A Marketing Lesson from Teddy Roosevelt: The Big Stick

Theordore_rooseveltI'm an admirer of our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, and have read many books about him.  His most famous quote is, "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."  This is applies directly to business development in law firms.

The issue arises when a law firm decides how they should hold their partners accountable for generating new business.  In my experience, some law firms are willing to put incentives in place to encourage partners to market or complete a personal business development plan. 

But most firms I've advised is loathe to hold lawyers accountable, by making business development a major issue at the partner's compensation review.  I call this carrying The Big Stick.

To have a business development program, it is absolutely essential that lawyers be held accountable.  See "Increasing Marketing Effectiveness At Professional Firms," a 2006 research study conducted by Suzanne Lowe and me. Accountability makes business development count; without it, biz dev is an optional activity.

Yet many partners are unwilling to include The Big Stick in their business development programs.  They don't want to be the ones to hurt another partner's feelings.  Some want to avoid responsibility and don't want to be measured themselves. But this is not the way to run a business.

If your firm truly wants to earn more revenue and get more business, you must have The Big Stick. My friend and co-blogger Patrick Lamb, a partner of Butler Rubin in Chicago, told us in our study, "We review marketing plans, because it's something measurable. Every partner has a certain number of base points (a guaranteed income) plus discretionary points. We took a certain amount of points of the base points and put them at risk - 4-7 points - and it's proven to be enough of an incentive. If a partner has not done anything, they do not participate in the bonus points; they are losing $30,000 to $40,000. This year, if they don't qualify to get at least half of the credit, the gate to the discretionary bonus is closed, and it becomes a six-figure monetary loss."

And here's the kicker: "If they ultimately don't reform, they won't remain with the firm," Lamb said.  When I hear this, I know that his firm is serious about making money.  The are carrying The Big Stick.  Teddy Roosevelt would be proud.

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Stark County Law Library Blog - November 15, 2006 9:14 AM
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