One of the hardest things to do when going for partner is to make the time to build your own client portfolio. Why? Well, when you are a director, salaried partner or associate, your partners are wanting you to be highly utilised. Business development is non-chargeable time – which often means it has to be done in your own time. Tough ask. I recently had the privilege of interviewing Ian Cooper, author of ‘The FT Guide To Business Development’ and ‘How to be a time master’. In the interview he combines his thirty years of working with lawyers and professional service firms on business development, and his time master skills. In the interview, he lifted the lid on what so many of you are telling me you need – how to find and make the time to build your own client following. In the interview, Ian advises on the following to help you make the time to build your own client portfolio:
1) Get good at business development
If you only have limited time for business development, then surely it makes sense to be the best you can at business development? Take all the opportunities you can do to develop your business development skills, at the earliest point and time in your career as possible.
2) Invest in social media
Social media is a great tool to help you nurture and manage relationships, whilst building your profile, from your desks. Yes, really, from your desk. This means that you can be using dead time during the day to interact and share valuable content on social media. Before social media, business development activities typically meant that you needed to go out from your office and go networking, or meet/phone your network in person.
3) Don’t always assume meetings start on the half hour or whole hour
In his interview, Ian Cooper gives some valuable advice, that until you have freed up some time, it becomes impossible to take time out to reflect on your big goals, focus or do business development activities. A great way of finding more time in the day is to start meetings on more than just the half hour or on the hour. Plus, do all your meetings need to be 30 mins or 60 mins? What about 20 mins, 10 mins, 45 mins?
4) Don’t let people steal your time
How often do you find people in the office or on the phone, saying “do you have a minute?”. They very rarely want a minute of your time. What they want is a conversation with you, which will take up some of your time. Before you say yes, find out what they want and the likely time commitment they need from you. Once you have done this, you can decide whether you really have that ‘minute’.
5) Develop a niche and specialism
If you find that you have the same bland specialisms as many of your peers and partners, then you are always going to be fighting to get picked, chosen or given new work. That’s because there will always be alternative options for the partners, introducers and clients to give new instructions to. By claiming your own niche and specialism – particularly one which the firm is desperate to develop, then you will find it easier to be given referrals.