In a blog post, Prodonovich Advisory principal and academic Sue-Ella Prodonovich outlined 12 checklist items for legal professionals to tick off in the next three weeks.
Draw up a list of your clients
There is no better way to start your list of things to do before Christmas than by writing up a list of your own, Ms Prodonovich said.
“I want you to get down the name of every single client you’ve worked for in the last year, no matter how big or small. Go on, search the recesses of your brain, pull up all those old emails and fee reports and figure out exactly who you’ve been billing for the past 12 months,” she said.
“When you’re done, give every single client a score out of 10 based on how happy you think they are with you right now. Be honest…they’re not all going to be 9 or 10.”
The rank one gives to a certain client or person should be questioned, she noted, particularly if that person scores lowly. If this is the case, considering the importance of that relationship moving forward is paramount.
“And, if you’re not sure about what to score someone, why not give them a call to check in and see how they’re going? It’s the perfect excuse to get in touch.”
Analyse your referral sources
“Now that you have your list of clients, the next thing I want you to do is to figure out how you ended up working for them. In other words, what were your referral sources? If it was through an internal source – i.e. one of your colleagues – give them a call to thank them and let them know how it went. It would also be useful to find out how they were first introduced to the client contact,” she said.
If it was through a formal network, this time of year is ideal for working out the lag time between meeting them and the work coming to you, which serves as important data for informing what your pipeline looks like, she posited.
“And, if it came through some other source of activity – such as a talk you gave or an article you wrote, now’s the time to do the same thing again.”
Read something different
Professionals – whether lawyers, accountants, engineers or others – need to read for a living, she argued, noting it is not necessarily a great thing for business development.
“I say this because one of the most important things in BD is the ability to innovate. Too much time spent analysing the minutiae of [corporations or tax legislation] can make you think a particular way and rob you of the fresh ideas that come from seeing the world differently,” she said.
“So, put down the legislation or text books for a while and read something you wouldn’t normally. It could be something about human behaviour, or creativity and innovation or even on what it takes to run a successful business. Or it could be a book about someone who has achieved big things. Whatever it is, just make sure it takes you away from your day-to-day work and gives you a fresh perspective on what it takes to succeed.”
Polish up your online presence
This is one of the easiest things lawyers can do BD-wise, Ms Prodonovich commented, while ceding it is also one of the most neglected.
These days, she wrote, people will often search for someone online before they do business with them. But, too often, professionals miss a trick by not even bothering doing the basics.
“So, go on, plug your name into Google and see what comes up. Is it your bio? If so, is it up to date or is it still talking about stuff you worked on in 2010? What does your LinkedIn profile look like? Is it time to update that too? And have you done anything at all on Twitter since you made that embarrassing tweet about politics in 2013? I thought not. (And what would potential clients think if they saw it?),” she submitted.
Come up with two big ideas
“I honestly believe the winners in professional services over the next 10 years will be those that innovate best. And innovation always starts with an idea. Sometimes that’s a small idea that gets big. Sometimes it’s a big idea that we refine and apply to our circumstances,” she said.
“Too often we kill our ideas because we think they’re too outlandish or tricky or crazy to be done. Otherwise, we don’t even bother trying to come up with them in the first place. So ask everyone in your team to come up with two ideas for how they could deliver your service differently. It could be anything – nothing is off limits. Ask them to write them down. Then, when things are quieter at the start of next year, meet and discuss them to see what gold people have come up with and whether you could refine them into something that works for you.”
Write your Christmas cards
“I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it and saying it until I’m hoarse. In my view, few things are as nice as receiving a personal, handwritten Christmas card at the end of the year,” she suggested.
“Send one to every client, referrer and valued colleague. Or, if that’s not your thing, then why not send a small present or show your appreciation to those who’ve helped you in some other way. (Although a Christmas card will be cheaper, just saying.)”
Take someone from the office out to lunch
Appreciated staff are motivated, productive and happy, she argued. They’ll trust you more and will be more likely to stay with you for the long-term and help your business grow.
Unappreciated staff, on the other hand, will be the first to go the moment something better comes up, no matter how much money you throw at them, she said.
“Take the members from your team – the ones who’ve helped build your practice this year – out for lunch at your own expense. It’s the least you can do to show your appreciation for the hard work they’ve been putting in over the year. When you’re out with them say thank you to them.”
Firm leaders will be surprised how far such gestures can go, she said. Such actions shouldn’t, therefore, be left to the business’ sponsored Christmas party or formal team lunch, as it won’t have the same impact.
Draw up next year’s professional development calendar
“Too often, professionals leave their mandatory education to the last minute. Then, when they eventually get around to doing it, they just end up sitting there on their computer, leaving the webinar they’ve signed up to running in the background while they keep working. (Come on, we know you do.),” she said.
“But if you’re not actively planning out your professional development – and including some good face-to-face BD seminars or workshops in the mix – you’re missing another trick.”
Lawyers should jump online and start searching now, she said, and book themselves into something that will really help build a network as well as expertise.
If one really wants to be an expert in an area, and therefore be the ‘go to’ person in your field, having an opinion is a must, she said.
“The only way to do that, if you share your knowledge with others. Thanks to the internet, it has never been easier to do just that through blogging,” she said.
“So, write that article you’ve been saying you’d write and get it up on your firm’s website. Publish something to LinkedIn Pulse, and send out a newsletter to your database. Then get into the habit of doing it consistently. You could well amaze yourself with the results that build over time.”
Review a process
“In the middle of the year we’re often working so hard that we don’t have time to stop and think about the way we’re working. As things start to wind up, we can get the breathing space to start thinking not only about what we’re doing but also about how we’re doing it,” she posited.
“Maybe it’s about the way people are reviewing documents and leaving comments. Maybe it’s a protocol for onboarding a new client. Whatever it is, even a small tweak now could have profound consequences that multiply through everything you do. That’s the thinking behind design thinking.”
Build a profile of your year
“You started off by looking at your client list and who was happy. Now, I want you to go back and look at what you billed them and when. Match this up to your accounts so that you can see the patterns in your cashflow: when the money came in from them compared to when you did the work,” she suggested.
“If you can, you should even compare this to previous years. I find, for a lot of firms, 60 per cent of the financial year’s billings will have been recorded by the time Melbourne Cup rolls around. That means you should already have a reasonable idea for how the financial year will shape up, as well as the calendar year.”
Finally, don’t just sit behind your desk, Ms Prodonovich asserted.
“The lead up to the holiday season is a great time of year to be a professional. Get out there and actually turn up at the social functions that come your way. Do your best to meet new people at each of them. The best BD often happens informally, when there’s no pressure and no one is trying to sell,” she advised.
And that’s what this time of year is all about, she concluded.