Organizing Your Firm for Growth
Professionals’ lack of participation in business development is typically a result of either not knowing what they should be doing, or not knowing how to do it
Sales management - that is, the function of coaching,
accountability, measurement and evaluation relative to business
development-is critical in creating a growth culture for CPA firms
and law firms. One of the sales manager's (usually the Managing
Partner's) most difficult challenges in leading the growth effort
is engaging everyone in business development activity.
In my work with firms throughout the US and Canada I find that it's
rare that professionals won't participate in business development.
Most often, professionals' lack of participation is a result of
either not knowing what they should be doing, or not knowing how to
do it. Some firm leaders make the mistake of assuming people know
their roles, so they never define or communicate it clearly. Most
accountants and lawyers are not trained to know their business
development role intuitively.
Sales managers can overcome these objections by first defining the
firm's approach to growth.
Strategic Growth Alternatives
There are four ways for a firm to grow as illustrated below:
The alternatives are comprised of
the intersections among the firm's core and expanded services and
the firm's current and prospective clients. The definitions of core
and expanded services are:
Core: The fundamental services for which the firm is known
and has the capacity to deliver to all or most clients.
Expanded: Those services the firm does not deliver
as widely because they are newer and/or the firm may not be as well
known for offering these services.
These intersections create the four strategies firms can use to
grow. As seen in the illustration above the four growth
Penetration - look for opportunities to drive more
core services into the current client base. This is the least
expensive, shortest term, most predictable way to find
Service expansion - look for opportunities to
introduce expanded services to current clients. This is the second
easiest way to find growth because of the client
Market expansion - prospect for new client
relationships. With this strategy, the firm attracts new clients by
taking advantage of its current brand recognition. This requires
more hard dollars to be invested and is less predictable and longer
term in producing results than either penetration or service
Diversification - create new opportunities for the
long term either through expanding into new geographic markets or
developing new services. This is the strategy that requires the
most patience, as the expectation should be that results will occur
in the long term.
Once the firm defines its core and expanded services and its target
market for market expansion, the management team can decide where
the firm's best opportunity for growth exists, and allocate
portions of the firm's overall business development time and effort
to each strategy. Once the growth strategy is defined the
appropriate business development activities can be
When the firm has developed a solid plan for how to achieve growth
and identified the activities and roles associated with
implementing the plan, firm leaders can then effectively
communicate specific business development responsibilities to
everyone in the firm.
Larry Bildstein is president and CEO of The Whetstone Group,
Inc. Whetstone's mission is to help companies in the
professional services market find growth and hone their competitive
edge. Whetstone provides clients a variety of simple, yet effective
tools for this purpose.
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