As I met with a law firm partner this week, he reminded me of something professionals usually overlook—the importance of building relationships while employed by a firm or in the corporate world. Those relationships will hold you in good stead if you should decide to become your own boss.
This particular attorney started his own firm about a year ago after working at several large firms. Today, one of his main sources of business is referrals from lawyers—mostly associates he worked with during his years of employment. They are referring clients to his small and growing firm, who may not be the right fit for a larger firm.
Because he worked with these lawyers for years, they know and trust him, which makes all the difference. He now regrets not working harder to build more relationships because even when those former colleagues introduce him to other potential referral sources at the same firms, the lack of a personal bond makes referrals unlikely.
I can personally relate to this attorney’s experience. Before launching my marketing and public relations business, I was employed by several large professional services companies—Arthur Andersen and Houlihan Lokey, among others. For much of that time, I didn’t strive to build a network with the idea of going out on my own. It was only after I started my own professional services firm that I saw the opportunities I had missed.
You never know where business is going to come from, so take advantage of all the opportunities that present themselves to build relationships for now and the future.