Steve is well respected in his industry. His clients love working with him. He has been working with one particular client for years which helped propel him to partner. More than half of his originations and billable time is devoted to this client. Steve loves working with this client. For the last year, he has had so much work coming in, that he has spent little time building his book. He admittedly doesn’t love networking, so he is happy to focus on his clients 99% of the time.
Last month, Steve’s favorite client merged with another company. It has yet to be decided whether Steve will continue to represent them.
Steve thought he would be working with them for many years to come. Now he is unsure of his future with them.
Steve’s situation is not the first time a client has called me with this challenge. I hear it all the time:
I can’t take on another client, I have too much work on my plate already.
What if I do business development – go to that event, attend the annual conference, speak and write, etc. – and am slammed with new clients? I won’t be able to handle it. I won’t deliver quality work. I can’t complete everything on my task list as it is.
My book is solid, I don’t need more clients.
To which I respond, are you where you want to be in your career?
If you have found yourself having similar thoughts, honestly answer the following questions:
Whom do you want to work with?
What type of work do you want to do?
What percentage of your day is spent with ideal clients and work?
Although it may be intimidating or even scary, be honest with yourself about this.
This much I know for certain – attending conferences and networking groups isn’t going to shift your book of business overnight. Building a sustainable practice, doing the work you love, takes time, focus, and effort.
When you’re first building your book, you may have more time to develop it. Then the referrals and work come to you at a consistent pace. And the temptation can be to take your foot off the pedal.
Keep your foot on the gas.
But…how do I balance my current book and client work?
- Clients come first. Meet those expectations.
- Hang out where your ideal clients and referrals hang out. Just because you are invited to an event, doesn’t mean you need to attend. Which leads to point #3…
- Be selective. Find 2 networking groups or professional associations where you can meet your ideal clients. Attend at least 1 meeting every month or two. Be a familiar face with the group. Take on a leadership role. You don’t need to attend every event they put on – unless it is a group that meets quarterly. Don’t overextend yourself.
- Meet with new contacts on the phone first. You will be able to determine through this initial conversation whether it is worth your while to take the time to meet in person. When you do meet in person, make it at the same place near your office. Which leads to point #5…
- Protect your time. Determine your most productive time of day. Block it from meetings, calls, etc. This is your time to Get Sh*t Done. Don’t spend excessive time in meetings and at events that aren’t with your ideal clients.
Your time is rarely balanced on any given day. But, over the course of the year is it balanced? Consider how you want to spend your time.
Never get comfortable with the current state of things. Relationship capital is the key to your growth and career progression. If you take your foot off the pedal with building relationships, you will struggle to rebuild if you end up in a situation like Steve.
You can never be too busy to do business development. (Except during busy season, or a trial. Plan for that in advance.)
You are in control of your career. Keep your relationships strong to keep your book healthy and sustainable. Make your career what you want.