Leaders with Ambition - Peter Columbus

Leaders with Ambition - Peter Columbus

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Peter Columbus, Chief BD, Marketing & Communications Officer

​​Seeking words to live by as you build your professional services marketing and communications career? Our guest on this episode of Leaders With Ambition has them in abundance.

Peter Columbus, Chief BD, Marketing & Communications Officer, is sharing wisdom accumulated over decades of success in both the accounting and legal sectors.

His actionable advice comes fast and furious:

  • Focus on two or three top priorities and protect them at all costs.

  • Be proactive in looking for opportunities.

  • Nurture your network right from the start.

  • Learn how to leverage technology and build team buy-in.

  • And above all else? Always remember that human connection is your cornerstone!

As Peter explains to host Nicky Acuna Ocana;

“If you take the time and jump in with both feet, real enthusiasm, passion and love, then the sky is the limit as far as what’s really out there – as long as you’ve got the skills to get it done!”

Find out about the trends that are shaping global law firms and the many ways in which marketing, business development and communications skill sets have become a valuable asset at every level of legal practice.

You’ll also learn about the huge impact (as well as personal dividends) our guest has known as the result of his huge commitment to volunteerism, for which he has been honoured by the Legal Marketing Association. “You never know how opportunities are going to come about, but it comes down to connecting with people, doing the proper things with the tools available now,” says Peter.

If you enjoyed this discussion, please click here to find previous episodes of Leaders with Ambition.

Key Takeaways

Starting out

About Peter’s personal and career roots, including the college track injury that indirectly inspired a lifelong passion for volunteerism and business development.

Building bridges

What it is about children’s charities in particular that drives Peter to provide healing connection and opportunities to transcend circumstances.

Key advice

Why Peter recommends that we identify and focus on the two or three key things – then protect them at all costs. Let the rest fall as it may.

Transferrable skills

How Peter was able to parlay PR and communications skills learned working for large accountancies into business development and marketing roles in the legal space.

New footing

About Peter’s experience in the early 2000s, when BD and marketing were emerging as valuable, under-utilised tools that law firms were just learning to tap.

Going global

What Peter did to cultivate synergy and buy-in across countries and law firm cultures at Mayer Brown, bringing long-term interdepartmental alignment.

Critical clarity

Why it makes a big difference in team-building when goals and expectations are clear from the start, along with room for all kinds of contributors.

The role of sponsorship

About the importance of providing support, professional development opportunity and guidance in developing talent across channels.

Long-term partnership

How Peter’s network has provided a two-way avenue for opportunity, ideas and long-term professional and personal collaboration.

Answering the call

Why Peter’s involvement with the New York Police & Fire Widows & Children's Benefit Fund positioned the non-profit perfectly to raise nearly $100 million in 100 days (much of it from law firms) following 9/11.

Four pillars for Marketing, Communications and Business Development value-add:

  • Help Lawyers and staff become better students of their firm.

  • Help Partners become better students of the firm’s clients.

  • Help Partners to identify their clients’ lower- and higher-value needs.

  • Help firms envision and articulate stretch goals.

More ways marketing & communications can increase value-add:

  • By proactively knowing the broad sweep of the firm’s areas of practice and capabilities – which can open up game-changing and unexpected opportunity.

  • By leveraging data and technology to create dashboards that increase the flow of business intelligence, productivity and client satisfaction.

Data Points

Why quality and accessibility are differentiators when it comes to effective legal BD, marketing and communications strategy.

Work-life balance

  • How Peter looked for ways to connect with his children (through shared affinities, volunteerism, time together) to offset the demands of heavy travel.

Social commitment

About innovative ways to use cooperative efforts within and among law firms to advance DEI, corporate, social and environmental responsibility.

Biggest current challenges for CMOs at law firms:

  • Locating people who are truly dedicated to meeting the needs of the Lawyers.

  • Getting people to test out and adopt new technologies.

  • Incubating new ideas that aren’t always 100% successful.

Peter’s career challenges:

  • Staying on top of constantly evolving technologies.

  • Differentiating between important innovation and short-term trends.

  • Investing in the right systems and platforms as they are evolving.

Peter’s career highlights:

  • Maintaining a thick skin and healthy sense of humour!

  • Knowing how to let things roll off your back with a smile and a laugh.

Words of wisdom:

  • Pay attention to your network and the people you admire.

  • Commit to actively listening to clients and colleagues alike.

  • Cultivate mentorship, sponsorship and friendship all along your career journey.

Key quotes from this episode with Peter Columbus

  • “The idea behind (my volunteerism) is to provide a platform and opportunities so that kids can maximize their opportunities in life.”

  • “There’s enough hours in the day to focus on two to three things. It’s when you start to spread more and more broadly – that’s when important things go off the rails.”​

  • “(Legal BD and marketing) were once so embryonic and now you look at it and it’s actually a profession that people at university want to go into.” (Nicky)​

  • “When there’s proper feedback, people can meet goals and expectations and are then in a good place … to build the team that everyone needs.”

  • “Careers can change for a number of reasons and the idea is to be there and to continue to be a sounding board and support to (colleagues) even if you worked with them 20 years ago.”

  • “The network is always something you have to grow and invest in if you’re investing in your career.” (Nicky)

  • “Focus on the key issues, then let the rest roll of your back. And always do it with a smile and a laugh!”

  • “It really comes down to good, active listening … whether it be client feedback or in your day-to-day.”

  • “If you can start networking early on in your career with other people then you will both grow up alongside each other and your peer group is going to be more senior in another firm or another industry and … that leads to work being brought in.” (Nicky)

  • “You never know how opportunities are going to come about, but it comes down to connecting with the people, doing the proper things with the tools available now … making sure that you’re putting in the effort, from the start of your career.”

  • “The more you (pay it forward) the more there’s opportunities when you need help and people are going to remember and reach out and provide that opportunity as well. It’s a two-way street on all of this.”

  • “If you take the time and jump in with both feet, real enthusiasm, passion and love, then the sky is the limit as far as what’s really out there – as long as you’ve got the skills to get it done!”

About Peter Columbus:

Peter is a professional services pioneer who attracts and retains clients and delivers sustainable, profitable growth. His experience includes four of the largest global law firms, prominent accounting firms, and not-for-profits. Among his areas of expertise: Business Development, Client Relationship Management, BD/Leadership Training, Reputation Management and Acquistions/Integration. ​

About Nicky Acuna Ocana:

Nicky has led high performing recruitment teams for over 25 years. As the Regional Managing Director of Ambition UK, Europe and US, she leads a team of highly-skilled recruitment consultants who are experts in their niche specialist areas. With an extensive network of senior and board-level contacts, she is also heavily involved in Executive Search, focusing on Director level appointments across Business Services for a range of Professional Services firms.