For many lawyers, business development is like going to the gym. We know we should, but it’s priority No. 624 after billable work and non-billable work, family obligations, chores, and perhaps a few hours of sleep every night. And just like the gym, business development is a giant monster haunting our imagination, threatening to take up a lot of time but produce no tangible results any time soon.
But if you’ll extend the gym metaphor further, in the same way that high-intensity short-burst workouts have been shown to provide significant benefits, building valuable relationships to grow your practice can also be done in a surprisingly compact timeframe – 2.7 hours spread over a week, for example.
There are three components to this strategy: (1) an hour-long block of undivided time; (2) daily 0.2 activities to reach out to three people you already know or would like to introduce yourself to; and (3) a planning session for the week ahead.
Undivided block of time. To do deep work, it is essential to allow yourself an uninterrupted hour. This hour can be used to define the ideal clients you’d like to work with, research conferences that you may want to attend, write an article and so on. I (and those I’ve worked with) have found that it is helpful to spend this hour somewhere other than at home or at the office (a coffee shop, a bookstore, a library, or a park will all serve). Being in that third place takes us out of our routine, and marks this hour as special and dedicated to its purpose. And practically speaking, if you’re not at home or at work, you’re less likely to be interrupted by work emergencies, by toddlers, or by the siren calls of the television or the fridge.
Daily reaching out activities. If you’re anything like a typical attorney, I know that you have far more than 0.2 hours every day not taken up by anything more pressing than Facebook or Buzzfeed. What if you took just 0.2 to reach out to three people with whom you’d like to maintain professional contact or whom you’d like to meet? For people you already know, all it takes is a quick note saying hi, or forwarding an article you know the recipient will find interesting. Or you could introduce two people you know to each other (earning double points!).
For people you’d like to meet, your first contact can be as simple as a message on LinkedIn saying “I admire the work you’ve been doing [at___ / with___ / about ___], and would really love to connect.” That’s it.
This way, in a total of one hour a week, you’ll manage to maintain or build connections with 15 people. Not too shabby, eh?
Planning session. Business development is not a random process. The more planning goes into it, the better your results will be. So take the time to think about what you’ll do in your undivided block of time, and who will be the 15 people you’ll contact during the upcoming week and what you’ll contact them about (generally, taking 35-45 minutes for this task is sufficient). Planning doesn’t mean that your activities are set in granite, but going through the process of thinking about what you’d like to accomplish increases the chances that you’ll do at least something. Which is infinitely more than doing nothing. Download the form I use to plan my week here: weekly-business-development-planner
At 2.7 hours a week, doesn’t business development begin to seem doable?