Building Relationships

Is your body trying to tell you something? Maybe we should stop and listen! If you are like me and like most over-achievers, you don’t sleep much. You push yourself to finish the brief, to write the article or to read the report… not to mention the hundreds of things around the house and for the family. I’m tired just thinking about it! I’m one of those people that thought that I didn’t need 8 hours of sleep… I’m perfectly fine on 5 or 4 and the occasional all-nighter. Well… not so much. The more I read the more I understand that I could be functioning on a much better level if I would be a little more open minded about sleep. Have you ever said, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead?” We’ll it looks like that may be sooner than later if we continue on this path. Let’s change our ways… together!

Here’s what Corrie Pikul writes for OWN online in her article… Signs Your Body Is Too Tired to Go On (Even if You’re Not)

Continue Reading Is Your Body Trying To Tell You Something?

Are you running a “feast or famine” practice? If you are overwhelmed with work and have no time to develop business… then when you’re finished with the work at hand there is nothing on the horizon… THAT my friend is a feast or famine practice. And to tell you the truth, I see this with lawyers more often than not. Whether or not you are a solo or work for a huge global firm, not making time for business development has serious consequences.

Forbes Magazine contributor, Kern Lewis documented one small step you can take to create some stability for your practice. His case study is about how he convinced his “old friend and new convert to social media marketing, a lawyer in Northern California named Mark D. Poniatowski who runs a small practice with just a handful of partners.”

Poniatowski was in the midst of a famine…

With the advent of his latest “break” from a heavy work load, he agreed to dedicate the time to test a plan he felt he could manage within the demands of his day:

He chose one online networking tool to test, which was LinkedIn. He spent one hour cleaning up his profile. He spent about three hours reaching out to all the people he knew professionally, and connecting to those whom he found on LinkedIn. He set a thirty-minute appointment for a late weekday evening each week to work on building up his network of contacts, and engaging that network via pings and content sharing.

Results came within a couple of weeks: Many connection invitations came right back with social conversations, and were happy to reconnect. A handful had business that they could place with him right away and were “glad he reached out.”

Within those few weeks he had referrals worth $12,000 in billable hours that he would not have had without his 3-5 hour LinkedIn campaign. That represents a 8-10x ROI on the time he dedicated to it.

The pace has calmed since he harvested that low-hanging fruit, but he reaped one other big benefit:

Connecting with distant clients – An international manufacturer and a national food distributor both use Mark for their commercial lease work in California. He can only justify one trip a year to each of their Midwestern headquarters. But, using LinkedIn to follow the people who manage his part of their legal affairs has made the trips much more powerful.

He keeps track of position changes that impact him. He can research key people ahead of each trip. He set up introductions using his current network, and reaches out to the new connections prior to the trip to kick-start the new relationship and make the in-person meetings much more useful.

Here is how Mark sums up his experience: ‘I immediately recognized that I was able to connect with attorneys and clients that I worked with over the years and had lost touch with, so it was actually a fun exercise. Some of them were good friends as well and we’ve since gone to lunch. I think that the business generation aspect has been a natural fallout of reconnecting and will increase. I did find that the best LinkedIn for me is during the commercials while watching sports!’

It takes commitment and focus to create results. I think this was a brilliant move for this small firm. Now imagine if all 5 of his colleagues did the same. Would he multiply his results by 5? Maybe or maybe not, but certainly they could expect 3-4 times the result.

I believe every professional should have a well thought through LinkedIn profile. What condition is yours in? Could you implement a strategy  like Poniatowski’s? Certainly you could… and if you are sick and tired of running a feast or famine practice, this could help you break the cycle.

If you would like to discuss this a little more in-depth shoot me an email!

 

One of the best things to do on a regular basis is to look outside the legal profession to find a fresh perspective on things, anything from operations to HR practices and certainly business development. Gay Gaddis, contributor to Forbes Magazine addresses entrepreneurs in many industries in this article entitled,  3 Networking Tips To Grow Your Business. Maybe the legal profession isn’t as different as so many believe…

1. Don’t get bogged down in your own industry groups. Although they can be helpful, I don’t spend much time with people in my field because they don’t buy our services; they are usually our competitors. Instead, I seek groups that bring together an array of industries and perspectives. Many times they are our clients and prospective client events. The big message is to get out from behind your desk. You should be your own brand ambassador because no one is more passionate about your business than you are. Your travel budget may skyrocket, but so should your bottom line.

In the legal profession there are two sides to this coin. A referral base of lawyers who don’t do what you do is one approach, and many have built an entire firm on this principle. On the other side there are many lawyers specializing in practice areas which put them smack in the middle of an industry that contains a gold mine of prospects. But do they regularly attend their trade shows and conferences… not often. Create industry teams with colleagues in your firm and network together. Participate as though you belong there… because you do!

