I am the managing partner of a 17 attorney law firm located in Rockford, Illinois. While we have an active business law practice representing small companies we are planning on beginning to work more with entrepreneurial and startup companies. How can we go about finding and identifying these companies earlier in their development - possibly even before they have actually launched their businesses?
Many of the larger law firms are developing entrepreneurship and startup practice areas as a means of beefing up their business practices with new sources of business. So, I believe that your plan to reach out to entrepreneurs is a worthwhile strategy if you can learn to think like an innovator rather than being trapped by precedents of the past and become part of their network. Here are a few ideas:
- Learn to think like an innovator, embrace opportunity, and react quickly. Precedent can be the enemy of innovation.
- Go where entrepreneurs go - don't just hang out with lawyers.
- Join business/entrepreneurial trade associations.
- Speak and present at entrepreneuria trade conferences.
- Attend entrepreneuria trade conferences and go to the educational sessions.
- Write and publish in entrepreneuria trade association publications.
- Get a booth and exhibit at small business trade shows. For example - in St. Louis we have the Small Business Expo - http://www.stlouisbusinessexpo.com/
- Become involved with (possibly sponsor) startup incubators in your local community or universities.
- Scan public documents (i.e. Secretary State, etc.) concerning new business startup filings.
- Become active in your local chamber of commerce.
You will increase your odds if you can develop relationships with entrepreneurs before they have launched their businesses - this may be when they need a trusted advisor the most.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC