Key Points From This Episode:
- Jim’s unique career path and the factors that have enabled him to excel.
- The mindset Jim embodies in order to sustain and build his network every day.
- Important soft skills that Jim has developed and applies in his work.
- How Jim approaches connecting in an authentic and personal way before getting into business.
- Preparing for networking opportunities and Jim’s mindset going into meetings and interactions.
- Staying motivated and focused on the long-term rewards on a daily basis.
- The dangers of empty offers and fake giving; the failure to follow through on networking promises.
- Staying committed to following up with prospects and why this area of networking is often forgotten.
- Writing things down and calendarizing your commitments to make sure you do them!
- Jim’s morning and daily routine and the parameters he puts on his time
- Challenges to balancing a normal workload with business development goals.
- Job security is associated with building a strong book of business at a firm.
- The value of patience and persistence in the business development field.
- Two calls to action for today; making time for follow-ups and exercising patience and persistence!
[00:00:01] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Branch Out, a Connection Builder’s podcast. Helping middle-market professionals connect, grow and excel in their careers. Through a series of conversations with leading professionals, we share stories and an insight to take your career to the next level. A successful career begins with meaningful connections.
[00:00:20] AD: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Branch Out. I’m your host, Alex Drost. Today, I’m excited to share my conversation with Jim Ries, Director of Business Development with Offit. Kurman, a full-service law firm with 14 offices in 7 states. Jim is also the host of Java With Jim. Today’s discussion focuses on the mindsets that drive success in business development, and help you build a meaningful network. I hope you all enjoy,
[00:00:46] ANNOUNCER: Connect and grow your network. We are on LinkedIn. Search for Connection Builders.
[00:00:54] AD: Jim, welcome to the Branch Out podcast. Excited to have you here today.
[00:00:58] JR: Hey, thanks, Alex. Appreciate you having me.
[00:00:59] AD: Now, talking to our audience for a minute here, Jim and I were just talking before we jumped on to record about this idea of being a business development professional and the steps you can take, the things that you can do to really succeed, and also some of the common mistakes. Part of what I wanted to ask Jim to come on here to talk about a little bit today is to just share his perspective around that. An interesting fact about Jim is, he spent 31 years in a family business before moving into the professional services, and you are in the legal services world today, in a business development function today. But when you first went into the legal services world, you were in a management role for about four years. And then your firm saw that you were really excelling, and you had the right skill set around business development and you were asked to step into that full time.
Now, that’s a really unique career path to get to where you are today. I just love to start the conversation around, Jim, what has helped you really excel in that role and made you do so well here despite the non traditional path to get there? And then moreover, where are some of the the challenges that you see others facing in business development today?
[00:02:09] JR: Million dollar question, Alex. Great setup. Well, thanks for the little history of where I came from. What suits me well for this position are a number of things. Maybe first and foremost is that I have a solid network of really good contacts. Every day, I think about how can I leverage my network and expose more people and do more promotion of Offit Kurman? So, I’ve got a great network. Some influencers, centers of influence, business owners, referral sources, I had that before I started this role about four years ago. I think I was blessed with good soft skills, good degree, high level of emotional intelligence. I attribute most of that to my dad. If I can be half the man that he was, I’d be hugely successful.
And then I genuinely want to help people. If you ask friends and family about me, they would say, “Well, Jim’s just looking to help people any way he can.” So, those are three things that I would point to, that have really set me up in a position that, that would lead to success. The number four would probably be that I work tirelessly and I pretty much will outwork anyone else in a similar position. I think that’s important. I have a very high level of work that I do, and I’m willing to make the commitment and sacrifice to do whatever it does to get it done.
[00:03:49] AD: That’s Well said. Jim, let’s peel back into those a little bit each. So, I want to go back first, you said you have a solid network and every day you focus to leverage that network. Now, I want to take out of the question for a minute building your actual network, because you have an established network already. And we’re going to come back and talk on that a little bit later. But assuming you have an established network, which you do, what steps do you take and how do you think every day to leverage that? What’s kind of the mindset around that?
[00:04:13] JR: So, a couple things. Number one, I think every day, what does my network expect to hear from me on social media, on events, presentations, PowerPoints, when I see them at networking events, what are they looking to me for? What kind of connections or advice can I provide? That’s number one. What do they expect to hear from me? If I all of a sudden started and I’m very active on LinkedIn, but if I started posting about legal issues in tax or real estate or intellectual property and patents and copyrights, they’d say, “Well, Jim’s not an attorney. Why is he posting like he’s a subject matter expert on international tax law?” That’s not me. But what I am somewhat of an expert on is connecting and business development and networking, and so that’s what they would want and expect to hear from me.
