Metropolitan Client Services*, a small financial services firm, was struggling with business development. The partners in the firm were highly competent, responsive professionals who offered top-quality expertise to their clients. However, none of the partners was either skilled at or interested in developing new business. When the economy was strong, this was not a big problem. The firm’s reputation was well-known and clients came to them. But once the recession hit, revenues dropped dramatically. The partners knew they needed to increase their business development activities, but were very unsure how to proceed.
At that juncture, they were approached by another financial services professional, William*, who had built his own firm. He was a business development go-getter and he wanted to partner with Metropolitan. He had a different business model that he believed would drive higher revenues for the firm. His proposal was that Metropolitan buy his firm and bring him in to focus on sales.
The partners were interested but cautious. They had experimented with sales people in the past, with little success. Their culture was important to them, and they were not sure William’s business approach was a good match for them. They didn’t want to turn down a good opportunity, but they wanted to be sure that bringing William in would be a good investment.
Metropolitan retained Gail Golden Consulting to help them evaluate William. Their key questions were:
- Does he have ideas we have not tried?
- Are his business ethics compatible with our culture?
- What is his vision for the partnership?
- What is in it for him? For us?
- How would bringing William in change what the other partners do?
- How would he sell the Metropolitan brand? Does he get us? Will he sell our story?
- How well will he fit in with the Metropolitan team?
- How does he develop clients?
This assessment was complex because it involved both psychological and business questions. The consultant interviewed each partner to understand his/her ideas about the business development role and impressions of William. She then interviewed William, focusing both on his psychological fit for the role and on his business approach. She summarized her findings in a written report, which she presented in a feedback meeting with the two senior partners.
The consultant’s assessment was that William was a poor fit for the role. Culturally he was not a good fit for Metropolitan, his business approach would be a radical change for the firm, and his partnership proposal would benefit him much more than the other partners. She recommended that the firm not proceed with William.
The partners followed the consultant’s recommendation and terminated their conversation with William. Instead, they focused their efforts on improving their own business development skills. They maintained their company culture, and within a year they saw a significant increase in their revenue.
*Not the real names