Spending Money to Build a Network

Building a network requires money.  In addition to overhead, among the costs you are likely to incur are:

  • Membership fees
  • Entertainment expenses
  • Travel expenses
  • Cost of small gifts, such as books

The top managers of professional firms often recognize need to spend.  The head of North America for a human resources consulting firm recently told his management team, “The firm should be paying for your lunch every day.”  Of course, the firm would only do so if the consultants were also picking up the tab for a guest. 

James McKinsey, the founder of McKinsey & Company, exhorted his colleagues in a similar fashion.  Within the past year I have heard the managing partner of a mid-sized law firm push his partners to do the same.

You don’t have to go much lower in most firms to hear a different message.  The office or practice head, out of whose budget the expenses come, is often less supportive of spending on long-term relationship development.  He will often question the value of the expenditure, forgetting that aspiring rainmakers need to practice where it’s safe, that they need to sort through a number of contacts to find each one who warrants long-term attention. 

The direct supervisor often fears that his people will run up excessive expenses for which he will be held to account.  And younger professionals often spend most of their time under the guidance of those who manage case, project or account teams.  Not too good at rainmaking themselves, these people keep the young professionals focused on delivery, rather than on lunches.

If you want to get the younger professionals in your firm to spend more time developing relationships, insist that they spend more money.  You can ask them to:

  • Have lunch with a client at least once a week.
  • Better still, give them a modest budget and insist that they spend it.

If you are a young professional, ask how much you can spend on relationship development.  If you don’t get a clear answer, as is likely, create a modest plan with a budget and ask for its approval.

Chances are, if you aren’t spending anything on relationship development, you aren’t developing any relationships.

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