Multi Racial people in brainstorming session with post it notesThe development of new business rarely occurs in a vacuum. In professional service firms where marketing and business development are silos at best, or necessary evils at worst, organic growth will be painfully difficult. And there will be consistent debates over where and how to invest resources.

By contrast, firms that realize measurable success — even in a volatile marketplace — have a wholistic view of the organization. Planning is a discipline that considers a number of factors — resources, nature of the practice(s), compensation structure, governance, competitive landscape and a go-to-market philosophy.

Constant debates over firm priorities and which opportunity to pursue are an indication that the go-to-market philosophy may not be aligned with clearly identified and shared goals.

Where identified goals are absent, a reactive approach to the market takes the place of strategy. Priorities shift based on the siren call of “opportunity.” Instinct tends to characterizes the decision-making processes. Not an ideal approach to a competitive marketplace.

To the degree issues of how, where, or even whether to grow are not reflected and addressed in an organization’s goals and aspirations, a functional firm-wide strategic plan does not exist. And in this vacuum silos form.

Most organizations will face regular decisions around:

  • where to invest;
  • how ROI on the investment will be measured;
  • the breadth of the practice to be offered;
  • how to survive aggressive competition, economic downturns or other market pressures;
  • how to evaluate opportunities;
  • which opportunities to seize, and which to let go;
  • how to prioritize investments;
  • the role of technology;
  • when and how to invest in innovation.

And the list goes on. It is difficult to imagine that many would suggest a professional service firm operate without guide posts in place that help shape a response to these questions.

Yet many do not see the connection between these fundamental issues, a strategic plan, and a sophisticated approach to the pursuit of business.

The Critical Strategic Planning Question

You may share scores of hopes — dreams, even. But the aspirations and goals that are central to the existence of a group are few. Certainly, no two endeavors are the same; but here’s fodder to help identify pivotal goals or aspirations.

  • What do we agree on with respect to why we do what we do?
  • Without respect to personal feelings about good, bad, right or wrong, can we prioritize
    • increased profitability
    • life style
    • reputation
    • legacy?
  • Do you want to grow in numbers? Be global? Local?
  • Do you value and aspire to rich diversity?
  • Do you agree on role in the community, and how that plays out in enterprise?

There is an endless list of questions within the question.

But answer — what are our most deeply shared goals and aspirations? — and you have a framework for every significant decision. For who we choose to work with; where we decide to invest; when to strike (and when to retreat); how to define priorities; what we value most.

When it comes to business development, shared aspirations will go a long way toward speaking to issues of motivation, cross selling, the amount to invest in new pursuits versus the deepening of existing relationships. Even compensation.

This is not to suggest that answers come easy. It is to say that when you have identified the handful of things that you share, you have a basis for decision making. Effective business development strategies are built on this.