At Cultivate 2019: Sydney, Carl Bezuidenhout, Executive Director: Business Development, BDO shared his top tips to scale up your firm in 2020.
Tell us about the key focus areas within your business development plan?
One of the key issues in any plan or strategy is looking at the environment. If that environment changes then your roadmap needs to change. One of the things we need to be aware of, that affect our environment, includes machines – as we know they are already here. When Harvard University began to offer online courses, they had more signups in one year than in their 370-year history. There are a greater number of visits to WebMD (a health website in the USA) than all the Dr’s who work in America. There are three times as many online dispute resolutions than there are lawsuits in the US.
What jobs are going to be overtaken by machines? What impact will those machines have on our jobs as lawyers in the services industry.
With machines comes data. Data informs how we at BDO make decisions. You can see where and how clients are clicking and engaging with your business. But the real benefit of data and machines for the services industry is scale. Each time we engage with the client we have to spend an hour solving their problem and we have to do that every time we engage. Unlike when a book is written and 1 million copies are produced, we have to keep re-writing the book each time any client engages. So, AI starts bringing us scale, which is really attractive to growing firms.
We use the data to actively report amongst the partners and executives in the business. We name and shame a little bit to see who’s on top of the sales pipeline. We also use data for our marketing and communication so we can target the right businesses at the right time.
Secondly, we focus heavily on the relationships. The data allows us to see transparently and securely each engagement with the client. Our relationship is more important than the tech, we use the tech to maintain and enhance the relationship. This is the one thing that, currently, machines cannot compete on.
What are some of the challenges you face in growth and how can you overcome them?
One of our biggest challenges is culture change. The business needs to think in terms of business development. We need to change the mindset of our partners – instead of “my client”, it’s “our client”. A client of the firm.
Take someone with you the next time you see a client. You get some silly questions, but you also get some great ideas out of it as someone else is in the room. This is hard because we don’t often measure things like that. You often get things like, “I’m a partner and this is my book. That’s my KPI, my clients, don’t touch.”
We also need to start measuring and rewarding things differently. Like rewarding in teams rather than individuals and rewarding referral or introduction behaviour. This is currently a challenge for us, but we are getting there.
With business development, obviously the marketing strategies go hand in hand, so what are some of the key marketing strategies that you use to support the business?
I don’t always see business development as going to see a client or selling more stuff to them. There are lots of elements to business development.
One thing we are doing for example is partner training. We put them together in Pods which are cross service line, cross industry, at different levels – some are Partners, some are Senior Directors, some are senior managers. We ask them to check their rank and ego at the door. The training has some content like how to do business development, how to negotiate, how to have selling conversations etc, but there’s also a piece in there about “what does my pipeline look like?”
We also get clients into these training sessions to help get real feedback from clients. Those clients we get on well with and have great relationships with, they actually want to help you because you can service their needs better.
We have also recently worked on pricing, namely achieving better recovery rates with pricing. What we realised by the end of the workshop was that it wasn’t a discussion on pricing or recovery where we started our initial objective it was actually a discussion about service. What can we do better? The outcome is happy client and better recovery.