The importance of building a network
We often compare Plante Moran to an orchard. When new staff come to the firm, they have the benefit of enjoying the fruit from trees that were planted before them and the duty to plant new ones. But where do the seeds come from? One source is the reputation gained from serving clients well so that they come back and refer us to others. Another source is the connections that develop from a robust professional network.
No matter who you are or what business you’re in, a strong professional network is invaluable. A testament to that is LinkedIn, the work-focused, social-sharing powerhouse that’s taken networking to the digital age. But old-fashioned, person-to-person interactions still rule the day; within the past year alone, I’ve recommended a painter, a lawyer, an auto mechanic, a jeweler, and a builder — all because of strong personal relationships.
You can’t assume that people know you want their business; sometimes you have to come right out and ask for it.
I often share a story about a round of golf I played with a gentleman in my network. When he asked how business was at the firm, I told him it was great, but we always have room for new clients. Looking a bit surprised, he asked, “You’re looking for new clients?” I explained that we’re always looking for the privilege to serve new clients –– it’s how we grow and provide opportunities for our staff to advance and succeed. He immediately began jotting down the names of several business leaders he knew that might be looking for an accounting firm. Many of these referrals became excellent clients –– making this a great lesson for me: You can’t assume that people know you want their business; sometimes you have to come right out and ask for it.
And it’s not just practice development where networking becomes critical. It’s important from a recruiting perspective as well. There’s something about knowing someone personally that gives a recommendation meaning and clout.
We have an extremely talented and resourceful recruiting team, but we understand that relying on their efforts alone would put us at a tremendous deficit when it comes to attracting top talent. Why? Because our staff are our best recruiters, just like our clients are our best referral sources. Last year alone, about 30 percent of all available positions were filled via staff referrals. To help encourage those referrals, Plante Moran developed a bonus program for staff who generate the initial lead on an experienced candidate who’s hired.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “It takes one to know one,” and usually that has negative connotations. However, when our staff, who we consider the best of the best, refer a friend, colleague, or acquaintance from their personal networks, we’re pleased — because more times than not, their recommendations are spot-on, and they fit right in.