Cramming in "biz dev" seems impossible, even though it should be a high priority. Of course, when there's too much work to fit into the day, no amount of "time management" will help—no magic can turn five minutes into six. But using a system to organize your work and manage your commitments can ensure that you won't lose sight of what's really important to your career—and it can enable you to dramatically increase the time you devote to developing new business.
CPAs agree that business development is vital. Yet, at their offices their biz dev files are invisible, completely buried beneath piles of client matter. New prospects lie dormant among existing client demands. Even when CPAs try to begin biz dev they lose focus, as the relevant information molders beneath mounds of other documents.
The solution? Create a filing architecture that separates "working" client and business development files from lower-value reference material. Note the 80/20 rule: Eighty percent of the work is done with 20 percent of the paper. Keep the important 20 percent (the working files) close at hand. Move the rest to a file cabinet or a drawer farther away. Clearing away junk and lower-value documents makes working biz dev files more visible, improves your ability to focus on that activity, and eliminates time lost searching for needed information. (As a bonus, the discipline of personal organization will help you delegate work to others.)
You should explicitly define biz dev's core actions—internal networking, external networking, activities that raise your visibility—and then put them on the calendar. Make lists of prospective clients and create recurring calendar appointments to stay in touch. Schedule time to write and edit articles for journals. Identify conferences where you can speak, set specific times to contact the organizers with proposals, and connect with your associates to develop the presentations. The steady accretion of these activities will result in more biz dev activity…and it will result in winning new clients.
Brett Owens is chief executive and co-founder of Chrometa, a Sacramento, Calif.-based provider of time-tracking software that records activity in real time. Previously marketed to the legal community, Chrometa is branching out to accounting prospects. Gains include the ability to discover previously undocumented billable time, saving time on billing reconciliation and improving personal productivity. Brett can be reached at 916-254-0260 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dan Markovitz is the president of TimeBack Management.