Public accounting is a relationship-based business, and a colleague today may become a friend, competitor or partner in the future. As I have grown in my career, so have the members of our GHJ alumni network as they moved on to new and exciting opportunities. In some cases, these same alumni have even become referral sources or clients of the Firm.
I tend to think of my coworkers as extended family, which is why staying in touch with them after they have left GHJ never felt like business development (nor was that an intention of mine).
As with any good friendship or relationship, staying in touch with a former colleague is often driven by a genuine interest in their circumstances, their challenges and any pain points where support may be needed.
Nurturing strong bonds with alumni (with whom you have already built relationships) can offer benefits that are often overlooked.
ALUMNI: THE MISSING PUZZLE PIECE IN A STRONG NETWORK
Many companies talk about their culture and values. These principles drive employee engagement and retention, but they are rarely considered when thinking about former employees. There are numerous benefits to maintaining a strong alumni network.
- Stay top of mind. Staying connected with alumni even after they have left an organization (i.e., sharing interesting news or updates, inviting to company events, etc.) can allow employers to maintain these relationships. When alumni face a challenge or make a referral, they are more likely to reach out to an organization they trust.
- Gain valuable insights. Alumni often have an intimate understanding of a company, its operations and what sets it apart from competitors. Such insights can be useful when identifying areas of opportunity (and may not normally be gleaned from a standard audit process).
- Develop deep customer relationships. People work with practitioners who they trust to provide the service. Alumni have a deeper understanding of the firm and its services than most clients who are just learning about the firm — and are more likely to utilize the firm’s resources and expertise at a deeper and more meaningful level by taking advantage or expanded services.
Company alumni are an often-overlooked resource. Alumni can provide unique insights into how their former employer operates and how that compares to the marketplace.
Alumni can serve as a critical part of any network, whether as a client, referral source, mentor or someone on your “personal board of directors” — or maybe all of the above. This is why maintaining these relationships should be a key part of every firm’s business development strategy.