John McDougall: Hi, I’m John McDougall and I’m here today with Stewart Hirsch, a business development and executive coach for attorneys and other professionals, and his website is www.strategicrelationships.com. Stewart, can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Stewart Hirsch: Sure, John. Thank you. I started out as a lawyer, a practicing lawyer in a large firm in Boston in 1980, worked there for a few years as a litigator, moved to a smaller firm, and then went in‑house.
I gave up my job involuntarily so they could look lean and mean for the banks and started a contract lawyering business around 1990. I picked up a number of big companies ‑‑ as a contractor, and in each of the companies, I was really part of the staff. I acted doing the kind of work that the in‑house lawyers were doing. Several companies I acted as general counsel for, while they were either conducting a general counsel search, or general counsel was out on maternity leave.
I did the same kind of work that many of the lawyers did in‑house. I got to hire lawyers, terminate relationships and manage outside counsel, and do a lot of projects and work. Somewhere along the way, maybe about four or five years into it, I had about 15 companies I was working with.
Two things happened, one is, I realized that I liked getting business more than I liked doing the work. Second was, my friends were asking me how I was getting all this business, because I was a solo practitioner effectively, working out of my home. I gave away my secrets. If you don’t mind, I can share those secrets with you now.
One is, be nice to people. The second is, treat people with respect. Third is, make them look good. They were really simple and it was something that people were not doing so naturally. I started to realize that people could use some help and a lot of friends were asking me to help them with their business development.
I wondered if I could help other people get business, and then I would not have to do the legal work any more. One thing led to another, and slowly after about six or seven years, I extricated myself from the last couple of companies I was doing legal work for and began doing full‑time business development coaching originally for lawyers, and then for some other professional services people who have very similar issues in terms of how to develop business and began to also do work for some others doing executive coaching and I could tell you more on that later if you like.
John: No, that’s great. I think for attorneys, the thing that is really intriguing is that you were an attorney for so many years and you know, working as a general counsel and hiring people and filling in for people, that level of experience and then, really, your passion that I’m hearing about business development, which is a little unique.
I also share that passion. I do the sales for our company and have for 20 years and it…not everyone is great at that. Not everyone has the drive to be a salesperson. Some people don’t love it, other people love it. I love talking to people and drumming up business. Can you give us a few tips on business development, specifically for attorneys?
Stewart Hirsch: Sure, and actually it’s not specifically for attorneys, because anybody who has to get business in order to do the work, and this is mostly in the professional services world, the same basic principles that apply. And they’re really, in addition to the “Be nice to people,” and this is the obvious kinds of things that I just talked about, it really takes three things to be successful.
The first is you have to have access to people. People hire lawyers. They don’t hire firms. I’ve heard the dispute between folks about whether if you’re in a big firm whether people are hiring the firms. For the most part, the firm name helps for credibility sake, but ultimately the decision makers want to hire somebody that they like and that they trust. In order to do that you have to have access to people, and that’s usually about networking. It’s about building relationships.
The second thing is you have to recognize opportunities and recognizing opportunities is mostly about listening. It’s about being in the moment. It’s about being present with the person that you’re with. And the third one is an area where a lot of people miss, which is you have to take action and action usually is about setting next steps.
Instead of leaving a meeting with a phrase like, “Keep me in mind,” it’s setting a real, actionable next step. And then, of course, it’s doing the next step and the follow‑up. Those three things are the three areas that people tend to fall down on a bit.
If you don’t have access to people, lawyers are going to have to do the networking in order to get more access. A lot of times they don’t even realize how much access they have. A lot of times, most people don’t realize how much access they have.
Because if you take a look on, for example, any of the social networking sites, LinkedIn for example, we all have a number of people that we’re connected to and each of them are connected to many, many more.
And again, in the recognizing opportunities, learning how to listen and really being in the moment and paying attention, of course, then taking action as I mentioned. Those would be the three big tips.
John: Those are great. Those are really, really powerful and even though some of them are, like you said, some of it is sort of common sense or the basics, you have to get back to the basics in sales. And you have to be regular about it and keep networking with more and more people.
In regard to following up, would you say that blogs are a good way to share the fact that you have some…have done some writing around a very particular topic that would be good to send to your prospect?
Stewart Hirsch: Yeah, as you say, this is not…this is kind of…this whole thing is a bit more of common sense, and it’s not rocket science, if you have not written, if people have not written anything that would be relevant for the people that they have interest in obtaining as clients, then they’re going to not have something to send.
