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At the CMCP 25th Anniversary Business Conference in October, speaker Marissa Dennis from Allen Matkins made a wonderful statement about her business development efforts. She said, “I don’t have a book of business. I have pages.” Having met Marissa, I suspect that those pages will turn into a significant book over time. The point is to start somewhere. Nobody builds a book overnight. At the beginning of the process, it can seem like an impossible task. Once you bring in the first small matter yourself, you will discover that it usually leads to additional matters from the same client. Those additional matters then lead to referrals to other clients. At some point, you realize that the “pages” have added up to a significant practice.

Business development, like any skill you are trying to learn, requires an investment of time and effort. It is more important to be persistent than brilliant. And the more you practice, the more skillful you become. Golfer Gary Player said, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” His extensive fitness regime, which is rumored to include one thousand sit-ups a day even at age 79, can be daunting to mere mortals, but Player has always recognized that his success was the result of focusing on key skills and consistent practice.

Given that your work as a lawyer requires a great deal of writing, another approach may seem more relevant (and requires no sit-ups). Ann Patchett, the author of novels and non-fiction works, included several essays about her approach to writing in the book “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.” Her advice to aspiring writers applies to aspiring business developers, as well. She said success simply comes from sitting down every day and writing. There is no random or magic source of creativity. The process works smoothly on some days, and is full of rejected ideas on other days, but the great ideas only show up when she shows up. Whether she is working on a novel or an essay, she creates her own deadlines. What has worked for her is scheduling a consistent time for writing, setting other distractions aside, and being persistent.

How can this model work for you, if you are in the “page” stage of business development?

If you’ve read my previous columns, most of the information below will be familiar to you. If you haven’t started your biz dev plan yet, 2015 is just around the corner and this is the perfect time to begin.

  • Commit to a time of day to focus on biz dev. Even 15 minutes several times a week is enough, as long as you are completely focused during that time. It’s important to develop the habit of being engaged regularly.
  • Create a marketing plan that has specific tasks and deadlines. If you need a template, I would be happy to send you the plan my coaching clients use. To request a copy, call me at 415.336.8755.
  • Keep all of your biz dev notes and ideas in one place so that you always know where to find this information.
  • Be zealous about following up. If you promise to call, email or send something to a potential client or referral source, do it. Your reputation depends on your ability to deliver on your promises.
  • Ask a friend, colleague or marketing person in your firm to support your efforts. You are more likely to complete your tasks when you are accountable to someone else.
  • Remember that biz dev is a long-term process. Building the relationships that lead to business takes time.
  • And don’t forget to have fun. The world outside your office is full of interesting people and ideas.