Archive for December, 2007

Managing a Modern, Global Firm

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

As 2007 draws to a close, I would like to recommend one of my favorite books of 2007:  Managing the Modern Law Firm, edited by Laura Empson (Oxford University Press 2007).  The book analyzes large, international law firms, and explains clearly why some succeed–and others don’t.  For more on this topic, read my recent review. 

Scents: A New Client Development Tool?

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

Scents: the new client development tool.  Well, why not?

This week’s Economist discusses how odors–even faint ones– are proven to influence our judgments about other people.  Scents and Sensitivity describes a study in which participants reacted to photos of other people and rated their “likeability” while smelling even undetectable traces of various odors (both pleasant and unpleasant).  The undetectable bad odors negatively influenced how the participants felt about the people in the photos, whereas pleasant odors created a positive reaction.

So, if you want other people to like you–especially potential clients–should you alter your scent for a desired response? According to the article,  the study shows how scent can be used as a “powerful method of manipulation” in the business context. It suggests that business people might increase the success of their meetings by releasing small amounts of pleasant scent into their conference rooms.

So, could an attorney increase his or her rainmaking by wearing a pleasing scent? Perhaps.  If so, how can a lawyer determine which scents will appeal to which potential clients? 

A person’s cultural background may impact which scents smell pleasing.  To take a common example from the field of cuisine, the smell of juicy steaks likely appeals to beef-loving Americans but repels many Hindu Indian nationals.

Of course, a client’s personal preference will influence what he/she finds appealing, and there is no guaranteed way to know a potential client’s scent preferences–without asking. However, here are some rules of thumb about using perfumes and cologne:

1.  Do not wear too much.  If you fear that you have doused yourself too enthusiastically, ask a neutral third party (spouse, colleague, hotel concierge etc…) before entering a client gathering. Remove some in the bathroom before entering the event.

2. Women (and men) should avoid overly floral scents at business gatherings. Floral scents suggest femininity; while this is not bad, it may reinforce certain stereotypes.  Opt for a pleasing but gender neutral scent (like one produced by Hermes), or at least perfumes that is not excessively floral. 

3. As a general rule, scents with hints of citrus are considered pleasing in most cultures.

4. If you will be interacting with people from a culture that is unfamiliar to you, gather advance feedback about appropriate dress–and even scents.  Call (anonymously if you wish) embassy personnel or someone else familiar with that culture.

As long as it captivates others, why not add scent to your ainmaking toolkit?

Brand Yourself Authentically to Improve Business Relationships: Presentation to Georgetown University Alumni

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

This Tuesday I am speaking to Georgetown University alumni via a teleclass about using personal branding to improve business relationships. (Click link for handout:  Use Personal Branding to Boost Business Relationships.pdf.)  Even if you are not participating in the teleclass, refer to the handout’s suggested resources to learn more about personal branding.

When I speak to groups of professionals about cross cultural client development, the issue of”personal branding” always seems to arise. In other words, professionals want to know how to brand, market and present themselves in a way that communicates their attributes and enhances their rainmaking at home and abroad.

Tom Peters coined the term “personal branding” in his 1997 article for Fast Company called The Brand Called You. As Peters explained, “We are CEOs of our own companies:  Me Inc.  To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”  In other words, how you present yourself will greatly impact your career success. 

Competition for clients remains fierce in today’s global economy. One way that you can improve your position is to communicate clearly to everyone–but particularly to clients, prospective clients and co-workers–your uniqueness and value.

Make sure that your brand is consistently and correctly reflected in your website, business cards, demeanor, appearance etc… And perhaps most important, make sure that your brand is authentic.  Do not try to portray yourself as something that you are not. 

To figure out your brand, start by gathering feedback about yourself.  Use diagnostic tests (like 360s, Meyers Briggs, DiSC); feedback from colleagues, clients and peers; and other resources, to define your best attributes.  Use this data to figure out your brand–the positive and negative–and then take proactive steps to improve it.  Try to correct any unflattering traits (self centeredness, procrastination etc…) that negatively impact your brand and reputation.  Similarly, try to build on what is positive and special about your brand and reputation by enhancing your attributes.

So, brand–or perish.  After all, as Tom Peters said in his seminal article, “It’s a new brand world.”