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Creating a Relationship-Based New Business Culture – Adapt or Be Acquired

To build and maintain a client base, most professional service firms rely on just a few partners to make it “rain” and feed their staffs. And while this has been the formula for success for so many firms for decades, it is an outdated, old-school way of operating. It also puts the future of your firm at risk.

Not sure this is a real issue for your firm? Think for a moment…when your senior partners retire, who has established the required business relationships to take their place? Swimming in a fast-changing sea of technical knowledge and grinding out client service, is your next generation of professional staff equipped to act in ways that promote growth and prosperity? Do they have the expertise, interest and passion to generate enough new business to feed the firm? Do they have powerful enough relationships and strong enough levels of trust with the clients of the soon-to-be retiring partners to transition and retain them?  Simply put, can they sustain, replace and grow the revenue numbers of your partner group when it retires?  If your answers to any of the above questions have made you uncomfortable with your firm’s ability to exist, let alone compete, in the next five to ten years, then consider the story of the 2001 Oakland A’s.

Following the 2001 Major League Baseball season, the Oakland A’s found themselves in a tough spot.  After losing a number of their best players to free agency, ownership kept its purse strings closed, while competing teams feasted on high-priced talent.

In order to compete and remain relevant, the A’s were now going to have to find a new way to replace the run production of the high-priced players that left them for free agency, much the same way your firm will need to replace the revenue-generating relationships of its retiring partners. Not familiar with the A’s story?  Read on.

The A’s were headed for a seemingly endless cycle of defeat, and no one knew that better than the man charged with acquiring and retaining ballplayers, General Manager Billy Beane.

Beane considered his challenges and the realities that constrained him.  He realized that in order to compete as a small-market team in the age of free agency, he was going to have to adopt a new approach to securing talent, or face being the worst team in Major League Baseball.

Related: What Does Your Organization’s Culture Say About You?

High-priced free agents were not an option for the revenue strapped small market A’s, so Beane had to think differently. Construct his team differently.  Evaluate players differently. And function differently as an organization.

Beane turned to and championed an analytical, evidence-based, sabermetric approach to evaluating baseball players and assembling a competitive baseball team—Moneyball.

Instead of using old-school scouts that based their evaluations on rudimentary statistics, the eye test and gut instincts, Beane used statistical evaluation tools and metrics to evaluate players.  He took advantage of the other teams’ unwillingness to adapt to his way of evaluating players and consistently signed players no one but he valued. Things were tough for a spell as the organization had to adjust; but eventually, the A’s managed to not only survive amidst the hyper-competitive landscape of Major League Baseball…they thrived. Beane constructed winning baseball teams year after year and spent less than any other team in the Major Leagues while doing it.

The lesson here is this: Challenges present opportunities—opportunities to grow, innovate and achieve things we may have thought weren’t possible.

If your firm’s lack of a strong business development culture has you and your partner group concerned, then like Billy Beane, it is time for you to start thinking and doing differently.

If you are an executive-level partner, director of business development or responsible for your firm’s marketing efforts, then you stand on the precipice of a defining opportunity for your firm—the opportunity to position it for success and growth in the years and decades to come.

The notion of sitting by the phone aggressively waiting for it to ring is no longer a viable new business development strategy.  To compete, your firm will need to establish and nurture a completely new business development culture—one based on relationships that will establish your firm as self-perpetuating and a true leader in its market space.

In this new culture, everyone must be empowered to promote the firm, grow it and flourish together. The firms that fail to do this will be acquired.  The firms that do it successfully will do the acquiring.

There is a better way to compete.

Develop a firm-wide culture for developing new business by teaching the virtues and importance of relationships and no one will ever have to “sell” again.

Are you ready to get started?

Batter up.

Want to learn more about how to create a business development culture at you firm? Check out our new Business Relationship Master Class for strategies that professional service providers can use to successfully develop meaningful new business through the art of building and maintaining powerful relationships. 

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