One great way to distinguish yourself from peers and to attract and have clients for life is to understand the business of your client, as discussed in Making Partner. Here are five ways to do that:
- Read all of client’s big documents.
If client is a publicly traded company, read the annual and quarterly reports filed with SEC and the latest prospectus. These documents contain valuable information about the company, the business challenges it faces, and its strategies for dealing with them. If the client is a privately owned company, read a recent Offering Memorandum that it used to attract venture capital investment or the client’s recent comprehensive business plan.
- Read all of the competitors’ big documents.
Learn who your client’s strongest competitors are and review their disclosure documents. Comparing your client’s disclosures to those of its competitors will provide lots of information about your client’s industry, the different strategies implemented by the various players, and the hot button industry issues.
- Review the client’s web presence.
Find out what the client says about itself on its own website, blogs, twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. This task may be good, productive work for an intern who may have the time and technical know-how to surf the net and find lots of relevant information that cannot be found through merely typing in a search term in Google. Instruct the intern to check websites of competitors, industry websites, and anything else related to client’s business or industry.
- Read the trade press.
Learn which trade associations your client belongs to and subscribe to the associations’ publications to get a sense of where things are going in the industry. Go to trade association conferences as well.
- Visit the client.
Ask the client if you could spend a non-billable day or two at their office in an effort to better understand their business. Go see how the products are actually made and sold. Get your hands dirty. Ask questions. Meet with the workers. Learn the different personalities of managers and subordinates alike.
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