I’ll give you some examples. I’ve written a number of blogs for the Trusted Advisor site that also appears on my site. I do a lot of work with Charlie Green, who was one of the co‑authors of the Trusted Advisor. And he had us write ‑‑ there were four of us and he had us write a lot of blogs on that site. And there are times when I’m in a conversation with a client or with a potential client when some of the things that I’ve written about are relevant.
I wrote one, for example, there are times when people have difficulty with asking for fees, and I wrote a blog called “Asking For Fees And Root Canals.” And so, being able to offer that blog to somebody who’s about to ask for fees was relevant, it was timely, and it was valuable.
I help a lot of people that are looking for jobs just because I like to help people and I wrote one called, “Interview Like A Trusted Advisor.” And sharing that blog has been very helpful to people. There are others who do not put their client development efforts first, and I wrote one called, “When Should Your Clients Take A Backseat?”
And there are times when your client development efforts should trump the client work that is sitting on your desk, especially if the client work has additional…there’s enough time to get it done and you have a business development opportunity now. If there’s something that a lawyer has written that has value to another person, passing that on is really valuable and blogs are such an easy way to provide that value.
But to send a blog without having a reason to send it is almost like being in a room, networking in a setting where somebody’s just passing out their card. Just handing them out without thinking about who they’re handing them to or why, when there’s something relevant that’s been written, it can be very valuable.
John: In a way, the more targeted it is, the better, not just doing it to say that you’re a thought leader and that you have a blog, but to be truly helpful. If you think it really fits that prospect and it’s going to be useful for them, send it. And if not, don’t just do it to do it I think is what I hear you saying.
Stewart Hirsch: Yeah, sometimes you can write something, and it doesn’t happen often, but because something has been written, you can get people ‑‑ people might be interested just in that.
For example, I do a monthly column for InsideCounsel Magazine, and I wrote one not too long ago on executive presence. And I received a call from a fairly substantial organization asking me to speak on the topic.
And the reality is I don’t think I’m an authority on executive presence, but because I wrote that article, I was seen as ‑‑ at least for the people that read that ‑‑ as someone who knew something about the topic.
Getting that call, while it was a surprise to me, and a pleasant surprise, it came out of having written something and having it be out in the marketplace, both in a print form and also in a URL form.
John: Yeah, I think having an article or a column like you have in InsideCounsel is something that passes trust to people. They know they wouldn’t have let you write for that magazine if you weren’t of some stature and quality. Are there other things like public relations that help build trust or how have you seen articles and PR help attorneys?
Stewart Hirsch: I think articles help attorneys because it shows that they actually know, or it gives the appearance of showing that they know hat they’re talking about. Another way it can help, and I’ve suggested this on many occasions, is by interviewing people that might be relevant to one’s practice.
Interviewing another ‑‑ a thought leader, for example, in a particular area or interviewing a potential client or a client on a topic that would be of interest to readers would give the attorney some additional credibility.
John: No. Absolutely. I think we’re in a day and an age where traditional advertising has waned quite a bit and a lot of the traditional ways of marketing yourself, where it used to be in the “Mad Men” days about reach and frequency and glossy brochures, I think we’re more in a day where people really like to trust the people that they’re working with.
And people that have significant content that are willing to be helpful and share their information really goes a long way. I really want to thank you…
Stewart Hirsch: John!
John: Go ahead.
Stewart Hirsch: John, just one thing on that.
Stewart Hirsch: It’s really about the giving. If you do it ‑‑ if someone is doing it in order to get business as opposed to doing it because it’s the right thing to do…
Stewart Hirsch: Then, I think it’s a little more problematic. When your heart’s in the right place, and you’re actually giving and writing and sharing because it’s the right thing to do, because it will be helpful to somebody, it’s very different than when your motivation is to see ‑‑ is to try to get business, and using the writing purely as a tool, and not as a means to an end as opposed to the benefit of the writing being the business.
John: No, I agree. I think what you’re saying is having your heart in the right place, you know? Being of a giving mind frame, and then, whether it’s blogs or articles, or being in magazines, whatever it’s about, if you can come from that place of giving, people will sense it and it will go a lot further.
Stewart Hirsch: Yes.
John: All right. Thank you for your great tips today, and we look forward to talking to you in the future.
Stewart Hirsch: Thank you, John.
John: Thank you.
Stewart Hirsch My pleasure.