Business Development For Leaders

Lawyers with whom I speak are often uncomfortable in rainmaking, especially in moving from a general conversation to one in which the lawyer might ask for a potential client’s business. No one wants to appear pushy or desperate, and most lawyers have a natural aversion to selling themselves. A lawyer who’s always self-promoting and trying to get business is not appealing. Nobody wants to talk with that kind of lawyer, and most of us don’t want to be him or her.

It seems to me that there’s a parallel here with political fundraising. After all, what’s less appealing than a lawyer who sees everyone he or she meets as potential stepping-stone to wealth? Must be a political candidate who always has a hand out and puts on the hard sell.

President Obama’s campaign received more donations and more money than any other in the country’s history. Accusations of fraud are certainly a serious concern, and how those charges have been answered presents another leadership lesson, but there’s something more subtle here. How did Obama’s campaign generate so much money? He offered something that donors found to be of value, and they literally bought into it. A visit to Obama’s website even now starts with a “landing page” that offers readers the opportunity to donate or to go into the main website. There is (and, as pre-election, was) no pressure to donate, but the opportunity is apparent. No one could charge that the Obama campaign neglected to let its supporters know – smoothly and tactfully – that financial support would be welcome.

Obama outlined his vision and millions decided to come along for the ride because they saw what was in his vision for them. They believed that his vision was about him. Yes, he might get the glory and the big salary, but they believed he was doing it for the people he would be representing. Though reasonable people may hold different interpretations of his authenticity or his ability to deliver the promised beneficial changes, the people who donated and who voted for him believed that by choosing him, they were choosing a better future for themselves.

Let’s look back for a moment to see how Obama came to his political career and candidacy. He received a strong education from well-regarded schools, and most people who read The Audacity of Hope seem to agree that he is a deep and critical thinker. Do you suppose he sprang straight from his education and legal career into political leadership? Certainly not.

Though Obama presumably had his ideas about what was going well and poorly with our government, he started by talking with the people he sought to represent. I suspect that he had thousands of conversations, probably starting one-on-one and eventually expanding to town hall meetings, where he listened to what was worrying those who would one day be his constituency, and where he eventually offered his solutions to see how they might land. Those conversations shaped his thoughts and ideas, and his political career was born. But that isn’t unusual: I suspect that most successful politicians have followed a similar developmental path.

Do you see the parallel with legal rainmaking yet? The best rainmakers, and the best leaders, strive to put the focus and attention on those they seek to serve. They begin with determining the potential client’s areas of concern, and they seek to understand before trying to get the client to understand them. A lawyer may storm into a meeting with a potential client eager to tell stories of triumphs obtained through great legal skill and savvy strategy developed through years of experience and study. How do you suppose the potential clients will react? My bet is that while they might be impressed by skill and experience, they’d find those qualifications relevant only to the degree that the lawyer understands their needs.

So, let’s return to lawyers’ fears of being pushy or appearing desperate. The easiest and most effective way to avoid those is to focus on the potential client. But there’s another critical step: offering to meet the client’s needs once thoroughly understood. That’s where the fear of sounding like a sleazy or pushy used car salesman usually arises. Here’s a surprising truth: it is selfish to have a solution to a problem and to be unwilling to share it, and failing to ask for the potential client’s business represents exactly the same selfishness. If a lawyer has the skill and knowledge to assist a client but doesn’t offer it, the client goes without that help (or is forced to look elsewhere), all because the lawyer was too fearful of being pushy. That’s a lose/lose proposition.

Obama’s campaign and election teach us two leadership lessons in this context: first, listen. Understand. Then, and only then, offer solutions. And second, ask for the business. It’s a short but critical step from, “Yes, I understand what you need, I’ve done that work before, let me tell you about other clients I represented in similar situations and how they fared” to “May I help you with this matter?” When the first step is firmly in place, the second is a natural and gracious extension.

Family Business – Developing Key Personnel

Good business performance depends on skilled and capable people in the team and this is no less the case for family businesses. Where the future depends on new generations of the family to maintain the health and growth of the business, the challenge is to provide relevant career development that will get them to a place of credibility and experience to lead the business forward.

