John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker LLC
It used to be that top-down was viewed as a sure-fire way to grow your BV practice. Maybe not so much anymore.
If you got a call about meeting with a rainmaker who wanted to talk about joining your practice, you’d schedule one. Of course you would. It’s always been that way. Probably always will be. It’s likely that the due diligence filter you apply has changed, though.
The more experienced that someone is (and, by extension, the higher in the food chain), the more that idiosyncrasies come to the fore, and the more important it is to consider how well the individual fits in your culture. That hasn’t changed.
What’s different is more in the way that “rainmaker” gets defined.
In our view, BV practice leaders are more gun-shy about accepting assertions of revenue generation ability. In some cases, that’s because they have been burned in the past. Whether that, in turn, was because the individual was a little too fleet of tongue – or because the practice was so eager for the top-down growth – is hard to say.
Part of the problem may have been that the revenue stream was solid; it just didn’t match well within the new practice because of pricing differentials. Or, it could have been that not as many clients were ready to move with the rainmaker as everyone was eager to believe.
In any case, the bar has been raised. Some practice leaders are becoming more insistent that they will only spend time talking with individuals “who can bring a book of business of X.” The effort to authenticate that number – or, the pressure to produce quickly once on board – can tie everyone in knots.
Longer, stronger and steadier growth will come from careful attention to a bottom-up growth model. It will always be a challenge to find, hire and develop young professionals so that they rise through the ranks. Compensation will need to be structured to smooth the shift from a doer to a doer/seller role. Bonuses can be structured to encourage tenure. Equity ownership in appropriate quantity can be another element that enables you to keep the high-quality performer. The fact that some of them may leave along the way should not become an excuse to avoid the challenge.
It can often appear that the easiest route is to simply get your hands on that revenue-generator. As often as not, it can be a distraction.