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The Professional's Dilemma

Part Three of a Three Part Series
by Rosanne Beers
Career Coach

How to divide your time between billable hours and the activities that generate those billable hours is a challenge. The solution lies in a vision to pull you forward, good time management skills, and a plan that suits your style.

So far we've looked at the importance of a narrowed focus, some ways of maintaining focus, and how to develop a strategic plan that provides focus and structure for building highly prized client relationships.

This article examines how to develop and expand a professional support community that will propel you forward and nourish your spirit. Start by spending some time thinking about who you know or would like to know. Who do you admire and enjoy? This is the most important criteria to consider, because you're going to invest considerable time in these people.

Reciprocal relationships take time to develop and you can't wait until you are needy to start developing them. We all know people who operate like that and how unattractive that is.

The second thing to consider in selecting your support community is who and what each prospective member knows. Other professionals can be good choices, especially if you have similar types of client bases. Having similar types of clients makes it easier to commiserate, collaborate, advise and refer. For instance, an attorney who works primarily with small business owners and a coach who works with professionals in solo and small group practice are a good match. A corporate attorney with big business clients and the coach from the previous example is not as good a match. Of course, any two people who are well connected through community activities can benefit each other even when their client base is not compatible. Don't be too quick to discard names of people you truly enjoy.

You probably only have enough time to invest in about a dozen relationships, but if you cultivate and nurture 12 reciprocal relations, you will actually be connected to a network of about 3,000 people. The average person has a reach of about 250 people. If the people in your support community are good networkers, your potential reach is much larger.

Initially compile a list of 15-20 prospects. Then devise a simple system on your computer or using index cards to record what you know and like about each person. Include notes on their personality, key strengths, professional affiliations, expertise, community involvement, and personal interests. Then, over the next two to three months schedule a breakfast, lunch, or dinner meeting with each of the people on your list. Your purpose is to get to know them better. After each meeting add notes to fill in information gaps and on your sense of connection to each person.

During these meetings keep the focus on the other person. Most people quickly warm to talking about themselves, so allow them to do it by asking open-ended questions. When they turn the conversation to you, say enough to be responsive and then refocus on them. Remember the adage, "be interested, not interesting"?

After you've met with each of the people on your list, you'll have the information and gut instincts to choose a support community of 12. Get together with each of these twelve people at least every other month and call them to chat briefly on the off months. Block time to schedule these important meetings and phone calls once each month. Offer yourself as a resource to them in as many ways as you can. Hook them up with others in your network as appropriate. Clip and send them articles they would be interested in. When you hear of a win they've had, offer to celebrate it.

When you know that they are experiencing tough times offer to listen. You must also give other people space. It takes time to develop deep relationships, so use discretion. The key is to listen well, make offers of support, be gracious and loving when your offers are declined, and be consistent in your efforts.

People who fully implement the strategies in this series are amazed by how effortlessly they generate business and billable hours. And, many people have commented about the fulfilling relationships they have developed in the process of solving their dilemma.

I'd love to hear your success story. You may email me at [email protected]

�1999 by Rosanne Beers. All rights reserved.

Rosanne Beers specializes in working with professionals in sole and group practices, who want to grow their practices and manage themselves better. She also specializes in working with professionals who are dissatisfied with their profession to see if making some changes will make a difference, or if a career transition is in order.

Ms. Beers has just published a booklet called 57 Ways to Success On Your Terms, which sells for $5.00 for a single copy/ $4.00 for 2 to 12 copies (US funds). Send a self addressed stamped envelop (SASE) with 55 cents US postage WITHIN THE US. For postage quotes OUTSIDE the United States email Ms. Beers with your exact address and postal code. Also email for discounts on multiple booklets to [email protected] or call (515) 225-1245.

Mail your order to:

Beers Consulting
5003 EP True Parkway
PO Box 27066
West Des Moines, IA 50266
*Iowa residents add 5% sales tax.

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