2. Building relationships takes time. Follow up is imperative, but easier said than done. When you meet a person who you think will strengthen your business, you should be in touch at least once a quarter. Send something relevant and of value to them. This takes planning, discipline and creativity. Eventually you will be on their radar. If I asked your top five prospects, “Who wants your business,” and they cannot name you or your company, then you will never get their business.

I love Gaddis’ comment… if they are a prospect for you, your name should be on the tip of their tongue. Stay top-of-mind and sooner or later something will come your way. The incumbent will screw up or be too busy to return a phone call… and then YOU will be the one this prospect calls.

3. Get involved in a big way. If an organization is worth your time, you should be right in the middle of the action. Seek to serve on their boards and committees. Otherwise, drop out. When you are all-in, you will build relationships that matter. People will see how you work when you are at your best. These types of relationships build trust and friendships that almost always lead to business opportunities.

I can’t tell you how many lawyers I talk to that tell me they are members of 5,6 or 7 organization. This tells me all they are doing is building their bio…  not relationships! I believe like Gaddis that unless you are participating in a meaningful way in an organization… why bother. On the other hand if you are committed, participation is the best way to demonstrate your character, values and expertise. If you are a lawyer of your word; you return phone calls, you follow through, you do what you say you will do… that gets around fast. People will want to do programs with you because they know they can count on you. On the other hand, if you horde the project, grand stand and act like a bully… that gets around even faster!

Business development takes focus and commitment no matter what profession you’re in. Find what feels good for you and you will do it more often. Join organizations with people you like to be around, become friends with them… and it will be more fun than work.

If you would like to explore some of theses possibilities, shoot me an email!

 

The past few days all over the legal internet world people are blogging and tweeting about Matt Homann’s diagram. Matt writes a blog… the (non)billable hour. He has put a dagger in the heart of the lawyer’s traditional bio… glory hallelujah! Thank you Matt Homann…

Most lawyers want to write their bio like everyone else… because that’s how it’s always been done. It’s the rare lawyer that says, “Wait a minute… what does my client want to know about me?” Not… “What do I want to tell them?” As Matt points out… they don’t care where you went to law school or which courts and bars you are admitted to. They want to know… “What can you do for me?”  So tell them!

I know that some of you are saying… “But I have lawyers that are a big source of referrals. What do I do for them?” Add an additional button or link to that information. Your colleagues will go the extra click to find it.

Now you know… you can’t un-ring this bell! Take action! Rewrite your bio today! Differentiate yourself from 80% of your colleagues that will read this and do nothing. Be the 20% that will act and give your potential clients the information they want from your bio.

If you would like a little help shoot me an email.

 

Successful people think about possibilities and how to get there. They don’t dwell on the reasons why it won’t work, they think that… it can be done and “I’m going to figure out a way!”  John C. Maxwell wrote a great little book… How Successful People Think and shares 6 ways that could open the door to new possibilities for your business development.

People with an it-can’t-be-done mindset have two choices. They can expect the worse and continually experience it; or they can change their thinking. That’s what George Lucas did. Believe it or not, even though he is a possibility thinker, he is not a naturally positive person. He says, ‘I’m very cynical, and as a result, I think the defense I have against it is to be optimistic.’ In other words he chooses to think positively. He sums it up this way: ‘As corny as it sounds, the power of positive thinking goes a long way. So determination and positive thinking combined with talent combined with knowing your craft… that may sound like a naive point of view, but at the same time it’s worked for me and it’s worked for my friends – so I have come to believe it.’

If you want possibility thinking to work for you, then begin by following these suggestions:

1. Stop Focusing on The Impossibility. The first step in becoming a possibility thinker is to stop yourself from searching for and dwelling on what’s wrong with any given situation.

It’s rare to be in a meeting with several lawyers when the first comment isn’t why an idea won’t work. I have a colleague that has a meeting rule… “We have to love every idea for 5 minutes.” Imagine what could be uncovered if you put all those bright minds in a meeting to work on the possibilities.

2. Stay Away From The “Experts.” So-called experts do more to shoot down people’s dreams than just about anybody else.

There are lawyers in every firm that are “expert business developers” and usually they think there is only one-way… their way! Don’t listen when someone can only see his or her way. Find your unique path and do it your way!

3. Look For Possibilities in Every Situation. Becoming a possibility thinker is more than just refusing to let yourself be negative. It’s something more. It’s looking for positive possibilities despite the circumstances.

This is a great one when put into practice because there is always a nugget to be learned from any situation. We are all rushed and short on time… But if we don’t focus on looking for possibilities and opportunities, the moment will pass and the possibility will be lost.

4. Dream One Size Bigger. One of the best ways to cultivate a possibility mind-set is to prompt yourself to dream one size bigger than your normally do. Let’s face it: most people dream too small. They don’t think big enough.

