Business development is the lifeblood of any professional services firm or any organization that sells anything for that matter. Business health and sustainability begin and end with revenue – if there is not enough revenue every year, it becomes a slow road to bankruptcy or sale since cost-cutting can only go so far.
Leadership’s role in driving business development is fairly simple – a three-legged stool comprised of (a) setting the expectation; (b) training/coaching; and (c) accountability for results. The focus of this perspective is small and midsized CPA firms and the struggle so many have with achieving significant annual organic growth. Business development is also a three-legged stool in its simplest form comprised of (a) building your network (b) creating opportunities: and (c) closing the sale. So why is it so difficult for so many accounting firms to consistently drive substantial net organic growth?
It starts with leadership — firm leader, practice leaders, and niche leaders. In too many firms, leadership accepts the premise and therefore communicates the expectation that BD is something that only “rainmakers” can be successful doing. Those firm leaders accept the idea that most partners are not capable of BD and should focus on getting the work out the door letting the rainmaker(s) drive new clients and organic growth. They look at revenue with a sort of bi-lateral view – rainmaker(s) bring in new clients and the rest of the partner’s service clients. Carrying this further, since firm leadership has no expectation of BD from most partners, there is no training or coaching and no need for accountability. Is it any wonder that so many firms struggle with achieving significant net organic growth year after year?
What are the major actions leadership needs to take to drive significant annual organic growth and build a successful BD engine?
It is firm leadership that should be held accountable for creating and implementing a successful BD model throughout the firm. Let’s look at the three major legs of an effective BD model.
In Our Opinion, the best prospect is one that is both relationship and value-driven. As the firm or practice leader, you have is to create a winning BD model that will drive organic growth every year with each partner improving their BD success every year. For your firm to achieve significant annual growth, the best path is to implement a BD model that capitalizes on every partner’s strengths, sets clear expectations and holds each partner accountable for results – results being actual new clients won.
It takes courage to move from the comfort of compliance and seeing your job as just client service to accepting that all partners have a responsibility to sell – to grow the top line with quality clients. John Maxwell captured the essence of this transformation so well. Partners that have not been an active and successful at business development have to step out of their security zone and develop new patterns of behavior. If they do, they will build relationships that have meaning and value and start on the road to BD success. Effective business development by partners starts with strong leadership.
Written by Tony Zecca (CPA and retired CohnReznick partner and National Director of the Advisory Group), an ESPOSITO CEO2CEO consultant who is brought into client assignments when needed.
ESPOSITO CEO2CEO, LLC — a boutique advisory firm consulting to leading CPA and other professional services firms on strategy, succession planning, and mergers, acquisitions, and integration is actively led by Dom Esposito, CPA. Dom, voted as one of the most influential people in the profession for two consecutive years by Accounting Today, authored a book, published by www.CPATrendlines.com., entitled “8 Steps to Great” which is a primer for CEOs, managing partners, and other senior partners. In Our Opinion, is a continuing series of perspectives for leading CPA firms where Dom and his colleagues share insights, experiences, and wisdom with firm leaders who want to “run with the big dogs” and develop their firms into sustainable brands. Dom welcomes questions and can be contacted at either email@example.com or 203.292.3277.
This has been prepared for information purposes and general guidance only and does not constitute professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining specific professional advice. No representation or warranty (express or implied) is made as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this publication, and ESPOSITO CEO2CEO, LLC, its employees, and its independent contractors accept no liability, and disclaim all responsibility, for the consequences of you or anyone else acting, or refraining to act, in reliance on the information contained in this publication or for any decision based on it