[00:05:14] AD: Jim, that’s a really interesting point there and there’s two things that jumped out to me, as you’re saying it, is first off, the mindset that you have, the way of thinking that you have is, and this goes a little bit with your third point, if you genuinely want to help people, but the mindset is thinking about the other person, right? Thinking about your network. What is my network look to me for how do I add value to my network? I think that’s a really important mindset because I didn’t hear you say, “How can I get the most from my network? How can I get something from my network? How can I generate revenue from my network?” None of those things were in the dialog. It’s how can I help my network? How can I give something to my network, right?
And then the second component that I thought was really important behind that is, you are, and I’ve seen a lot of the posts that you’ve put around, you do a great job writing articles, you have your Java With Jim where you’re looking for ways to share knowledge to connect people to essentially take what you’re uniquely good at, where you have unique skill set and share that. And it’s interesting, because none of that necessarily is directly correlated with your role of helping to generate opportunities for your firm, right? And that all becomes a byproduct of what you’re doing. Is that a fair statement? A fair way of looking at it?
[00:06:23] JR: Absolutely. What my hope is that I can provide value to my network, and new people expand my network, as you alluded to, and when those people need an attorney or a law firm or they servicing and supporting a business owner who needs an attorney or a law firm, I’m hoping that Jim Ries and Offit Kurman are top of mind, just because of my willingness to add value and just be authentic, be a good guy, and be top of mind. That’s really what it is.
[00:07:01] AD: I like that. It is. It’s top of mind, you’re there. But you’re staying top of mind by adding value, by thinking about ways that you can help your network, by again, genuinely thinking about the other people. So, I like that a lot.
Let’s dive into the second part here. You said good soft skills, high EQ, and you attribute that to your father, helping you develop those skills, and they help you succeed. First off, let’s talk about what are those skills? What does that mean to you? How do you think about that? And then let’s talk about how do you actually apply that? How does that benefit you in what you do in your day to day work?
[00:07:33] JR: Yeah, well, one thing that’s come out of the pandemic is that people have learned that it’s good, it’s actually great to be empathetic, passionate, and vulnerable. So, many of us pre pandemic, we’re not very vulnerable and people are like, “Well, Jim, what does that mean? You keep saying that you need to be vulnerable?” Well, you got to be willing to share sort of private things about yourself, things about you and your personal life. There’s nothing that’s really off limits, especially during the pandemic. We’ve shared stories about our trials and tribulations and challenges through the pandemic and that’s okay. It’s okay to do that.
So, I think people with good soft skills are comfortable, being empathetic, being passionate, being vulnerable, and telling people, “Look, there was a really low time there during the pandemic, when I didn’t think I was gonna make it, or I was really lonely, or, you know, whatever it might be.” It’s okay to share that because we’re all experiencing that, we all have to be comfortable talking about it. And I think the pandemic has really opened the door to those kinds of conversations.
[00:08:48] AD: I would agree completely with you and what I think is interesting, I’m just talking from my own perspective here a little bit, is the reality is, in our own minds, it’s all too often, it’s easy to convince ourselves that we’re struggling with something alone, it’s only us with this challenge. Frankly, some inadequacy or somewhere that we’re not measuring up to what we think we should be measuring up to, right? And when you start talking about that, and you are willing to have some of those conversations, and even with yourself and with those around you. It does, I think, help you realize that we all are struggling in our own ways, right? Everyone has their own struggles, everyone is human. No one gets up and has a perfect day every day.
I truly believe especially in professional services where it is a purely mentally taxing profession. When we talk about hard work and what hard work really means many times, it’s that ability to pick yourself back up day after day and continue to get up and go. It’s all in your head. The more you recognize that, the more you have empathy for yourself and for others around it, and that you’re willing to talk about it, it becomes significantly easier to form real relationships with people, but also in my experience, it becomes easier to help yourself maintain the right positive mental attitude, which is really important for being able to build relationships. Is that fair?
[00:10:02] JR: Absolutely. Yeah. As long as you mentioned it, and I don’t know if you were planning on going here, but people often ask me, “Well, you seem comfortable in a networking environment. How do you do it?” Well, I can tell you what you don’t do is meet someone and try to sell them right away. So, it gets back to the point that we just talked about, talking about personal lives, and being empathetic and being vulnerable and sharing stories, that really allows you to connect with people first and foremost, before you ever start talking about what do you do? What are you selling? You want to hear about my product or service, all the features and benefits? No, nobody wants to hear that. They want to get to know you first. That takes some time.
That is one of my pet peeves. The people that right out of the starting blocks, they’re trying to sell you. This happens on LinkedIn all the time. I’m sure you get those. You connect with someone and then you get a response, like from here to here, like a full like six paragraphs on why you should buy their product and service. I don’t even know you.
