The curse of the marathon runner – we’re either running, or we’re talking about running. Apologies to everyone around me who isn’t a runner who’s had to suffer through my running and running-adjacent conversations over the last several months.

I’m 12 days away from my first marathon (in PARIS!) and I’m both excited and anxious about it. I joke that my life is either about work or running or trying to take care of my dogs – with little room for anything else. But it’s not an exaggeration.

So it’s no surprise that as I’m well into my taper (the period before the marathon where you reduce your mileage so that your legs will be fresh to run the 26.2 miles that the marathon demands), all I’m thinking about is running. What can that possibly have to do with business development? Quite a lot as it happens.

Tip One: You Need a Plan

While there seem to be some people who are natural runners and can head out and get ten miles under their belt without any issues or injury, for the rest of us, a plan is essential. There seem to be as many plans for running a marathon as there are marathons, but with a little research, you can find one that works for you, and will give you a good solid training base in the time that you allot to it (and you do need to allot some time).

For me, after running a couple of half marathons, and one odd-distance 18-miler last year, that plan was Hal Higdon’s novice 2 marathon plan. I went with a 16-week schedule, joined a gym for cross-training, trained long with friends and stayed accountable both online and off with my running buddies (some of who are traveling with me for the marathon).

Although I have that end goal in mind, training isn’t just about the finish line – it’s also about the steps along the way. It’s about logging the individual workouts, staying accountable, resting appropriately so that I can be in top shape for each new step (well, my chiropractor has a LOT to do with keeping me running too), and enjoying each run as it happens.

What does that have to do with business development?

Two important things. First, you also need a plan. While some people will have some luck if they go out to meet as many people as possible and tell them about the type of legal services they offer, lawyers are busy people. It’s FAR more efficient to have specific, measurable goals for your business development that allows you to focus your efforts clearly. With a strong strategy in place, you’ll never wonder how you’re going to achieve your goals, because you’ll always have the steps in front of you to point you in the right direction.

Second, it helps to surround yourself with people who are in this with you, and that you are accountable to. These can be colleagues in your office, or even a business development coach, if that’s what helps you to succeed. Arrange to meet monthly or quarterly, to share the steps you’re taking via email, or the successes that you’ve had. Put together a shared google calendar that identifies the progress that you’ve made – you can keep it vague to allow for privacy, but others’ ideas may spark some progress for you, and vice versa. With a measurable plan that has specific, strategic goals, and people that you can check in with, you’re far more likely to take the steps necessary to execute those individual steps and keep pushing forward.

Tip Two: It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

For me, at least, this is true. For some runners, it is all about the short distance. But for me, I’m in it for the long haul – and not just with this race as my end goal, but with making running a part of my life as the end goal. Each run I undertake is a building block. There are set-backs – I’ve had to readjust at times, like when I had piriformis syndrome leading up to my 18 miler last year, and had to scale back on my mileage. And there are lots of triumphs – when I first started running, I thought that I’d never be able to run 2 miles without stopping. And last weekend, I ran 20 miles.

I wanted results immediately. I spent a lot of time kicking myself for not sticking with running from when I first started (ten years ago), and wishing that results would come faster. But slowly and surely, with the right plan, and trusting my body, my instincts, other runners, and what I’ve read, I’m seeing results. And I’m looking forward to not only the finish of my first marathon, but a lifelong love of running. Well, maybe a lifelong love/hate relationship with running, if I’m honest.

Business development is like this, too.

So many people will go to a networking event or meet a potential client or referral source, and even with follow up, nothing will happen. They declare “THIS. DOESN’T. WORK.”

If I’d quit running the first time I went out because I could only manage thirty seconds at a time (seriously), I’d never be able to run more than twelve miles…which is what I ran on Saturday.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You have to commit to it, because you believe it’s right for you. Identify which tactics makes sense for you in business development – is it social media? In person networking events? Speaking engagements? Article writing? Other forms of content marketing? Etc. Are ALL of these tactics right for you? No – that’s the same with running. It’s not for everyone either. Maybe yoga is more your thing, or swimming or cycling. You know you feel better when you move your body, so you come up with the plan that works for you. Business development is the same. Create a plan with goals and a strategy, continue to refine that plan as you work it, and over time, you’ll find that you’re building business with the right people and seeing results for your hard work.

Anyone else running the Paris marathon in a couple of weeks? How about Boston (which is the day after)? Are there any other parallels you see between business development and running?

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Photo of Lindsay Griffiths Lindsay Griffiths

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. She is a dynamic, influential international executive and marketing thought leader with a passion for relationship development and authoring impactful content. Griffiths is a driven, strategic leader who implements creative initiatives to achieve the…

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. She is a dynamic, influential international executive and marketing thought leader with a passion for relationship development and authoring impactful content. Griffiths is a driven, strategic leader who implements creative initiatives to achieve the goals of a global professional services network. She manages all major aspects of the Network, including recruitment, member retention, and providing exceptional client service to an international membership base.

In her role as Executive Director, Griffiths manages a mix of international programs, engages a diverse global community, and develops an international membership base. She leads the development and successful implementation of major organizational initiatives, manages interpersonal relationships, and possesses executive presence with audiences of internal and external stakeholders. Griffiths excels at project management, organization, and planning, writes and speaks with influence and authority, and works independently while demonstrating flexibility in thinking, especially in challenging situations. She also adapts to diverse and dynamic environments with constant assessment and recalibration.

JD Supra Readers Choice Top Author 2019

In 2021, the ILN was honored as Global Law Firm Network of the Year by The Lawyer European Awards, and in 2016, 2017, and 2022, they were shortlisted as Global Law Firm Network of the Year. Since 2011, the Network has been listed as a Chambers & Partners Leading Law Firm Network, recently increasing this ranking to be included in the top two percent of law firm networks globally, as well as adding two regional rankings. She was awarded “Thought Leader of the Year” by the Legal Marketing Association’s New York chapter in 2014 for her substantive contributions to the industry and was included in Clio’s list of “34 People in Legal You Should Follow on Twitter.” She was also chosen for the American Bar Association Journal’s inaugural Web 100‘s Best Law Blogs, where judge Ivy Grey said “This blog is outstanding, thoughtful, and useful.” Ms. Griffiths was chosen as a Top Author by JD Supra in their 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards, for the level of engagement and visibility she attained with readers on the topic of marketing & business development. She has been the author of Zen & the Art of Legal Networking since February 2009.