Seven Attributes of Going Private
This month thousands of high value public sector leaders will make the sometimes scary, always exciting transition to private practice. Their experience is potentially valuable and timely – some luminaries will enter private law firm practice, others will join the Big Four or important strategy firms seeking to guide their most important clients with unique insights and experience. Others will directly join major corporate enterprises.
While each public luminary’s past history is interesting and can save future clients time and money, the public-to-private journey is by no means easy. There’s often confusion internally and externally about how to best use your talents and whether you are ripe for engagement or merely an interesting person.
Here’s the Challenge and the Opportunity
- The firm just hired an expensive, high-profile asset with high expectations on both sides
- The value of the luminary’s public sector relationships has a short shelf life unless intentionally nurtured
- It can be uniquely challenging to quickly integrate this type of public sector person into a private firm
- It’s easy to use these types of people in the wrong way and wake up in 18 months with unsatisfactory results
- Unwinding this kind of relationship in 18-36 months because it didn’t work out is painful for both parties
Except for a brief stint as a U.S. Senate page as a teenager, I’ve always been in the private sector. So I don’t know all the hurdles and rules you and your new firm must navigate. But perhaps these seven lessons learned from public sector transitions I’ve supported will smooth your path forward.
- Be clear on Personal and Firm Goals (“do your best” is not a real success measure)
- Be curious: Don’t assume that the same skill sets as a buyer or enforcer will translate to the world of business development…read up and invest in some personal growth
- As soon as possible, be clear about your commercial offering and avoid “losing slow”
- Set a strong foundation by studying how business development works in private practice; your personal time management – not your pedigree – is the real driver of future impact
- Optimize your network and act quickly: your current story has a short half-life, it must evolve quickly or it becomes a wasting asset
- Prepare for meetings deliberately (this is an art) and don’t go it alone but marshal firm resources
- Embrace the idea of a Pursuit Pipeline: you are creating and managing opportunities not just maintaining contacts
If you do even some of these things well, you are on your way to helping others – new clients and the next generation of luminaries to be hired by your firm. That’s a valuable role if you want it.
Frank Troppe is the Managing Director of the Business Development Practice at Catapult Growth Partners, if you’d like to share your experience in this area please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.