[00:11:10] AD: And then a follow up every three hours, right? Jim, I actually I want to go down that path a little bit. I think this ties in really well with EQ and soft skills and where this is really important. So, a lot of the work I do today is working with professionals talking through how to develop those soft skills, those EQ skills. It’s intangible in many ways, right? It’s very hard to point to, “Hey, here’s specifically”, or you say the word vulnerable, empathetic, those are great words to describe it. But again, that doesn’t necessarily make it easy to wrap your mind around it.
What I really, many times will point back to, is EQ soft skills has a lot to do with being able to connect with the other person, to understand where they’re at, to build some kind of a relationship, some kind of an emotional attachment where there’s, okay, we like each other, we’ve had a good conversation, we’re both smiling we’re laughing, we found something to connect about. We’ve enjoyed that interaction together. We’ve created an enjoyable experience, versus the hard sell approach, which I very much am not a believer in.
We’ve all been in those meetings, or at least I certainly have where you sit down with someone and they are immediately talking about what they’re selling, what they do, how they can help you, why their product is better, whatever it might be. And the feeling that you get is like, “Oh, I don’t want to be here.” And the difference from that strong EQ development of your soft skills versus lacking some of that, is how does the other person feel at the end of that interaction with you? Do they feel like, “This is awesome. I love this. Jim, you and I’ve had a great conversation. I want to talk to Jim again.” Or do they feel like, “Ah, it’s Jim again.” Right? What’s the feeling that comes out of it?
[00:12:45] JR: Exactly. That’s exactly right. We’ve all been in those situations. And by the way, when you’re on Zoom, I think you can avoid those situations. But when you’re back to in-person networking, like we’re back to now, I got stuck two weeks ago at an event talking to somebody and it was 15 minutes of my time and I couldn’t escape. It was on and on and on. So finally, I told them I needed – there was someone on the other side of the room I needed to go see. But back to the in-person, you got to figure out a way to escape.
[00:13:19] AD: Yeah, you’re spot on there. So, let’s shift gears for a minute here. Let’s jump on to the third point that you hit at, and this is you genuinely want to help people. You say that part of what’s helped you excel in your in your role today. And we talked a little bit this number one and how to leverage your network is that you’re thinking about other people, and you’re genuinely out there looking for ways to help. Walk me through what does that mindset mean to you? What are things that you think about? What are things that you can do to help people that have nothing to do with generating business?
[00:13:49] JR: Well, number one, you just hit on the key word, and it is a mindset. Before you go to a networking event, before you’re on a podcast, before you’re doing a one on one virtually or coffee with someone, you got to be in the right mindset and plan because failing to plan is planning to fail, right? So, think about your questions that you might ask someone. Think about ways to add value. I just had a phone call this morning with someone who was connected to me, because they were looking for networking opportunities, and I do get these a lot.
So, I gave this person four great options. And I said, “Look, take a look at their websites and if you’re interested, I can introduce you to the people running all four of these networking organizations, and then you can decide. I’m sure you can go visit as a guest and you can decide if you want to join any of them.” I get a lot of introductions to people looking for networking opportunities. I also get a lot of introductions to people who are in career transition, and I guess my name is out there as a guy who number one, has been in career transition before earlier my life. And secondly, someone who has a good network and maybe make that next introduction to this person who’s in career transition.
So, I’m able to add value to those people. I’m not selling them legal services, but and there’s a happenstance that a week, a month or a year from now, if that person needs legal services, or has a client who dies, I’m hopeful that they’ll think, “Oh, I remember Jim and he helped me when I was in career transition,” or, “He helped me find some networking groups. I’ll call Jim.” The other cool thing is, as my tagline is, let me be your Google. If you’re looking for something, call me, email me. And then if you’re looking for an attorney, email me and call me. Because we’ve got 250 attorneys in 41 different practice areas on the East Coast, chances are we can help and if we can’t, I can find someone who can.
[00:16:14] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast.
[00:16:24] AD: So, what jumps out to me, as I hear you talking is you’re constantly thinking of ways to help someone. You said, if it’s a legal challenge, maybe there is a place that someone across your firm can help with that. But even if that’s not the case, you can still help, you can still help, right? The mindset is I can help, I can help, I can help. How can I help? And what I hear though a lot of and I very much agree with this, and I try to embrace and live this myself, in your fourth point you made is work tirelessly. I think that kind of ties in some there, because everything I hear you saying is there’s a lot of work that goes in this, this takes a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of effort, and continuous effort. It’s not something that you just you do it and then all of a sudden you’re done. I mean, frankly, in my experience, the more you do it, it just kind of compounds and you get more and more of it, right?
