along with the group. Let the group know this will happen.
  • Encourage the group members to work with each other. Can a group member tag along to a prospect meeting for support? Could two or more members attend an industry event together? The great part about being part of a "team" is having backup when and where you need it.
Next: Defining the role of the facilitator.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Fast Start -- Forming Your Fast Start Teams

The true miracle of the Fast Start program is that it addresses several business development imperatives -- neatly packaged in bite sized pieces. Think cross-selling, relationship development, peer networking, client/prospect teaming and skill development all wrapped together in a fun and encouraging process.

The concept is simple -- form teams of four to eight attorneys plus a facilitator and meet regularly (for now I am recommending every two weeks) for one hour to review and discuss current practice/business development activities. When you are forming a team or teams consider these things:
  • The team facilitator must be savvy and experienced in business and relationship development, be active in the market (attending events, business lunches and reasonably well connected), and have solid mentoring skills. It could be an attorney rainmaker or business development professional at your firm.
  • The team members are lawyers from (mostly) different practice groups at your firm. The thread that connects each team member is a commitment to growing an individual book of business. I think it is critical that no team is dominated by any practice specialty.
  • Everyone is a volunteer (no mandatory sign-ups).
  • Once formed each team has the ability to eject team members not participating or contributing.
  • Teams will include partners and associates.
At my firm I broadcast an email to all attorneys asking for volunteers to participate in a new practice building program and emphasized that participation was voluntary. I also visited practice group lunches to discuss the program and answer questions. The response was overwhelming!

It's important to note that these teams are not a platform for any partner or associate who is not able or willing to actively engage in client development right now. This is not the program for learning skills for use later or an activity to burn time.

Next: What to accomplish at the first team meeting.

And, thank you to the many readers who wrote to learn more about the Fast Start program.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Fast Start Practice Development Program© -- A Way to Encourage Success and Teamwork

In the military individuals are awarded ribbons commemorating both their personal achievement and the achievement of the units they are/were attached to. The higher-honor ribbons (displayed from top to bottom, left to right) are for individual achievement -- as it should be.

Interesting though, when in training (at least in the Marine Corps of my time) the fundamental emphasis is placed in putting the unit before self -- never on achieving personal advancement. Typically when a Marine earns individual honor it is for a selfless act of bravery and courage to advance or save his/her unit. Yet, any Marine can tell you that promotions go to those that achieve the most as individuals.

The civilian experience of law school students pursuing a J.D. is to be indoctrinated to pursue self-advancement to achieve success. Actually, this is true of the majority of the college experience for any student -- be great as an individual and success will be yours. THEN, when they leave college or law school, companies and firms expect graduates to fall in-line and fight for a team having learned little of esprit de corp -- the concept is counterintuitive for most.

A few months back I created the Fast Start Practice Development Program© at my firm -- a unique way to help lawyers grow their own personal book of business while enabling an individual to learn about the benefits of working with and for a team. Intrigued? Just to lure you in a bit more, a couple of initial rules for the program:
  • Voluntary participation only!
  • Volunteers that lag behind are culled out-- no questions asked.
  • Volunteers must attend program meetings every two weeks. Show up or shove off.
So far 20% of the lawyers at my firm have volunteered to participate. I anticipate at least 25% - 50% growth in new client work per participating lawyer in the next 12 months.

Over the next several months I'd like to write about how this program works, the kinks we work out, and the ribbons we earn. If you would like to learn more about this program -- volunteer -- email me and let me know you want to hear more.

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