Sometimes as an interim, finding the next assignment can be akin to climbing Kilimanjaro in flip-flops! You get cold feet and there are easier things to do with one’s time.
Any seasoned interim will tell you business development matters. When you are immersed in a live assignment, it’s difficult to make time for sleeping and eating, never mind schmoozing clients and service providers to secure the next piece of work. But this is exactly where you should be focusing your efforts. Always helpful to know where the next revenue stream is coming from in inclement economic times!
At its core, business development is simply a way of growing your business – whether that’s by increasing market awareness with Interim Service Providers (ISPs) growing the number of clients you have, or putting yourself in pole position for a contract extension.
Business development isn’t rocket science. I’m not saying securing that elusive next role or project opportunity is a cake walk – it does require focus and effort, but it’s not complicated. Here are a few simple principles that can make the difference between time in the boardroom and time on the bench:
Rule #1: Don’t be a one-hit wonder! Business development isn’t something you do just once. It should be a consistent and constant activity – if it isn’t already a part of your business plan, stop reading this blog straight away and write out the names of 10 clients you want to target!
Rule #2: You are only ever as good as your last assignment. Business development happens as much when you are on assignment as it does when you are between assignments. It’s far easier (and potentially cheaper) to secure work with a client who can see first-hand how you deliver. Keep your wits about you and stay primed for the next opportunity – and don’t forget to get some decent recommendations when you move from one project to another.
Rule #3: Visibility matters. Even if you are not working, it’s really important to stay visible – whether you do this via marketing, social media, actual networking, speaking engagements or a round of phone calls with former clients and contacts – unless you are changing career to become a Buddhist monk, it’s wise to let people know you haven’t gone into hibernation.
Rule #4: Focus, Focus, Focus. Clients and providers are much more likely to place you if they are crystal about what you offer and why you differ from the competition. I’m always slightly amused by twitter and linked-in profiles that seem to be a series of random adjectives strung together. Unless you are selling to a pack of cards, there is no point in being a jack of all trades.
If this all sounds a bit daunting, take heart – there is plenty of help available out there. In the UK, organisations like Business Link, Interim-Hub and the Institute of Directors provide plenty of courses and resources to support individuals who don’t view themselves as natural business developers. Practice makes perfect!
Lisa Bondesio is the founder of Chiridion Consulting. She provides common sense to corporate clients in times of transition and specialises in business change, strategy and stakeholder engagement. She has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, but thinks business development may be easier!