So, how do you, and this now goes back to mindset, your way of thinking behind some of this, I think, how do you approach keeping yourself motivated in doing this and kind of that constant servant mindset, knowing that not all of that has like a direct benefit to you in a short term nature, right? And sometimes it can be hard, like, “Oh, I do this, this and this, and I don’t get anything out of it.” How do you keep yourself motivated and pushing through that?
[00:17:33] JR: Well, there is immediate gratification because I become Jim Ries, the nice guy who helped someone. So, it may never turned into business. But it makes me feel good that I’ve been able to help somebody. I think that’s all the motivation that I really need. I’ll go too far as I need to, to make sure that I accomplish that. So, wake up in the morning, who can I help? And I talk to people all the time. They’re like, “Yeah, I made an introduction this week for a friend of mine.” I do about three a day, I think, but I love that. I’ll never get tired of doing that.
[00:18:10] AD: Jim, I can see it on your face, as you’re saying that. I’m smiling as I listen to you say that. You find genuine passion in helping other people. And I feel that myself, I admire that in you. I think that it’s such a good mindset to have this idea, that really, I just enjoy helping people. And I think all of us do in many ways, at least many of the people I speak with about this on a personal level, is this feeling of gratification and satisfaction of being able to make an impact on someone and being able to help someone and recognizing that along the way, as you’re doing that, as you’re making those introductions, or you’re helping point someone in the right direction, you really are making a positive impact. I think so much of networking, in really being successful at networking and building a network to begin with, comes to just being that person that wants to continuously help people and always putting your hand up and saying, “Hey, how can I help you? How can I do this for you? Let me help you here.”
Because you do that enough, again, and again, over time, you start to build that positive rapport with people, that good relationship with people that does help you ultimately have a strong network, but it’s not from any one specific act that you did. It was because the mentality you have, the constant approach you have is, “Let me help. How can I help you? What can I do for you.”
[00:19:23] JR: That’s spot on and by the way, I would add that, there are various different types of business development people out there. And there are some that are take, take, take. And those are the people that you get on the phone with or on a Zoom call with or you meet them at a networking event, and they don’t come up for air for 30 minutes just talking about themselves and the features and benefits of their service or their product. On the other end of the spectrum, there are genuine, authentic givers that expect nothing in return.
But somewhere in the middle, there are like these fake givers and they’ll say you know, “How can I help you?” And if you call them on it and say, like my standard response would be, “I’m looking for introductions to business owners who are happy to chat with me. They may have a great lawyer or a great law firm, and that’s fine. But I just want to talk to them and learn about their business.” And if they say, “Yeah, I can introduce you to a couple of those people.” And then nothing happens, those are people that make the offer, and it’s an empty offer or an empty promise, and they have no intentions of introducing you to anybody but they know, it’s important to say, “How can I help you”, but the follow through, they totally fail on the follow through. So, they’re not authentic.
[00:20:41] AD: It’s exactly the word that comes to mind. In a couple of our podcasts, we’ve talked about this, and I spent a decent amount of time thinking about authenticity, and it’s another one that’s difficult to sometimes point to what exactly it means, but at least the framework I try to use, is your way of thinking in your head truly in alignment with your actions and what you’re describing is someone who in their head is thinking to themselves, “Oh, don’t forget, I have to ask this person what I can do for them.”
So, they do it, but not actually saying, “I want to help this person. How can I help this person? I should ask because I want to help this person.” It’s mindset. It’s all the way of thinking. It’s all the internal dialogue that we have with ourselves that dictate some of that, and I can understand where when you’re busy, and you feel like you’ve got a million things to do, it can be difficult to have the right mindset of saying, “Well, how can I add something else to my plate by genuinely offering to help someone?” Right? That’s hard. Where’s that balance?
I do believe that if you’re going to offer that up, if you’re really gonna say, “Hey, how can I help someone”, be genuine in that. Really mean that. Don’t just say it just because you think you’re supposed to say it.
[00:21:43] JR: And follow up. Many folks who do business development fail at follow up, not intentionally. It’s not like they made an empty promise. Their follow up is all hole and stuff falls through the cracks. It reminds me of my prior work life, when I had the shoe business, one of my associates, we used to travel a lot together and go to see clients and customers. I had a little pocket notepad and a pen that I always had in my shirt pocket. I’d make notes on there, I’ll never forget, he said to a client, he said, “Jim’s writing it down, it’s going to get done.” So, I don’t have that pad anymore. I have a bigger pad that I use at my desk. But it’s true. If I write it down, it’s going to get done.