When I ask clients to tell me their dream client they are seldom thinking big enough. They only think of the dream clients they know how to go after.  If they can’t see the path to reach a possible client… they don’t list them. I say, don’t worry about the path, just set your sights on them and the path will emerge.

5. Question The Status Quo. Most people want their lives to keep improving, yet they value peace and stability at the same time. People often forget that you can’t improve and still stay the same. Growth means change. Change requires challenging the status quo.

There is always a better way, more efficient processes, more enjoyable practice areas, colleagues to work with that are better team players that you enjoy working with… so move in those directions, everyday. Challenge the status quo!

6. Find Inspiration From Great Achievers. Find some achievers you admire and study them. Look for people with the attitude of Robert F. Kennedy, who popularized George Bernard Shaw’s stirring statement: ‘Why? I dream of things that never were and say, ‘Why not?’

Inspiration is all around us. Take the time to find those that fuel you and revisit their thinking often… be it a book, a quote or simply their image to remind you of their philosophy and accomplishments.

Let’s face it, you didn’t go to law school because you wanted to develop business!  Some are natural born business developers… but most are not. It’s a learned skill. It takes commitment, focus and the ability to see the possibilities.  Put Maxwell’s 6 tips into action and maximize your results. Why not?

If you would like help in developing these skills, shoot me an email.

Do you have a giant client that gives you more than 50% of your revenue? That can be good news and the bad news. The good news is you can concentrate on the needs of that client giving them exceptional work and client service. The bad news is they consume your time and you have nothing left to develop other clients. Which leaves you with the looming question… “What would happen to my business if they took their work someplace else?” That one can keep you up at night! I know from experience the sleepless nights and the havoc it causes your business when it happens. I learned a few lessons that could help you minimize the havoc.

Don’t worry about the “what if.” But don’t put your head in the sand either! Ride the wave for as long as you can. Give this giant client your undivided attention, save money and deepen every relationship associated with this work, inside and outside their company. So that when they do move on, you have enough money saved that you can weather the storm and enough contacts that you can leverage your experience. If that still causes you sleepless nights then you need to get into action…

1. Build a diverse client base. This one will require a bit of discipline and a different mind-set. Right now you probably have a pretty clear sense of priority every day… anything your giant of a client needs you to do, you do before anything else. So in the new mind-set, you will need to carve out time to spend on business development giving it the same sense of urgency as you do your giant client. Thirty minutes a day to reconnect with your other contacts, three times a week to have lunch with one of those contacts… believe me, a commitment to those two initiatives will make a huge difference in your business development results.

2. Leverage your depth of knowledge in their industry. You have acquired industry knowledge working with this giant client. Use it! Who else do you know? What industry publications should you be reading and possibly publishing articles in? What industry conferences should you be attending to gain even more knowledge and forge new relationships?

3. Maximize your knowledge of the giant clients company. If you understand the “in’s and out’s” of that company why not try and spread your knowledge to other departments or divisions within the company. Multiply your relationships, so that your work isn’t dependent on only one or two people.

When you put these initiatives into place, you’ll find you sleep better. And when the day comes (I hope it will be later than sooner) you will be prepared. The impact to your business and health will be minimized.

Shoot me an email if you’d like to discuss this further!

A positive attitude is an essential ingredient for success. I’m not talking about a dreamer’s attitude. I’m talking about the confidence and enthusiasm for building relationships that will grow your practice. Do you need a little boost? Inc. Magazine contributor Geoffrey James writes… 8 Ways to Improve Your Attitude – A positive attitude make success easy: a negative one makes success pointless. He offers great tips that will help keep you on track and get you back on track, when you get derailed…

1. Always act with a purpose. Before you take any action, decide how it will serve your greater goals. If the connection is weak or non-existent, take that action off your to-do list. Aimless activity wastes time and energy.

Create a plan… who is your target market? Networking for networking’s sake makes no sense at all. When you write who are you writing to, why would they care and what impact do you want to make? Writing just to write is a waste of time.

 2. Stretch yourself past your limits every day. Doing the same-old, same-old is depressing, even if your same-old has been successful in the past. Success is like athletics; if you don’t stretch yourself every day, you gradually become slow and brittle.

Move beyond your comfort zone. Take small steps… give a 10 minute speech or write a 500 word article, before you embark on starting a blog or conducting a two hour seminar. You’ll find the thought of doing these things is worse than actually doing them.

3. Take action without expecting results. While you naturally must make decisions and take action based upon the results you’d like to achieve, it’s a big mistake to expect those results and then be disappointed when you don’t get them. Take your best shot but don’t obsess about the target.

