Practice Perspectives | Winter 2019
Why Small Changes Yield Big Results
Big resolutions might not be the answer to your hopes for a new year of new business development.
President, Kuesel Consulting
Moving Your Firm Forward
I recently had the pleasure of learning about habits—more specifically, how to create
positive habits. It seems the successful creation of positive habits involves making many
small increments of changes. For example, if you resolve to become more active for health
reasons, you wouldn’t want to start by setting a goal of running 10 miles per day starting
January 1. Your likelihood of failure is probably 99.5 percent in this scenario. However, if
you set a goal to walk around the block once a week, your chance of success would be
significantly higher. Once you can demonstrate success in your weekly walk, you are
ready—and likely—to increase your commitment.
How exactly does this relate to business development? In my mind, it’s all about identifying
the small, incremental changes that you can make which can achieve outsized impacts on
your business development results. Consider that the small, consistent actions you execute
on a weekly basis can make a difference on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis and can
lead to forming habits that last a lifetime.
For example, the simple, common business development activity of going out to lunch with
a client can ultimately be measured in goodwill, stronger relationships, additional revenue
via cross-serving, referrals, and more. But when was the last time you thought to account
for how valuable these lunches can be for your firm? When was the last time you thought
to make the act of client lunches a regular business development process? The act itself is
so approachable that all but the most inexperienced staff could say, “I can do that!” And,
when you give yourself a wide berth in terms of execution, like all 12 months of a new year,
you will have fewer excuses and obstacles in the way. If we assume that you didn’t partake
in any client lunches this year as part of your business development efforts, I contend that
even a small incremental change of committing to four client lunches per year could yield
measurable business development results.
Taken a step further, you could resolve to engage with your referral sources on a more
intentional basis to harness the power of those relationships. Your referral sources obviously
trust in your expertise enough to send their clients your way, so why has it been months—or
maybe even years—since you saw them last? Rekindling cooling referral relationships and
more deliberately maintaining the ones with high potential is a good use of business
development time. Let’s assume that you struggled to keep promising referral relationships
warm in the past. A small, incremental change you can resolve to make is to get in touch with
all previous referral sources twice in the coming year. Assuming you have two or three of
these types of relationships, that commits you to just four to six outreaches in the new year.
Again, it is very easy to visualize success
with this level of commitment and then
expand upon it once it becomes a habit.
Now, how about the other business
development opportunities that often
lie undiscovered in your professional
membership associations, like your
membership with the Illinois CPA Society?
While being a member of a trade
association often gets your name listed in
a directory, it does nothing for building
meaningful relationships with prospective
referral sources, clients, or even existing
contacts without intentional effort. To
extract value from your membership,
conventional wisdom calls for you to be
engaged, to volunteer on a committee, to
contribute to its publications, to attend
networking events and participate in or
speak at educational conferences where
you will build relationships with peers and
other influencers and thought leaders in
your profession. If you commit enough to
write your dues check, why not commit to
engage in six or eight activities in the
coming year as a means for doubling down
on your investment?
If you adopted all these recommendations,
you would have committed to maybe 14 to
18 additional activities over the span of a
year. Most people would assign you a high
likelihood of success in being able to add
these potentially very valuable business
development activities to your calendar.
For some of you, resolving to this level of
additional commitment makes you uneasy.
I’ll suggest taking the small, incremental
steps down to just baby steps if it means
you will start down the path to better
business development. Make a single
selective commitment if you must, because
whatever your commitment, the ongoing
implementation of it is surely to lead to a
positive business development habit.
As one of my business development
resolutions for the new year, I’m following
my own advice and have committed to
another year of writing this column. I’d love
to use it to help you create positive habits
and start down a path to better business
development. Nothing brings me more
satisfaction than seeing someone I have
worked with become more successful. So,
feel free to send me an email with your new
year’s business development resolutions (or
the ones you failed to meet this year). I will
do my best to craft columns that are relevant
and inspirational and, most importantly, that
remind you to be accountable for making
your small, incremental changes that will
yield big business development results.