As a business partner, I am especially looking forward to interacting with membership and engaging in meaningful conversations on how I and the many other business partners in attendance can be a valuable resource for each of you and your firms. This may come as no surprise, but these interactions are at the top of my mind. But what may surprise you is why.
Over the past few years, I’ve been involved in many of the speaking engagements on the importance of member and business partner interaction and engagement and how these interactions — when done correctly — can be beneficial for everyone involved. In fact, you may have even seen a humorous yet educational video on the dos and don’ts of member-business partner interactions that I helped create with ALA member Katie Bryant, CLM, and VIP business partners GLJ and VIBE. (If you haven’t had a chance yet, take a moment to check it out.)
While perhaps a bit exaggerated, the video demonstrates some key elements for avoiding common faux pas and, perhaps more importantly, creating mutually beneficial engagements. Further, I think it is safe to say that we can extrapolate a few dos and don’ts for all:
- Be kind.
- Become a resource.
- Respect time.
- Invest in long-term relationships — play the “long game.”
- Listen, listen, listen.
- Learn and educate your team about ALA.
- DON’T be a pest; be a resource! “No” means no and “not now” means not now.
- Be kind.
- Utilize your resources (the business partners!) and share.
- Respect time.
- Provide opportunities for long-term relationship building.
- Listen, listen, listen.
- Learn about business partner goals.
- Be honest. If the answer is no or not now, consider becoming an advocate for the resources available instead.
A CULTURE OF INTENTIONAL COMMUNICATION
While these lists are likely not exhaustive, they do provide a good snapshot of ways we can all embrace the member-business partner relationship. Further, they provide an excellent jumping-off point for building what I like to refer to as a culture of intentional communication.
Let’s be honest. With every interaction we undertake, whether conscious or not, we all have our agendas. Business partners have quotas to fill and bottom lines to improve. Members have the needs and demands of their respective firms, attorneys, staff and partners to juggle. The point is not to ignore those agendas, but to mutually embrace that they exist and work together in order to see how those agendas can become overlapping goals. When we do this, we take our first step into the realm of intentional communication. Instead of shutting down or avoiding conversations because we don’t need something right now, we open up opportunities for building long-term relationships.
So as I said, let’s be honest. As a member, you can’t do business with everyone, and it’s OK to say you are not interested at this time, that you’re not the decision-maker for a specific offering, or that you are simply not in the market right now. Many of our favorite and highly productive relationships over the years have been with members who have never purchased one service or product.
How could that be? What these members do for us is advocate, introduce, invite and refer us to decision-makers, other members in their firms, or even other members of their chapter, which has led to great relationships and business. One of my favorite stories to tell is of a member in Arizona with whom we built a relationship with over years and years of interaction, all the while knowing she would never buy one product or service in her current position at her firm. Fast forward seven years later — this member changed firms, became a chief administrator, and her first call on day one in her new position was to … you guessed it! We now not only enjoy the fruits of maintaining a valued relationship, but are also honored to provide products and resources to this great member.
Over the last 14 years of GLJ’s relationship with ALA, it has become clear to us that the success we have experienced within ALA has come from one constant — our linchpin element of success if you will — the importance of obtaining a clear understanding of the goals of members and business partners alike.
Maybe your goals are about providing your chapter with quality education opportunities. Members, have you reached out to the business partners to see what kinds of educational resources they can provide? Maybe you’re interested in increasing membership. Business partners, have you considered how you can create long-term relationships within ALA by sharing with current non-ALA clients the many benefits of membership? Or maybe you are simply trying to find the right solutions for your firm. Members, are you taking advantage of the VIP business partner programs and offerings?
One thing is for certain: The first step is to start an honest conversation. And what better place to start that conversation than in the Exhibit Hall at Annual Conference!
At the end of the day, how we interact with each other in business settings is the key to building long-term fruitful relationships. With that in mind, I invite each of us to help make this conference a success by engaging with sincerity and intent.
That said, let me be among the first to welcome you to ALA’s 2019 Annual Conference & Expo!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alan Wilson is the National Program Director for GLJ Benefit Consultants (GLJBC). He started working with GLJBC in 2004 as an Employee Benefits Specialist. Since 2006, Wilson has spearheaded the effort within GLJBC to reach out to law firms nationally regarding their benefits and how to use those benefits to help attract and retain quality personnel. He has written articles for Legal Management, speaks frequently on benefits at conferences, and consults with individual law firms nationally.