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Rainmakers vs. Mistmakers: Building a Culture of Practice Growth

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Every firm wants a rainmaker: a supremely talented professional who’s the linchpin of revenue generation for the entire firm. When it comes to business development, rainmakers are unparalleled. They have an intuitive grasp of Business Development, the ability to build meaningful relationships, and the instincts required to close game-changing deals.

The only problem with that? Rainmakers are like unicorns.

If your firm has one rainmaker, count yourself lucky. If you have several, it’s the equivalent of walking around with multiple winning lottery tickets in your pocket. Finding effective rainmakers is like finding a needle in a haystack and many firms are still seeking the answer. Leadership development helps, but it rarely has the transformative effect firms are looking for. More often than not, the abilities of a rainmaker are innate.

Fortunately, revenue generation doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) be predicated on the performance of just a few individuals. Instead of relying on one person to rain down revenue, empower everyone, from managing partners to receptionists, to contribute to practice development in their own way.

I call these people mistmakers. Tasking individuals across the firm to contribute to business development requires a fundamental cultural shift.

So how can your firm activate that culture change?

Accountability is Key

It’s easy to say that you want every employee to contribute to practice development, but it’s quite another thing entirely to make that happen. One key to success lies in holding every employee accountable. Make it clear that for every dollar you’re paying an employee, you expect a few cents to go toward practice development.

Experiment with tangible ways to keep people honest when it comes to their practice development activities. If leadership specifies that everyone must do at least one business development activity each month, have people report what they’ve done. For some, it could be as simple as sending an email to a client advising them of a new service. For others, it could be taking a potential client out to dinner.

Don’t be afraid to be creative. At my firm, SS&G, Inc. we held a monthly contest. Everyone wrote down their business development activity for the month on a piece of paper and put it into a hat. We’d then draw one entry out and give that person a prize. Employees could enter as many times as they wanted––the more business development they did, the greater their chances of winning. Anyone could win: from the lower-level employees that did simple outreach tasks to partners who’d closed major engagements.

But there was a catch. If one person failed to enter for the month, we wouldn’t hold the draw, and nobody would win. That’s a powerful motivator. Nobody wants to be the person holding back the rest of the team. Create a similar concept for your firm that unites everyone in a team effort to grow the business.

We also used positive business development efforts accomplished by our staff as examples of what can be done. We would pass along to all some of the well done work.

Give People the Tools to Succeed

If you want people to be successful in their business development activities, it’s the role of the firm’s leadership to support them. That takes many forms. Guide employees through the types of practice development activities that they can do. If someone comes up with a successful idea of their own accord, reward them and share their approach with the rest of the firm.

Success demands that you give employees the tools they need to succeed. In days gone by, that might have meant giving administrative staff business cards. These days, it means optimizing everyone’s LinkedIn profiles and empowering them to share content produced by the firm.

Share sales enablement tools with your wider team, not just those tasked with business development. Launching a new service? Make sure everyone knows what it is and the value it brings to clients.

While it’s your responsibility to help your people be successful, don’t be afraid to give them free rein to be creative. Let them experiment with new ideas––you’ll be shocked at how innovative employees can be.

Show Everyone The Why

The final piece of the jigsaw is getting everyone bought into the benefits of embracing business development opportunities. At a high level, this should be fairly obvious. Revenue growth equals more opportunities, promotions, and pay rises.

Emphasize this, but go a layer deeper too. If your firm has 50 employees and each of them does just two practice development activities a month, that’s 1,200 new touchpoints a year. That’s extremely powerful word-of-mouth marketing that helps to build the firm’s brand.

Embrace the Mistmaker Culture Today

As the landscape accounting firms compete in continues to shift and evolve, redefining yourapproach to practice development is crucial to driving sustainable growth. Identifying and elevating rainmakers is a key component, but it’s not the only solution.

Building a firm-wide culture of practice development is a route any firm can pursue. Doing this effectively demands an intentional approach that elevates every employee to be an ambassador of the firm.

Are you in need of guidance revitalizing firm strategy or building out a strategic growth framework? Winding River Consulting can help. Contact us today to learn about how we can help guide your firm to a more prosperous future.

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