[IMGCAP(1)]2014 should be a great year for your practice. Many signs within our industry are pointing to increased growth and profitability. However, it won’t just “happen” at your firm. The most successful firms select a few strategic initiatives at the beginning of the year and distill them throughout the organization for implementation at every level.

By changing course on a few select marketing, practice development, sales and/or people initiatives, you can build a stronger firm, be more profitable, and achieve the growth you deserve.

Consider these do’s and don’ts as great places to start:

1.    Do build a better leveraged model. Leverage is a magnificent thing, too good to underutilize (like the pun?). More leverage can increase job profitability, overall firm realization, and help to develop your people faster. Partners – don’t let me ever catch you with more than 1,200 billable hours. Plus, by better leveraging work, you give yourself more time for marketing.

2.    Do build a talent pipeline. I don’t predict finding good people will become easier anytime soon. So, don’t wait until you need someone to get started. Use LinkedIn to identify ideal candidates for existing or future roles at your firm, and then invite then to coffee on a regular basis throughout the year. This will give you a priority position when they are at the end of their rope with their current situation.

3.    Don’t blow a sale because you mismanaged the sales pursuit. Form the prospect’s perspective, how you manage the sales process is a direct reflection of how you will manage the engagement and conduct yourself as a professional. Plus, a solid discovery process is really the only way to build winning value propositions.

4.    Don’t write off time. You work too hard to be giving your time away for free. Start believing you’re worth every penny (and more) and watch your personal job satisfaction rise—along with your compensation. Don’t worry if you lose a few price-sensitive clients—because they probably weren’t the right fit for you anyway. You’ll be more personally fulfilled, and can refill you client base with clients who will pay full price.

5.    Do have a strategic growth plan. You may have growth goals, but how will you achieve them? That’s where the plan comes in. Without it, you have nothing but a dream. Map out what areas of your firm you want to grow, assess your ability to get there, and decide how you will fill in the gaps. Hire a sales person? Add a new service line? Add a lateral partner in a key practice?

6.    Do double the number of personal referral sources you have. Based on my experience, a few key referral sources are not enough to grow a practice (due to natural attrition). Set out to double the number of top referral sources by 12/31 and watch your pipeline grow.

7.    Do cross-sell all your services to top clients. This is perhaps the easiest place to find growth. All of your top clients should use all of your services. This also boosts client retention significantly over the long-term. Plus, when executed well, clients view your efforts as proactive and interested in their business and success.

8.    Do add a new strategic niche to your firm. Many firms lag in the consulting services needed to open doors with prospects and create winning value propositions in pursuits. What service(s) do you need to consider adding to your arsenal and how will you execute?

9.    Do have all your people participate in marketing. Get everyone trained in marketing basics, so they can contribute to the growth of the firm. Everyone won’t be able to contribute like the rainmakers do, but you’d be surprised how many cross-selling leads and opportunities can come from staff and seniors who are trained to recognize an opportunity – and bring it to someone at the firm who can reel it in.

10.    Don’t bite off more than you can chew at once! Most firms elect to pursue only a few initiatives per year and ensure they are successful before adding more to the plate.

So, where is your best opportunity for development in 2014? It only takes a few of these initiatives, executed well, to make a significant difference to your firm. Best wishes for a prosperous and healthy new year.