When did you last do something outside your comfort zone to grow your business? Comfortable and safe are usually not effective for creating rapid business growth. You (and your business) will grow every time you step up to a new level. But that can be nerve-wracking!
New behaviors, especially those that play out in public for others to see, can be difficult. What if we fail? What if we look stupid? What if we really mess up?
Earlier this year, I took on a new role in my church. Despite having observed others perform this role, I was really nervous: I’d be in front of the whole congregation, taking on a highly visible part of the service. In preparation, I read the handbook for performing this role, searched online for other guidance, drafted and revised the words I’d say, and mentally walked through every part I’d play in the service over and over.
I noticed three things about my preparation:
1. I could envision failure more easily than success. I imagined tripping and falling on the altar stairs. I imagined dropping the microphone and books and trays. And I even came up with my response should those things happen: flash a winsome smile, chuckle, and say, “Well, at least I got THAT over.”
2. I spent more time preparing than I did acting. I invested close to three hours reading and working on the comments I’d make. I even typed out the comments and then copied them by hand onto an index card! And all told, I probably spent 15 minutes performing my role.
3. While the preparation I did by myself was helpful, I got the most benefit from the few minutes I spent talking with others who could tell me what to do. The handbook, while helpful, included some directions that we didn’t use, and certain steps weren’t clear to me. So I grabbed someone who’s served in this role for more than ten years and asked for help–and she straightened me out right away.
I hear these same observations from my clients when they’re talking about business development. Reluctant rainmakers (those who would really prefer to build a business just by being good at what they do, not by engaging in specific business development activity) are especially inclined to spend as much time in gearing up for activity as doing it, and much of that time may be spent in fruitless worry. We typically don’t call it that, of course: we may call it planning or brainstorming or waiting until the time is right.
The antidote to this “paralysis by analysis” is action. Action is the only antidote. In my church analogy, I started to feel more competent in my anticipated role when I talked with someone who could answer my questions, not when I read books or visualized my part in the service. Having performed that role once, even though I didn’t do things as well as I would have liked, I learned what it feels like, where my specific challenges are, and what I need to do to improve. (And I did better each successive time I assumed that role.)
With business development tasks, action may feel high-risk because of the possible consequences if it goes wrong.
The truth, however, is that (barring exceptional circumstances) a misstep can usually be corrected, and in most cases, a small amount of preparation will avert disaster. In other words, don’t go into a meeting cold, don’t attend an organization’s meeting without knowing what the group is about and who’s in leadership, and don’t call an important contact without having some sort of plan.
Most of us hold back too long on rainmaker activity; few rush in without forethought.
Where are you stalling in your business development plan?
If you’re stuck in planning where to start, get outside help from a mentor, a colleague, or a marketing professional. It can be difficult to begin with the 30,000-foot view that is an overall strategy, and outside help can be instrumental.
· If you’ve been putting off an activity because the time isn’t right, ask what will make for a “right time.” Sometimes the delay is legitimate. If you can’t pick out specific circumstances that you’re waiting for, you’re probably just delaying.
· If you’ve been delaying an activity because you don’t know how it will play out, ask what you can afford to lose rather than what you might gain. Good planning can’t remove all risk If you’re considering an action that might blow a relationship, you’re right to be cautious. If you’re holding off on getting your profile up on LinkedIn because you’re not sure how best to describe your business and experience, you have almost nothing to lose. (For a review on this, see Little Bets by Peter Sims, and my review of the book.)
· If you’re waiting for your schedule to free up, act immediately. One of the most challenging aspects of business development is doing the work even when you’re busy with client work. Failing to do that, however, risks getting into the feast/famine cycle.
Action is required for business development success. We’re almost halfway through 2013. Need more business? Get your year in gear by acting today!
ABOUT JULIE FLEMING
Julie A. Fleming, principal of Lex Innova Consulting, teaches lawyers to use innovative and effective measures to build a strong book of business and a lucrative practice. A former patent litigator, she is the author of The Reluctant Rainmaker: A Guide for Lawyers Who Hate Selling, Seven Foundations of Time Mastery for Attorneys, and the forthcoming Legal Rainmaking Myths: What You Think You Know About Business Development Can Kill Your Practice,as well as numerous articles focusing on topics such as business development, practice management, work/life balance, and leadership development. Before launching her consulting business, Julie practiced law for over a decade in firms of 3 to more than 2100 attorneys, specializing in patent litigation. A graduate of the Emory University School of Law, Vanderbilt University (B.A.) and Georgia State University (B.S.), Julie is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and currently serves as Vice Chair of the ABA Section of Science and Technology Law.
Jory has invited me to write on how to grow a solid business, and I’d love to hear your questions! What frustrates you? What challenges would you like to transform into opportunity? What are you curious about? Comment on this post and/or send your questions directly to Julie@LexInnovaConsulting.com. Please let me know you’re a friend of Jory’s. Can’t wait to hear from you!