The biggest mistake future partners make with their business development activities

The reality of making partner today is you need to be able to prove you can win work before you will be admitted to the partnership. In this article by Heather Townsend, co-author of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’, she shines a light on the biggest mistake future partners make with business development

Winning work is a key factor in whether you will make partner.

Many fee earners think that being successful is about smashing their billable target. Of course, your partners will love you for this as you are normally making them lots of money. However, you wouldn’t get to partner by being a brilliant senior manager, senior associate or director. You will only get to partner if you show that you are thinking, feeling and acting like a partner. This means that if you carry on with a senior fee earner’s mindset of aiming to bust your billable targets at the expense of everything else, you’ll never make it to partner. One of the key mindsets you need to adopt to demonstrate that you are thinking, feeling and acting like a partner is making business development your day job and part of your daily routine; even if you only do 5-10 mins of business development a day. Winning work consistently, which your partners will value, means doing business development consistently.

Business development needs to be part of your day job

Given the high chargeable billing targets many of us are set, it is very tempting to only do business development when your workload is light. Unfortunately, this mindset can lead to be ineffective with your business development. This is probably the most common business development mistakes that lawyers, accountants and consultants make. Of course, when your workload is light then this is the opportunity to get ahead with your business development activities, i.e. writing blog posts and seeing more of your network than usual.

The best type of business development activity is done little and often. Only doing business development every so often – or rarely as is often the case – means you never quite get the momentum up to get the consistent and sustainable results your career progression requires.

How much time should I spend on business development?

This is really a difficult question to answer as the answer is strongly linked to where you are in your career. For example, a junior fee earner would need to be, mainly, attending to their network, whilst taking an interest in the business development activities going on around you. If you are on partner track and aiming to build up your own client portfolio then you need to be considering spending at least 3 hours a week on business development. This may seem a large amount of time – particularly if you have a billable time target of 7 hours a day. However, meeting one introducer a week and spending 10 mins on LinkedIn per day will easily meet your 3 hours of business development a week.

At the end of the day the best frequency of business development activity is one which you can keep up with, even when you are busy with client work. Now, being pragmatic there are often two activity levels for your business development, the non-negotiable activity level, i.e. I can not go below this amount, and the normal activity level.

This is the minimum business development activity level

This is a business development routine that you can still maintain even if you are in the middle of your silly season or a massive deal. It’s the lowest you can go to whilst still being confident you will achieve your new business wins targets 6-12 months from now. Many professionals wrongly equate business development has to be the big stuff such as preparing for a tender or meeting introducers for lunch. Very often the best type of business development activities are small and consistent. For example, maintaining a very visible presence on LinkedIn.

In summary

Treating business development as part of your day job and having a regular business development routine will help you build a partner-sized client portfolio in a time effective way.

Author Credit:

Heather Townsend is the co-author of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’. She is the global expert in what it takes to make partner in a professional services firm. (And when you get there, stay there.) She regularly blogs at How to make partner

Heather Townsend will be speaking on Wednesday 18thApril 2018 at an exclusive event hosted by Rutherford Cross in conjunction with Barclays, in Manchester.  Please email [email protected] for details.