[00:22:32] AD: The follow up is it’s a really important element of networking, and I think one that’s always overlooked in many – I shouldn’t say always, but is largely overlooked of the value and the importance of it, because you spend all the time, you go through having a meeting you spend time connecting with someone, and then you don’t do anything. You don’t send a note, you don’t say thank you, you don’t – it’s over, it disappears. And that just stops the momentum of any form of a relationship building you could have had and it’s even worse, if there was something you said you were going to do behind it, right? If you said, “I’m going to do this”, and you don’t do it, it makes it that much worse.
But in general, just following up is such a simple task that now again, it’s extra work, it’s more things you have to do, it’s extra stuff on your plate that we all have to figure out how to get our tasks done. But it is such a critical element when it comes to building a relationship with someone.
[00:23:23] JR: Can you imagine in my world, the number of attorneys at our firm who have boxes and drawers full of business cards from people that they met pre-pandemic days, at networking events, that are really good prospects are really good centers of influence that they’ve never followed up with. I hear you loud and clear and you’re right. Why do all this work and not follow up? So, the follow up is key, and follow up is where most of us fail. And so, knowing that, if you’re one of those who follows up, you’re already way ahead of the game, right?
[00:24:05] AD: That’s for sure. One of the programs that we have, we talk about how to create some structure behind making sure you are improving and you’re networking. A key element of that is we recommend people carving out a block of time that we call administrative time for networking every week. That can be anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour just depending on how much your role is revolving around network, but it’s these administrative tasks, the little follow up, making the introduction you said you were, entering the contact info in the CRM, putting the notes about the contact in there.
All these things that nobody really likes to do, it is administrative in many ways but it’s also the key, the real key of being successful long term. If you just tell yourself, “Well, I’ll get it done later. I’ll get it done later.” Then it piles up, right? We’ve all gotten those points, the business card stacks, I haven’t had those in a while, given COVID. You get a stack starting to build and be like, “Oh, I got to follow up with all these people.” I’ve just learned this, we help the clients we work with around this, we say, “Listen, just carve out this time, once a week, just put this on your calendar, and stick to it and just do all of it in one block. It’s really not that bad if you just do it that way. Just get it done.” I mean, it’s such an important element.
[00:25:21] JR: You’re so right. And by the way, calendar blocking is a great way to get that accomplished. I’ve got things on my calendar that are blocked out for personal reasons or for work stuff. It works, because if it’s on your calendar, chances are, you’re going to see it multiple times, and you’re going to do it and you’re going to treat just like it’s a meeting. So, if it’s follow u up, if it’s reading, if it’s exercising, whatever it is, you got a better chance of doing it if it’s on your calendar, than if it’s not.
[00:25:57] AD: I heard you say earlier that failing to plan is planning to fail, which I think is a great statement. What I’m hearing you here, when we’re talking about time management, getting everything done, all ties back to you have to work tirelessly, if you really want to genuinely help people, because the more you want to help, it just creates work. And this really all comes down to some level of personal management, time management, planning, discipline, making sure all of this stuff happens. I want to dive into the planning aspect and talk about from your perspective, what’s important around that? And how do you make sure that you can be thoughtful and intentional in planning your time, so that you can get all of this stuff done, while still doing your job, still doing everything else in life that you have to do?
[00:26:42] JR: I try to plan my first meeting at 9 AM. I used to start at 7 or 7:30, but now, I do my morning walks and workouts, get myself ready. I like to be at my desk by 8 o’clock, and then start with my first meeting at 9. And then I try not to take any meetings after 5 PM because that’s the time when I can go through some emails and return some emails, or do the follow ups that I told people I would do. If I told them I’d make an introduction, I want to make sure I do it.
I mean, for me timely means in the next 24 hours, phone calls to make, et cetera. Fridays, I have blocked out my Fridays for no meetings. I blocked it out for a coffee meeting in the morning and a lunch meeting. But I’m not doing Zoom meetings or events on Fridays. That’s my day to really catch up on any project type of work that might take 30 to 60 minutes or more of heavy concentration. I try to do that on Friday. So, I’m not working the entire weekend. That seems to work well for me.
I’ve also become, as things are opening up and there are more in-person events, I become much more selective in the events that I go to and when they are. So, if it’s a breakfast meeting, and it’s not too far away, and it’s from 8 to 9:30 or 8:30 to 10, I’m in for that. If it’s an evening, I’m much more select, because I like to be home with my family. I don’t like to get in the car and travel too far for these meetings because they can be a bust. So, I’m very select.
I try to go to meetings of groups that are membership groups, where I’m a member or a sponsor. Those are very meaningful to me and I feel I’ve made a commitment to the other members to show up at those events and I do. If it’s something outside of a membership group that I’m in, I really look hard at those events to see if it’s something that I really need to go to.
