How to Grow Your Practice While Practicing

One of the questions I get most frequently is, “How do you find the time to work on your practice instead of working in your practice?” It’s usually asked more bluntly and sounds something like, “I can’t do the marketing because I’m too busy dealing with clients. I can’t do it all!” When these things are said or asked, they are usually accompanied with a great deal of frustration and an overtone of defeat.

I’m here to tell you that you can service your clients while developing your practice. You can find the time to build systems, market, and learn about and implement technology.


In one of three ways—none of which will be easy.

First, you can invest savings or borrowed money to hire people to help you either serve clients or develop the practice. If you choose to follow this approach, I’d suggest that you get help with serving clients and that you do the practice building stuff yourself. Most practice building involves relationships, and you need to cultivate those relationships yourself so they’ll benefit you for the long term.

You probably won’t take this approach, however. Odds are that you don’t have the savings—in fact, you may well have tremendous debt from school. On top of that, banks aren’t lending money to small businesses right now.

Second, you can divide your time between working “in” the business (doing the client service work) and “on” the business (doing the marketing, technology, and management). You might allocate 80 percent of your time to “in” and 20 percent to “on.” Is that the right mix? No. I just picked a number out of the air to illustrate my point.

If you do the 80/20 split, it’s going to take you five years to do a year’s worth of development work, right? That’s better than doing none, and you’ll be somewhere down the road rather than stuck where you are.

Third, you can kill yourself for a while and work two jobs. You can do the “in” thing all day and the “on” thing all night. You can sacrifice relationships, personal time, etc.

Looking back, I took a hybrid of the first and third approach. I started my firm in 1990, got married six months later, and worked like crazy. It was common for me to work from 6 AM until midnight or 2 AM. On top of that, I didn’t draw any income from the practice for about a year. I reinvested all revenues in the marketing and technology. There wasn’t much management going on in my small operation, but there was lots of marketing and as much technology as I could find in 1990.

One of the three approaches will work for you.

Of course, if you don’t pick one and take action, you’re going to be stuck where you are. In fact, if you don’t pick an approach, you’ll fall further behind because some of your competition will move forward.

Obviously, there’s nothing easy about taking any of these approaches. If you’re happy where you are, then don’t worry about it. If you’re not happy and if you’re complaining about the state of your practice, then you’re going to have to take action. What are you going to do?

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