You can scale a business. We see it all of the time in the tech world, where startups work furiously to scale up and build infrastructure to manage and absorb growth when the time comes.
But can people scale? It’s an issue that many lawyers and other professional service providers struggle with. You’re one person, with tremendous demands on your time due to the needs of your clients, colleagues and firm (not to mention your personal life).
And business development in professional services is still an intensely personal endeavor. You need to be out there, meeting people, developing and spreading your reputation among potential clients and referral sources. It takes time and energy – both resources in short supply for most lawyers.
You can’t clone yourself, so your ability to scale yourself is limited. You can’t be everywhere, focused on everything, all at once.
Or can you?
After all, it’s not necessarily your physical presence that matters when it comes to garnering the attention of potential buyers. More important is the power of your ideas, and the word of mouth of other people who a potential buyer knows and trust, who know and trust you.
In other words, it is possible to scale yourself. And it can be accomplished by focusing intently on ways to grow your personal brand.
A personal brand is a promise. It clarifies and communicates what makes you unique. Crafting this promise requires understanding your values and strengths. It also requires self awareness – it’s important to know your weaknesses, too, so you can go all in on your strengths in order to grow your personal brand.
Once you know who you are, and what you can deliver, then you can spread that message in the marketplace of ideas through the articles you write, the speeches you give, and the manner in which you present yourself in other public settings. You, as an individual limited by the laws of physics, are not scalable. But your personal brand, and the promise of value you thrust into the marketplace, can spread and grow.
The idea of building a powerful personal brand can be overwhelming. Again, there’s only so much time in the day, and if you don’t already have personal brand infrastructure (e.g., a blog, a podcast, a monthly recurring column in a third party publication) in place, it’s hard to know how and where to start.
Here’s an idea to get you going: Think about an issue that you’re well-versed in, that impacts businesses in an industry that you’d like to target, and develop a short “keynote” presentation around it. Reach out to 10 businesses located within a relatively close proximity to where you’re based. Offer to give the presentation, for free, with no strings attached. A few will take you up on the offer. Most won’t. But the generosity of your offer will put you on all of their radar screens so that the next time an issue comes up related to the topic, you’ll at least be in the game.
You may be thinking (and you’d be right) that the activity is described to grow your personal brand isn’t scalable. It takes time to prepare and give a presentation, and the ROI is uncertain. It’s not that my advice is contradictory, it’s just that before you reach scale, you need to build an infrastructure. And to build an infrastructure, you need to start building.
Move at lightning speed in the short-term. Deploy patience over the long-term. That’s the way to scale your business development by focusing on tactics that grow your personal brand.