[00:28:45] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, bringing you candid conversations with leading middle market professionals.
[00:28:54] AD: What I hear from you is that you’re very thoughtful and intentional with your time. You have time blocks that you’ve given yourself space to get certain things done, and blocks where you’ve just purely, you’ve held the time. After 5 PM, I try not to have meetings because – or in Fridays, I try not to have Zoom meetings. I think that’s so important to not just let whatever comes at you, just land wherever it wants to land on your calendar. Because it’s all too easy to just, “Oh, I can fit it in here. I can put it here.” Any time always available, and the byproduct of that is you aren’t efficient, you aren’t effective, you don’t get the real work that you need to get done, done.
And the reality is you still excel at what you do, you still get everything that you need to get done, done. But you’ve put some of these parameters in to help hold that space. And then with the events or where you’re spending your time, you are being very thoughtful and intentional, stepping back and saying, “Okay, why would I do this? Does this make sense? How does it benefit? Where is the best use of my time? And does it fit within the parameters and the kind of the structure I have for myself?” Is that a fair way to summarize that?
[00:30:03] JR: That’s exactly right. I think on the other – if you look at it from the other side, people asking you for some time are way more understanding today. So, if somebody wants a Zoom meeting or a phone meeting, because they want to learn about some networking opportunities, or they want to talk about their career transition, my response to them is, “Glad to help. Are you available for a 30-minute Zoom call or a 30-minute phone call?” And I give them the date and the time. That’s really all it takes to get this done.
If there’s follow up after that we do another 30 minutes some other time. But that initial is a 30-minute phone or Zoom call. Pre-pandemic, that would be a coffee meeting or a lunch, which was no less than an hour, right? Well, you got a 20 or 30-minute drive, an hour there and a 20 or 30-minute drive to the next meeting. So, I think this has made me and everybody else so much more efficient with their time, and so much more productive with their time.
So, another thing that I’ve done is I really am trying not to go out for coffee and lunch meetings during the week. That’s why I’ve reserved Friday for that. Because every time I get my car, it’s 20 or 30 minutes to get there, and an hour meeting and 20 or 30 minutes to get home or to the next meeting. All of the sudden, you see your time melting away. So, I can be very efficient and productive, right here from my home office.
[00:31:39] AD: I’ll talk from the perspective of our typical listener, being a professional service provider, understanding that at some level, you serve the client and there’s work, there are things you have to do, there’s a lot that is just totally out of your control, right? It’s a career path that that does leave – take a lot of control out of your day in many ways. At the same time, you also have a lot of flexibility, right? As a professional, you can get your job done anywhere, there’s typically some level of flexibility built in. And most professionals have the ability to dictate their calendar, at least to some extent.
What I have done myself and I challenge others to, it sounds like you do this as well, is just to be thoughtful about blocking your time and saying, for example, today, we’re recording a podcast today, obviously. I have two other podcasts I recorded today and that’s because today is podcast day for me and doing that in a day and sitting and just being here doing that all day is a lot easier than trying to do one here, one there. And then to your point of meetings, tomorrow I have a lunch, I have a coffee and then I have a networking event.
[00:32:37] JR: Your day is shot.
[00:32:39] AD: Exactly. But that’s what my day is for his for that, where on Wednesday, I have nothing of meeting sorts. I have time totally blocked off to do work, to do the stuff that I have to do. Recognizing that when you can and you know, I understand it’s not always possible, but to do your best to be thoughtful about, okay, this day of the week, I try to do my meetings. And if you plan with people far enough out, it’s usually not that difficult to make that work. Three weeks out, I can meet this day or this day. Do either of those work for you, right? And typically, you can make meetings work within some kind of a framework, you just have to be thoughtful about what you’re putting on your calendar and when.
[00:33:16] JR: Yeah.
[00:33:16] AD: Jim, this has been great. The last question I really want to go in here and ask you is, you look around you and you work in a law firm with, you said, over 200 professionals that are on one hand, they all have to be doing legal work and billing legal services. But you’ve also shared that you have a culture of origination and that everyone in your firm has some responsibility, or expectation around having a book of business.
As you look at that, not necessarily calling out anything in particular. But what are some of maybe the general challenges you see in ways that people can overcome balancing that workload and getting out there and being better at developing business?
[00:33:55] JR: In a law firm like ours, Offit Kurman is a very entrepreneurial, very innovative and very progressive, very businesslike, those are adjectives you don’t normally hear associated with a law firm, but we truly are. We’re run like a large business. Yes, we have what we call the origination culture, which means that we have expectations for every attorney to be able to build their own book of business and we provide the tools to get them there. We have sales training, we have marketing support, whatever they need. We have the technology, tons of tools for them to get there.
