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Is Our Greatest Potential for Growth Sitting out on the Curb?

By Joey Havens

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Shortly after we moved to Jackson, Mississippi, and still early in our marriage, CeCe and I were making our way back to our house through our new neighborhood. It was a beautiful fall Saturday morning and we were enjoying the day as we had no big plans. Our neighborhood was one where most of the neighbors knew each other and every yard was very clean and neat. As we rounded the curve about three houses from ours, we came to a large pile of household goods sitting by the curb. It was obvious that we had a neighbor who was moving and they were cleaning out. As we slowly rolled by, I came to an abrupt halt when I saw a grill sitting out on the edge of the pile. Now I will be the first to admit, I have never seen a grill I didn’t like—it’s my favorite way to cook and I love to cook. As I started to get out of the SUV, it appeared that this grill was in really good shape—in fact I was pretty sure it was in better shape than mine.

This was just too good to pass up. As I began to load the grill into my SUV, CeCe angrily asked me, “What the hell are you doing? Surely you are not taking our neighbor’s grill? I have never been so embarrassed!” I noticed she slid down a little lower in her seat and did not look at me on the short ride home. My explanation of how this grill was better than the one I was using fell on deaf ears and it felt like she did not speak to me for a week. I cooked a lot of great meals on that grill but I admit I was never brave enough to remind her that they were cooked on my curbside find. I’d bet if that neighbor had come outside, I would be living in the garage with that grill today.   

So what does my curbside find have to do with us today?  As we think about our existing clients and how we serve them now as compared to when we first brought them into our firm, do we put forth the same effort to understand their changing world and serve them like a new client?  OR do they feel like the grill that has been set out by the curb? I know it’s a tough question, one that makes us stop and take a critical look at ourselves and how we are serving our most important relationships. 

I know in our firm, too often, although the goal is to conduct a major spotlight review and proactive meeting with an existing client, it never hits the calendar as a priority.  We get too busy doing other things. We get complacent and since they are great clients, we assume we are meeting their needs and we just keep billing them for what we have always done. Our recent Net Promoter Scores show over and over that we are not being proactive enough with insights and new ideas for our existing clients. We get high scores on compliance and responsiveness—I think we are like a lot of firms in this aspect—but I also think we all have existing clients who feel like the grill by the curb. 

At a recent meeting of managing partners of top 100 firms, one MP asked the group, “If we focused on our existing clients and really proactively met their changing needs, how much would our firms grow?” The resounding response from the other MP’s was a low of 50% to an almost consensus of 100%. 

Our greatest potential for growth and our most profitable growth is sitting out on the curb of many of our firms. What’s on your curb? If we don’t pull them back inside quickly—another firm will.