Welcome to our first article for 2022 in the “BD tips from the inside” series, where we interview business owners and other industry leaders to find out the secrets of their success. In this interview, I’ll be sharing some inside tips on how to build and establish business networks.
It is all part of our approach at The BD Ladder to collaborate with key contacts and new connections to bring you a guest contributor who shares their approach to business development and marketing.
This month, Elizabeth Petersen chats to Andrew McGrath from Green Light Consulting, a company that specialises in the recruitment of marketing and business development roles for law firms in Asia and globally.
Read on to hear more about Andrew’s leap from lawyer to business development law firm leader and then into recruitment and learn his top 5 tips to building successful business networks.
What led you to establish Green Light Consulting?
Setting up Green Light Consulting was my second major career pivot. The first was from being a solicitor in Sydney to moving into law firm marketing; and then, many years later, to recruitment and consulting in the legal industry.
The first move, in my twenties, came was realising that being a lawyer was never going to make me happy – and I was young enough to take a risk, do some additional study, and find a career that utilised my legal knowledge and interest in people and building relationships.
I had a long and fulfilling career in law firm business development and marketing, which took me to Clifford Chance in Hong Kong after almost 6 years with Minter Ellison in Sydney, eventually leading an APAC team and being part of an amazing global network. I also worked for a US law firm and with JLL in Asia.
My business started from (free) requests from former colleagues in Europe and the US. who were looking for team members in Asia, which made me realise there was a gap in a niche market – no dedicated competition on the ground with law firm marketing experience and a true understanding of the roles, Asia nuances and the legal market here.
It was this network that gave me the confidence to set up Green Light over ten years ago – to have the support of my peers and industry colleagues, many of who remain clients today.
What business development and marketing strategies (including key account management) have you applied and what have been the most effective in building your business?
For me it is all about building and maintaining relationships – both with law firm BD/HR/Partners and candidates. Nothing is more pleasing than a happy client who refers you to other contacts, or (over time) placing the same candidate into a more senior role. Being able to offer something of value at no cost is also key – be it market intelligence, being a sounding board about a restructure, or introducing newcomers to the region to peers and other service providers (even giving advice on doctors, hairdressers etc). This is the most effective “account management” for me.
I also enjoy participating in industry events – speaking or sponsoring – to keep front of mind to existing clients or to meet new ones. Covid has obviously thwarted this, and I look forward to getting back to this soon.
At the end of the day, being honest, transparent, responsive and positive is key to building and maintaining business networks.
Tips and tricks for building business networks and connections – drawing on your overseas experience – how did you go about doing this?
In Hong Kong (and Asia generally) you have a mix of Expats and locals, so understanding both is imperative – different communication styles, building both networks etc – just as there are differences between generations (such as WhatsApp communication prevailing with the “younger” generation).
With Expats, helping them settle in and introducing them to their peers (and other service providers) has been appreciated. Being a sounding board for working with “local” team members across a diverse region and other cultural issues can also be a value-add.
With an increasing emphasis on candidates with native language skills, building my network with Hong Kong Chinese has been important – largely through referrals and attending industry events. There have been some great mentoring programmes that I have volunteered for, which I have also learnt from. As simple as it sounds, just keeping in touch with former team members, and guiding candidates at each step of the recruitment process, is the best networking/promotion I can do.
I also do a lot of work in Singapore – so investing in trips there to meet contacts in person, offer some training, and arranging coffees and drinks – has been invaluable in continually growing my business networks.
- Build and use your network – your network is vital and is particularly important in a service industry. Don’t be afraid to sound out your ideas with as many contacts as you can – and take their input onboard.
- Add value – offer sounding board advice (on careers; on market intelligence such as salary ranges or trends you are seeing, locally and globally), and making relevant introductions/referrals. Whilst usually for free, it is appreciated and often reciprocated with opportunities.
- Be visible – offer training, attend or sponsor events, be involved in relevant industry associations and use forums like LinkedIn (but don’t over-do it!).
- Back yourself – after doing your due diligence – however have a back-up plan. Life is too short if you are not happy in your career!
- Investigate all the hidden costs – not only licences, business registration, website maintenance etc – but market downturns. If you can, set aside a cash amount to cover any unforeseeable issues.
Andrew McGrath founded Green Light Consulting in 2011, a company that specialises in the recruitment of marketing and business development roles for law firms in Asia and globally. He has lived and worked in Hong Kong for 20 years.