Every attorney had a specific starting point based on where they were when this kicked off, and sort of a roadmap of benchmarks for them to reach. Clearly, as you just mentioned, I don’t do client work. I’m not an attorney. I only do business development and I make sure I make that very clear. Attorneys do client work. They’ve got billable requirements. They’re busy. So, the marketing comes on top of that and building a business comes on top of that. However, it’s a little bit as they continue to build a book of business, they can do less production work, because they can build the business, bring in more clients, something has to sacrifice, and it’s usually the billable hours.
So, that’s how it works at our firm. And we encourage them, you know, market, build your book of business, reduce the bill fees, because you can’t do it all and we’ve got attorneys at the firm that are certainly capable of doing the bill production work. But tremendous value for the attorneys to be able to bring in work to the firm, it’s a value for the firm, and it’s a value for them also that their compensation is heavily weighted on the business they can bring to the firm.
[00:35:59] AD: I think that’s very common across professional service as a whole. And that’s always the crux of it, right? The crux is, well, I have to do the work, but I also have to sell the work. How do I balance that? I heard you saying, you and I’ve talked about this a little bit before, this even goes to one of your principles about working tirelessly, at some level, if you want to be successful long term, as a professional service provider, you have to go out there and develop these relationships and that is all on top of doing the work, and there is a period of time and a period of your career where it is a lot to juggle and there is no way around it.
But as you lean into it, as you do that more, as you make that a priority, as you continue to improve on that, over time, that transition does start to occur, because as you generate opportunities, generally speaking, this is how, obviously every circumstance is slightly different. But typically, as you start generating those opportunities, there will be others in your firm that you can help find do the work. That doesn’t mean that it’s not difficult. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have to work hard. It doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot to juggle. It doesn’t mean that at times, you’re going to feel totally overwhelmed and there’s too many things going on, and you have to slow things down in some places.
But it does mean that you have to lean into, and you have to really put the energy and the time into this, and that there is absolutely no shortcut to getting there. There’s going to be challenges along the way. But if you don’t do that, if you don’t really lean into that to developing that skill set, it’s never just going to happen, you’re never just going to magically have it one day. And if you truly want control of your career destiny and where you go as a professional, it comes down to being able to develop those relationships and being able to truly go out and interact with clients and help share ways that you can add value. Is that a good summary behind that?
[00:37:43] JR: That’s a perfect summary. I would add one thing and that is that being able to build your book of business gives someone job security at their current firm, or if for whatever reason they look to make a move. They have now become very appealing and attractive for another firm.
For example, Offit Kurman is recruiting 365 days a year, partner level attorneys who are not happy where they’re practicing law and are looking for a new landing pad. Offit Kurman is a great landing pad for those kinds of attorneys as long as they are a financial fit and a culture fit, and they’ve got a practice that matches at least one of ours and got that portable book of business because, as I joke all the time, leave it to the attorneys to make sure they have no non-competes. Every other person we know as a non-compete, but the attorney, so they can take their clients with them if their clients so choose.
We are constantly recruiting those kinds of partner level attorneys. And for many, many reasons, they could be unhappy where they’re currently practicing. And for many, many reasons, Offit Kurman is a great option for them as a landing pad.
[00:39:02] AD: It’s such a good point of it, the job security and the value of that because if you have that skill set, if you’ve developed those soft skills, and you’ve developed a strong network that you can leverage and you have those relationships and ultimately the ability to generate business out of it, your job security is in a completely different place. No matter whether you’re an attorney and accounting anywhere across the professional service spectrum, that will take you and put you in a totally different classification job security, whether that be working for yourself or working for someone else. When you have that network, it opens up doors and allows opportunities that you could never imagine possible without it.
[00:39:40] JR: You got it. Exactly.
[00:39:41] AD: Jim this has been great. I’m going to go through and give just a quick recap of our episode here. So, feel free to chime in if there’s anything I missed here. But we we started off our conversation around what really makes you good at your role and you’d said that you have a solid network and every day you really think about ways to leverage your network and to help your network. You had mentioned that good soft skills and high EQ was essential, genuinely wanting to help people and working tirelessly. And as we peel those back a little bit, leveraging your network really came down to a way of thinking and saying, “What does my network want to hear from me? How can I add value to my network?” Again, the way of thinking was the important element of this.
