Practice Perspectives | Fall 2019
Is Busy Season Killing Your Prospect Pipeline?
If you’re the type to put business development on the back burner during busy season, you run the risk of never being busy again.
President, Kuesel Consulting
Ah, the second busy season. That time of year when nothing else matters except shaking
any summertime slowdown and getting your clients’ extended tax returns out the door by
their October deadline. But what about the other things that demand attention at your firm,
even during your one or two busy seasons?
I’m here to warn you that you can’t totally ignore all other aspects of your business during
your busy seasons! Consider this: Without solid technology, everything falls apart. So, I
guess you’ll have to find time to maintain your IT infrastructure. Without cash, you won’t be
able to make payroll. So, I guess you’ll have to find time to keep billing and managing WIP
and AR so cash doesn’t dry up, work doesn’t become unbillable, or old AR becomes
uncollectable. Without staff, you can’t serve your clients and meet deadlines. So, I guess
you’ll have to find time for recruiting and retention, staff development, and all the other
people issues that come with running a business.
I’m sure you can think of several other business-critical functions that must be managed,
as well. Now, what about business development?
For many firm leaders, business development is a second thought. But a lot happens if you
neglect business development for your entire busy season. You miss valuable opportunities
for the development of goodwill and cross-selling to current clients. You allow referral
relationships to cool off to the point where they become unproductive or unresponsive. You
create a significant lapse of activity for promotion of your personal and professional brands.
And your prospects that are no longer actively managed eventually cool off and die.
For any firm leader aspiring to grow the business, even at just a modest rate to keep up
with rising costs, allowing your business development initiatives to take a back seat during
any busy season is a flawed strategy. But I see it happening almost every day.
Take this example of a tax partner that I know who traditionally has brought in well over
$100,000 worth of new client work per year. He had an extremely challenging spring and
summer, leading him to put business development on the back burner—unless of course
he had a prospective client screaming in his ear, “Please take me on!” Essentially, he
vanished with respect to business development.
After about six months of neglect, nearly everything he’d worked for in the previous two
years was wiped out. Most of the referral source goodwill he’d built had evaporated. His
client cross-selling opportunities were way down. His pipeline had shriveled up, and the market forgot who he was and what his
expertise and capabilities were. This year,
he will be lucky to close $60,000 worth of
new business. His lack of executing on a
small list of daily business development
tasks that were discounted as “one more
thing to do” mushroomed into a costly 40
percent decline in new business.
So, how do you avoid such a fate? Treat
your business development activities with
the same priority as you do technology,
people management, or billing. In other
words, find time to make it happen—
despite the season.
Thinking about your busy tax seasons as
separate seasons altogether allows you
to pass on business development activities
when you’re busy bulldozing through
Like the tax partner previously mentioned,
your business development results will
certainly suffer with neglect. The reality
is that some weeks of the year simply
won’t allow for you to focus beyond
the immediate tasks at hand, such as
meeting major compliance deadlines. But
if you give yourself a pass on business
development too often during your busy
seasons, you risk missing out on some
So, perhaps it’s time to rebrand busy
season as “opportunity” season. Thinking
this way should get you motivated to keep
business development top of mind.
Now, consider if your firm generally has two
major busy seasons leading up to the April
and October tax deadlines. Your tax-time
clients are ripe for business development,
particularly if you focus on the individual
client and home in on the opportunities for
appropriate goodwill, relationship building,
and cross selling. With just a slight change
in mindset, you can keep your business
development time and busy season work
So, as you wrap up one busy (opportunity)
season and prepare to head into the next,
I encourage you to consider how your
lack of business development activity could
be unintentionally killing your prospect
pipeline and then rethink what you can do
to revive it.
Hint: March is traditionally the biggest
month for discovering and capitalizing on