Business Development Baggage Defined

Let’s get granular.

What exactly is “BD Baggage”? Effectively, it is any underlying resistance or obstacle that is getting in the way of moving forward with business development goals. “BD Baggage” may be directly related to business development itself. For example, partners may:

  • Have a less than helpful mindset around or orientation to business development.
  • Have a significant fear of or anxiety around business development.
  • Have a lack of confidence around their skills as a lawyer or a business developer.
  • Lack the motivation to do it.

Often, however, “BD Baggage” is not related to business development at all. For example, it could involve:

  • Time management issues ranging from over-commitment to challenges with prioritization to procrastination.
  • Stress management challenges that are getting in the way of engaging in business development activities or getting optimal results when they do.
  • Lack of effective communication skills such as asking for support or clarification when needed or saying “no”.
  • More political savvy like needing to repair an internal relationship with someone who could have an important impact on their business development efforts.
  • Better people management skills such as delegation or giving constructive feedback to under-performing associates in the absence of which they have less time and energy to focus on business development.

And, of course, “BD Baggage” can be, and often is, a combination of two or more of these challenges.

Let’s go back to John who was mentioned in the last blog post. John had several pieces of “BD Baggage”. From a business development and marketing standpoint, John had solid technical skills and he also had the overall confidence to engage in business development.  Deficiencies in either of those categories can be a serious impediment to successful business development. Thankfully, however, that wasn’t John’s issue. He had some good contacts he had been able to convert to clients; he had become a trusted advisor for several institutional clients; and he was a strong networker when he was able to get out to events. That, combined with the fact that he was a highly skilled technical lawyer, can be a solid script for business development success. And yet, John was struggling to increase his results and his compensation was suffering.

Where John was getting stuck and the key sources of his “BD Baggage” centered on low energy and low engagement. On the engagement side, he was disappointed in his compensation, particularly in light of how much he had been working over the past few years. He had become over committed and burnt out. What’s worse, he felt trapped by his non-billable commitments because they were impeding his ability to get out and sell. He had become increasingly resentful because he was afraid to let go of the non-billable commitments for fear that his compensation would go down and felt the time he was already spending at the office kept him from seeing his family. He wasn’t willing to divert more time away from them to invest in the business development efforts he knew might help turn his situation around. His low engagement, not surprisingly, went hand in hand with his low supply of energy. Even when he was able to find the time to engage in business development activities, he could barely muster up the energy to make an impact. In short, he felt hopeless about his situation and it had basically immobilized his business development efforts.

Does John’s story strike a chord? Are there aspects you can relate to? Stay tuned to the next post in this blog series.