When lawyers say that they don’t have time for business development, what they’re really saying is, “I’ve set my priorities and business development is not at the top of my list.” Many lawyers face billable hour requirements, firm administrative duties, hand-holding with clients, and family and personal demands, among other things. However, successful lawyers have made business development a priority, and they find time for it.
Here are five concrete and practical strategies for finding time for business development, even if you are crazy busy:
Tip #1: Mix Business Development with What You Are Already Doing
The best way to find time to be a rainmaker is to weave business development into activities that you are already doing. For example, if you like to stop and get coffee on your way to work, invite a colleague, referral source or client to meet you there (assuming it’s convenient for them), and focus on catching up, reconnecting, learning more about them, and/or figuring out ways you can support each other. Use a similar approach to your lunch.
Another idea is if you already have a meeting you must attend in a particular part of town, see if you can also arrange to see an important contact in that area 30 minutes before or after your scheduled meeting to further that relationship. Even if you go onto Facebook or LinkedIn for a social media break, send a quick note to a professional contact who you haven’t been in touch with to see how they’re doing and let them know you’re thinking of them.
Tip #2: Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
Yes, we know, it’s way too easy to get overwhelmed with everything you must do these days. You get bombarded with emails, social media, calls, meetings, and a whole slew of fires that need to be put out. The key here is to focus and prioritize. Take time before the week starts to think about what to concentrate on for the week ahead. Think about what the big things are that are going to move your business development goals forward. The key is taking the time to define what those things are. Regularly carving out this strategic “thinking time” is what will end up saving you time.
Tip #3: Focus on Small Steps
Small hinges open big doors. That is to say, focus on small steps that you can take with your business development in small chunks of time. Rather than worrying about how to carve out hours in a day to do business development activities, plan to give it just 15 minutes at a time on days when you’re particularly busy.
Let go of the “all-or-nothing” mentality when it comes to business development. Pick one small thing. Maybe it’s to send one or two emails to key contacts, write one handwritten note, make one phone call, or give yourself 15 minutes to research or write about a particular topic.
Tip #4: Don’t Let Others Steal Your Time
How often do people pop into your office or call you on the phone saying “Do you have a minute?” It’s great that you are willing to help, but let’s be honest, very rarely does it actually take just a minute of your time. So before you say yes, find out what they want and the likely time commitment they need from you. Once you have done this, you can decide whether you really have that “minute” at that time, and if not, you can politely schedule a later time for the conversation.
Tip #5: Schedule Your Time
This is critical! Schedule business development time on your calendar and honor it like you would a meeting with a client – you would not so easily cancel one of those, right? First thing in the morning is best before you check your e-mail or listen to voicemail. It can be harder to break away as the day gets going.
And before canceling your business development time for an emergency, think twice about whether it truly needs to be handled by you right now, or if it can wait for 60 minutes (or 30 minutes or 10 minutes, as it would wait if you were at a meeting).
If the emergency truly needs to be handled by you immediately, schedule an alternate time on your calendar and consider it as firm as a meeting. Try twice a week for 60 minutes. If 60 minutes is not manageable, try for 30. If this isn’t workable, try for 10. If you don’t have 10 minutes twice a week… well, if you don’t have 10 minutes twice a week to dedicate to building your book of business, you might be in trouble!
All joking aside, if you find yourself week after week without spending even 20 minutes per week on business development activities, you should carefully consider your priorities and goals. How important is what becomes possible for you if you develop more business? How honest are you with yourself about what this is going to take? Take a step back, reassess, and then jump back in. You got this!
About the Author
Yuliya LaRoe is an attorney, certified coach, and co-founder of 20/20 Leadership Group, an international coaching, and training firm for lawyers. Contact her on Twitter @YuliyaLaRoe.