In terms of emotional intelligence, you talked about the power of being vulnerable, of being empathetic, and really having the right understanding that we all have challenges, we all have struggles, and the more human you can be, and the more you can truly just be yourself and genuinely build a connection with someone else. It does help you build a strong relationship with them, which is essential to your success here. But what that all came back to was that the mindset the help, the mindset to want to help people, the way of thinking, and wanting people to walk away from interaction, saying, “Hey, this is really good. I enjoyed my conversation with Jim. This is fun.” Instead of having someone walk away saying, “Oh, it’s Jim again.” So, this is all again, it’s the way you’re thinking about it, the way you go into it and trying to build that connection.
We also talked about follow up being absolutely critical and how you can block time, you can hold space on your calendar, you can make sure that you find the blocks of space to make that follow up happen. But also, when we talked about blocking time and holding space, you had said that you are thoughtful in how you spend your time. In certain days, you’re not doing meetings, certain times, you’re not doing meetings, you hold time open to make sure you have time to get follow up done to get through your inbox, you hold space to get the work that you have to do. But you also hold time and say, “I’m going to go have a coffee”, or “I’m going to go have lunches these days.” You’re really thoughtful and intentional with that time, because it allows you to be effective and efficient in what you have to do, while still making sure that you’re available to give the time that it does take to network, to build relationships, because you do it without meeting with people. So, you still make sure that that time is available.
That really lead us into the conversation around, if you want to be successful in all of this, and frankly, it’s a lot of work. There’s no way around it. You have to put in the hard work. There are no shortcuts to building relationships. But knowing that if you do put in that effort, if you do spend the time building a network and start wherever you are in your career, start now if you haven’t already, and you continue to put that effort in, it will pay dividends in the long run. It will open doors and opportunities in places that you could never imagine, the example you thrown in there was job security and how much that in its own happens just simply by having a strong network and a book of business and recognizing that everything you and I talked around, on business development, being successful on this, really comes back to having the right mindset, looking for ways to help, and just working hard at it. Really putting in the effort and being thoughtful and intentional and how you work hard to make sure you’re effective in what you’re doing.
Is that a good summary? Is there anything that I missed there from our conversation today, Jim?
[00:43:03] JR: That is a great summary. I’d like to add one short phrase and that is, to be successful in business development, you have to be both patient, and persistent. So, think about it, patient and persistent. This is a marathon, not a sprint. So, you’ve got to be patient and persistent. If you’re going to get PO’d because the guy didn’t call you back right away, they didn’t hire you right away, you’re not fit for this job. What I do is a very long sales cycle. If I expect to close everyone on the first call, or the first time, that is the wrong expectation. So, just remember, patience and persistence, because this is a marathon, not a sprint.
[00:43:57] AD: So well said there. So well said there, Jim. Thank you. I appreciate you adding that in there. For our listeners, we’re going to do a call to action as we always do. The call of action that I was going to go with and I think we’re going to do two now, because you’ve inspired me on this a little bit. So, first call to action here is block some timeout on your calendar in the next week, block 30 minutes out and get your follow ups done. Get all of your follow ups done. Catch up, get those old emails out of the bottom of your inbox, the one that you’ve been kicking around for six weeks, that’s still sitting there –
[00:44:24] JR: One that you don’t want to touch. That’s the one that you should get to first. The one that keeps going to the bottom.
[00:44:31] AD: Hundred percent. So, block that 30 minutes out and flip – put your inbox in reverse sort and start at the bottom and get that email out of there, make that follow up happen. And then on top of that, I really do want to encourage people to reflect on your ability to be patient and persistent. And persistent is sometimes easier to keep kind of pushing forward. The patience is the real hard part at times and recognizing that you feel like you’ve done so much, well, what am I getting out of this? Or when is it going to benefit me? How much more of this do I have to do before I finally see some of the benefits from this? That’s the patient side of this and I really, I want to challenge everyone to just think on where you can be patient and persistent as you look to develop your network and ultimately build out relationships that will help you long term in your career.
So, Jim, for our listeners, how can they get in touch with you?
[00:45:21] JR: Well, I’m all over LinkedIn. So, they can find me on LinkedIn. The name is Jim Ries at Offit Kurman. My email is [email protected]. If you reach out to me, you will hear from me right away, I promise.
[00:45:50] AD: Awesome. Well, thank you, Jim. We’ll make sure to link that in the show notes below as well for listeners so you can find Jim on LinkedIn and reach out to him and have a conversation.
So, Jim, I really appreciate you coming on here today. Enjoyed this conversation. We got lots of great information in here and hope all of our listeners enjoyed as well.
[00:46:05] JR: Alex, you’ve been great. I appreciate your help in getting me through this. You’re a wonderful facilitator, moderator and podcast host. Thank you so much for everything.
[00:46:15] AD: Awesome. Thank you, Jim.
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