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Top 10 Ways that Professional Service Firm Partners Sabotage Firm Growth



Starting a Dialogue About Stopping Growth Saboteurs

Last week, I saw another act of sabotage.

I say “another” because it wasn’t the first time that I’ve seen this exact same act happen, and I’d bet dollars to donuts that it won’t be the last time.

It started with an opportunity to help prospects address a new legal issue with widespread ramifications. It continued with a meeting between partners and the marketing team which concluded that the opportunity was solid. It evolved into a clever, creative, and multi touch lead generation plan. Copywriting was done. Creative executions were drafted. Publication dates were scheduled. The partners were presented a comprehensive action plan and materials.

And then…..

Nothing. Nada. Zero. Squadoosh.

The opportunity for getting new business from the situation died on the vine. It happened due to lack of partner activity and initiative when it came to executing their roles and responsibilities for giving the campaign life, starting with a revolving door of missed deadlines for reviewing and editing of copy.

While they waited, their competitors filled the vacuum, took the thought leadership high ground with blogs, articles and videos, and beat them to the punch. So, when prospects started to search for solutions online, the firm was invisible.

Who do you think won this race for growing the firm with new business from a new opportunity?

Do You Really Want or Need to Grow?

I understand that there are quite a few partners in professional service firms that don’t need to develop and execute a proactive growth strategy because their reputation and personal brand are lead magnets.

I understand that there are partners who don’t want growth because they’re getting ready to retire. Or, they may be concerned that their book of business is already filled from cover to cover.

I understand that in certain industries like accounting, partners face compliance deadlines that take precedent over proactive growth strategies and tactics.

However, I didn't write this post for partners that don't need or want to grow. I wrote it for partners, rising stars, reluctant rainmakers, and the executive or management team that wants growth, understands that they must be proactive, but who just can't seem to make it happen because of growth saboteurs.

You might just recognize yourself below.

How Partners and Shareholders Become Growth Saboteurs

New Call-to-actionThere are certainly more than 10 ways that partners manage to sabotage the growth of their firm, and I’ve left a few off the table.

But, I’ve included them on a survey you can take, and (if I get enough response) I’ll publish the results. If you participate, I’ll send you a detailed report. Just click on the button and you should be able to complete it in less than 60 seconds.

With well over 25 years of professional services marketing under my hat, and having seen strategic growth initiatives at hundreds of different types of firms in play, I feel qualified to share my observations with you. Feel free to comment, or even add to my list, but check the survey first for the total list of 20 situations I’ve run across.

Here’s my top 10:

  1. Lack of agility: inability to swiftly capitalize on opportunities from legislative, regulatory, other change
  2. Lack of alignment between marketing and sales efforts, regardless if sales are being done by partners or professional business developers
  3. Putting the wrong people in place to execute a growth strategy: lack of marketing or sales skills, or putting a partner in charge of marketing who doesn’t care and shouldn’t oversee marketing
  4. Underspending on marketing and sales infrastructure: an unwillingness to bite the bullet and put infrastructure in place that will enable investments in strategies and tactics for getting more visibility, leads, and new business
  5. Overdependence on “over the transom / waiting for a phone call” sales opportunities because of a lack of understanding of their prospects’ buyer’s journey, and the different growth strategies and tactics needed to accommodate that journey
  6. An inability to devote enough partner time to marketing and sales because of a conflict between billable and non-billable hours (Side note: this also seems to be killing the desire of younger professionals to become partners.)
  7. Lack of a strategic growth plan built on highly quantified and specific goals, integrated marketing strategies and tactics, and alignment between marketing and business development teams
  8. Lack of positioning and competitive differentiation: an inability of partners to articulate what, why and how their services or team are different from those of competitors 
  9. Lack of innovation and entrepreneurship due to partners that are vested in legacy and very skeptical, risk adverse and reluctant to bring new ideas, services and approaches to the market
  10. Insufficient lead generation: lack of understanding of how to develop and execute lead generation strategies and tactics, and the technology needed for lead capture and success measurements 

Start an Internal Dialogue on Becoming Growth Evangelists

If you’re involved in a marketing, business development, or executive management role at your firm, it’s likely that you’ll be able to pick a number of these acts of sabotage from this list and the more comprehensive list in the survey.

What’s next?

It’s my hope that this post will stimulate a dialogue that will end with making changes to how you’re going to grow your firm in a more strategic manner. It’s likely that stopping the sabotage will take some time, effort, and funding, so installing a firm wide solution may be difficult. Instead, start with a niche practice and a vision of making that practice a state of the art business development dynamo.

It may be time for the partners in your firm to stop being growth saboteurs and become growth evangelists instead.

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