Many family businesses are astute enough in their existing team to have the vision necessary to embrace the family members as they become ready for the challenge. In those cases, strategic career planning, using both the expertise of existing senior managers (either family or non-family) and the full involvement of the new family member will be crucial to ensure full engagement in the process.

There may be times where a family member becomes impatient for progress. There may be the challenging circumstances where an individual does not seem to be quite the right fit for future hopes. There is a vital need for ensuring that the path to potential is set correctly and that carefully considered, objective decisions are made, or the future of the whole business may be put in jeopardy.

In order to ensure that processes are in place to protect and even enhance a family business in the future when developing individuals, it may be necessary to seek expert career development support. It could be valuable to have a key member of the senior team gain expertise in both how family businesses are best managed or an HR manager trained in how best to ensure that the best decisions for both the individual family member and the business are taken.

As the individual climbs the path, there will be successes as well as challenges for them to face. Here it will be valuable for them to have a mentor to support their growth and nurture them through the tough times.

The mentor could be an existing family member at senior level or it might be of value to utilise non-family members of the team so that a balanced view of the business can be gained, without the skew of rose-tinted glasses that might be less than objective and might be the challenge of a family member is chosen for this role.

Time is of the essence in structuring the development path. Whilst it will be important that an individual coming into the family business receives the minimum of special attention (and indeed it could be argued that everyone with significant development potential receives the same support, for the broader good of the business), planning the future is important from the start of their experience.

This will enable them to understand the bigger picture, whilst learning the business ‘from the bottom up’.

With good timing; demanding experiences and a focus on the future, there will be every opportunity for the business to make the leap from one generation to the next with every possibility for success.

Small Business Development – Creating Avenues For New Jobs

In these hard economic times, there is need to be creative in terms of looking for a supplementary source of income to our salaries. Developing a small business may be a good point to start from. By so doing, one will also create job opportunities for the jobless youths. This is especially true if the person setting up the venture is not able to run the enterprise alone.

Small businesses create avenues for new jobs for people who get laid off from the formal employment sector year in year out. The government, having realized this, has even set up an agency; Small Business Administration, that helps individuals develop such enterprises. It does so by extending loan facilities to the entrepreneurs and giving then technical advice on how to run the ventures.

Small Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) are therefore on the rise today. They fall under many categories and a just to describe a few, there is the survivalist enterprise which operates in the informal sector and is run by the unemployed persons. The income generated is below the poverty line and hence it only meets the basic needs of the operators.

Another example is the Micro enterprise. This one is usually rum by family members, who must not exceed five in total. It also operates informally, meaning that no license is required. Unlike the survivalist enterprise, the micro enterprise requires one to have at least basic skills of running an enterprise. It also holds a great potential of turning into a viable formal small venture.

Social Networking As a Business Development Tool

Social Networking can be leveraged as an innovative opportunity to generate new business and drive sales. It generates opportunities that are additional to, and supportive of the results of more traditional selling methodologies. It does this by leveraging the capabilities and characteristics of social media platforms to virally propagate the personal and product identity of the agent. It significantly increases the capability of existing clients to deliver high quality leads and introductions while effectively distributing the work associated maintaining multiple relationships over time.

Socially networked selling becomes particularly powerful when targeting customers in technical and start-up companies where familiarity with social network platforms is the greatest. This community is already sharing information and insights within this space as well as using it to organize, communicate and create face to face networking opportunities. The agent can develop a virtual identity that exponentially increases his exposure and visibility within his targeted community. This identity will take on the characteristics of an actual brand and, as such, can be search engine optimized, shared, re-tweeted and otherwise rewarded for quality products and services that are well delivered. Face to face networking is supplemented by its digital footprint in communities like Twitter, Facebook and Plancast and allows for the establishment of relationships to validate the highly mobile, virtual identity.

Of course bad news travels as quickly as good but the real relationship that is established by the agent and the client mitigates the risk of negative press and allows for effective issue tracking and trouble shooting within a highly transparent and real time virtual environment.