"Formulas are a complete and utter waste of time." - Freddy Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody
The Freddy character would be both right and wrong if he offered advice on development plans - whether for pushing your career forward or building a book of business.
Freddy is correct in that you must tailor your development plan for where you want to go, where you are, and your unique strengths and weaknesses. He is wrong in that everyone should take the same primary steps to create their path forward.
Here are the three steps to creating a development plan. While they seem simple, each step will take time and honest self-reflection.
Know the End Game
It is impossible to create a practical and pragmatic plan unless you know what you want the result to be. Knowing what you want is much more specific than many people think.
If you are trying to advance in corporate America, ask yourself at least the following questions:
- What type of company do I want to work for? What is the size? What is its culture like? Am I ok with a start-up or P/E-owned company?
- What industry do I want to work in or am I agnostic?
- Am I willing to relocate, and if so, where? How do I feel about remote?
- What role and title do I want? What areas do you want to advise on?
- How many levels do I want to be away from the GC role?
- What are your compensation requirements?
Building a plan to develop a book of business means asking similar questions about your ideal clients:
- What industry and types of companies or individuals are my ideal clients?
- What are the issues and concerns my ideal client cares about?
- What type of problems do I solve for my ideal clients?
- What makes my ideal clients hire me rather than someone else?
- What conferences do my ideal clients attend? What organizations do they belong to? What do they read? How do they get the latest information they need?
- Who inside and outside my network is an ideal client?
When building a business development plan, think about which partners your practice has synergies with and where it makes sense to cross-sell.
Understand Your Market and Competition
The second step is to assess the market and your competition for either business or the roles you seek. Understanding what is going on in the market and how others position themselves can help you know what is valued and where the opportunities are to distinguish yourself.
For those of you who are in-house, that means seeing how people in the roles you want or who you may be up against present themselves on LinkedIn. For market research, reach out to your network to obtain market insights and what companies are looking for. And also, Google them to see what are the topics that they speak about.
You may also want to discuss this with a recruiter. But remember, recruiters are focused on filling roles for companies - not helping you - so they may not be the best resource for information. However, many of them publish beneficial market research.
Similarly, for those seeking to become rainmakers, you should look at your most significant competitors' bios and LinkedIn profiles. Also, think deeply about what they write and speak about and where and how they network.
Also, ask your targets about the market and what they think are your and your firm's strengths and weaknesses. Also, ask them about what thought leadership would be helpful to them. Talking to targets can help you plan the most impactful webinars, blogs, or newsletter topics. Finally, ask your clients about what, other than your services, they need to help you assess potential cross-selling and expansion opportunities.
Develop a Detailed Plan
You will save more time and be more effective the more time you invest in developing a detailed plan. By creating this type of plan, you target the actions most likely to bring you success. Here is another truth plan. One of the most critical parts of this planning is saying goodbye to initiatives and things that sucked up your time with no benefit (if you have given them enough time to blossom).
Your plan should include an evaluation of your brand, your brand channels, a networking plan, and a look at whether you enhance any skills, behaviors, or expertise.
Having a roadmap also gives you the ability to move forward even when you are mad busy. Why? Because you wrote out the plan and know what else you have to do, the execution does not take all that long.
Finally, you are more effective and impactful with a written detailed plan for two reasons. First, you are not trying to remember what you thought would be effective two months ago, and if you are like me, it is hard to re-construct that thought process on a dime. Second, you have thought out the most impactful plan and are not winging it at the last minute.
My challenge to you is to use this "formula" to develop an altogether "unformulaic" plan that will help you achieve your dream with your unique strengths and opportunities.
Ready to build your book of business?
Download Sheila's 9 Tips for Lawyers Struggling to Build a Book of Business where she shares her time-tested tips to release fear, transform your relationship with business development, and launch your rainmaker journey.