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sCAvenging for New Clients

by Robert Cooper

At the bottom of my resume, under skills and interests, it says “winner of Guinness Book of World Records’ largest scavenger hunt.” True story. Every year, the University of Chicago puts on a massive four-day affair (colloquially referred to as Scav), and many of the students get really into it. Like, really into it. Escapades of Scav are well documented elsewhere, but some highlights include building a working nuclear reactor, bringing live tigers on campus, and creating a working piano that pours cocktails.

The university has long claimed that this was the world’s largest scavenger hunt, but to be officially certified by Guinness it had to meet a number of specific guidelines, which didn’t align with the more sprawling format of Scav (e.g. a Guinness-certified hunt has a 1-hour time limit). So, in 2011, they decided to have a scavenger hunt within the scavenger hunt, where teams of four could sign up to compete in the mini Guinness-certified event. Despite not being very active in the overarching Scav, three friends and I decided we had an hour to spare, showed up, and ended up winning.

I give all this background to make it clear I know a thing or two about scavenger hunts, which is why it piqued my interest when Kenway announced a company-wide scavenger hunt in September. The focus of this scavenger hunt was to interact with people at companies that could use consulting help, and this approach was a novel way to encourage employees to increase their business development activity. This struck me as a great idea, since in the consulting world it’s often difficult to balance client work – which includes defined project plans, clear deadlines, set deliverables, and straightforward feedback on progress – with business development, a much murkier discipline. You can imagine that with a stable of scope-driven business/IT consultants, client work will often get the nod over networking.

That’s not to say that we aren’t intentional about gaining new clients. At Kenway, we treat “business development” a little differently than most companies. In fact, to get away from the salesy connotation of “business development”, we don’t even call it that, and instead use the term Client Acquisition (CA). We use that term to more accurately reflect what it’s about – not so much trying to “close” as much as we can and tally sales, but rather to intentionally develop relationships with those who can use our help (and help us) over time, enabling us to become trusted advisors in the process.

This approach aligns perfectly with Kenway’s focus on means over outcomes – every employee is expected to keep up to date with their contacts, seek to grow their network, and spread the word. But there are no sales goals attached to employees, nor any quotas or expectations placed on individual client acquisition results. I find this makes the activity of client acquisition much less daunting, as there is no pressure when grabbing lunch or coffee with a prospect, and no downside to reaching out to someone in your network even if they’re not currently seeking help. Still, some of us (myself more than most) could still use a kick in the pants when it comes to increasing our activity and breaking outside of our comfort zone to take the next step in reaching out to prospective new clients.

How can Kenway as an organization bring employees to the next level without clashing with its underlying culture? In other words, how can we implement a change management strategy that aligns our guiding principles with our growth goals? The scavenger hunt does just that. At our Q3 company meeting in September, we selected teams fantasy “snake” draft style to go after a list of 20 items which span the difficulty scale from as simple as reaching out to two people we haven’t contacted this year to as audacious as setting up executive interviews. Since we picked teams ourselves, each team is well balanced with individuals that have a range of CA expertise. Organizing teams this way fosters collaboration between employees with different skillsets, enabling CA novices to learn from the experts and giving experts a chance to coach others. Teams also add accountability – no one wants to hold their team back and keep their teammates from winning the prize.

Oh right, the prize. In true Kenway spirit, I’ve been focusing on the means rather than the outcomes – but there’s no denying this prize will be highly sought. As a visceral incentive, Kenway will pay for each member of the winning team to check off an item on their bucket list (within reason). Organic change management is key to fostering growth, but it never hurts to grease the wheels with a tangible goal to get everyone moving forward.

So, will I follow up on my world record victory with another scavenger hunt win? Too early to tell, and honestly all of the teams are neck and neck as I write this. But if working at Kenway has taught me anything, we’ll find that there’s more value in the hunt itself than the outcome.

If you would like to learn more about how our culture values the means, visit www.kenwayconsulting.com. To learn about how we can help your organization, send us an email at info@kenwayconsulting.com.

 

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