Building relationships take time… a long time. Do things to build relationships because you really want to, not with the expectation that you will get a piece of business to work on next month. You will be disappointed if you expect immediate results. Believe me, it will happen over time, although it may not come from that person directly. It may become a winding road.

 4. Use setbacks to improve your skills. Rather than feeling bad if you fail or get rejected, look back at your actions and see what you can do (if anything) to improve your performances. Remember: the results you receive are the signposts for the results you want to achieve.

No matter how thick skinned you are, rejection doesn’t feel good. However, learning from every setback is very powerful. Always ask yourself “what would I do differently and what would I do again?”

 5. Seek out those who share your positive attitude. It’s a scientific fact your brain automatically imitates the behaviors of the people around you. (It’s because of something called a mirror neuron). Therefore, you should surround yourself with positive thinkers and shun those who are excessively negative.

Surround yourself with people who are focused on business development with the sense of possibility… not dread and negativity.

 6. Don’t take yourself so seriously. If you want to be happier and make those around you feel more comfortable, cultivate the ability to laugh at yourself. If you don’t (or can’t) laugh at yourself, I guarantee you that the people you work with are laughing behind your back!

I love this tip… we all want to laugh a little and if we can’t laugh at ourselves it will make the journey of business development a dismal one. So, laugh and laugh often! Remember this isn’t brain surgery.

 7. Forgive the limitations of others. High standards are important, but humans are, well, human. It’s crazy to make yourself miserable because other people can’t do a job as well as you think you could, or when people don’t share your vision with the same passion that you feel.

Let’s remember this one! There are some things in your legal practice that are non-negotiable, but in other areas make room for people to add their style and point of view… IF you are looking for a collaborator.

 8. Say “thank you” more frequently. Achieving an “attitude of gratitude” requires more than simply being aware of what’s wonderful in your life. You must, and should, thank other people for their gifts to you, even if that gift is something as simple as a smile.

This can make all the difference in your practice and your life. I’m sure you have experienced a day when you didn’t think things could get any worse and someone showed you a little kindness, and it made the day melt away even if for just a moment. THAT my friend is a gift! And we have the ability to give gifts like that every day… many times a day. Acknowledge a job well done, a kind gesture, a happy smile and certainly when a colleague goes above and beyond! It will make you feel good and make their day.

If you would like someone to work on these with, I can help… shoot me an email!

Charisma. Webster defines it as: a special magnetic charm or appeal. Some think you either have it or you don’t. I believe it’s a skill you can hone, because it’s more about how we treat people than anything else. Inc Magazine contributor, Jeff Haden writes… 10 Habits of Remarkably Charismatic People, He says that, “charisma isn’t something you have. It’s something you earn. Here’s how.”

1. They listen way more than they talk. Ask questions. Maintain eye contact. Smile. Frown. Nod. Respond–not so much verbally, but nonverbally. That’s all it takes to show the other person they’re important. Then when you do speak, don’t offer advice unless you’re asked. Listening shows you care a lot more than offering advice, because when you offer advice in most cases you make the conversation about you, not them.

2. They don’t practice selective hearing. Some people–I guarantee you know people like this–are incapable of hearing anything said by the people they feel are somehow beneath them. Remarkably charismatic people listen closely to everyone, and they make all of us, regardless of our position or social status or “level,” feel like we have something in common with them.

3. They put their stuff away. Don’t check your phone. Don’t glance at your monitor. Don’t focus on anything else, even for a moment. You can never connect with others if you’re busy connecting with your stuff, too. Give the gift of your full attention. That’s a gift few people give. That gift alone will make others want to be around you and remember you.

4. They give before they receive–and often they never receive. Never think about what you can get. Focus on what you can provide. Giving is the only way to establish a real connection and relationship. Focus, even in part and even for a moment, on what you can get out of the other person, and you show that the only person who really matters is you.

5. They don’t act self-important… The only people who are impressed by your stuffy, pretentious, self-important self are other stuffy, pretentious, self-important people. The rest of us aren’t impressed. We’re irritated, put off, and uncomfortable. And we hate when you walk in the room.

6. … Because they realize other people are more important. You already know what you know. You know your opinions. You know your perspectives and points of view. That stuff isn’t important, because it’s already yours. You can’t learn anything from yourself. But you don’t know what other people know, and everyone, no matter who they are, knows things you don’t know. That makes them a lot more important than you–because they’re people you can learn from.

7. They shine the spotlight on others. No one receives enough praise. No one. Tell people what they did well. Wait, you say you don’t know what they did well? Shame on you–it’s your job to know. It’s your job to find out ahead of time. Not only will people appreciate your praise, they’ll appreciate the fact you care enough to pay attention to what they’re doing.

8. They choose their words. The words you use impact the attitude of others. For example, you don’t have to go to a meeting; you get to go meet with other people. You don’t have to create a presentation for a new client; you get to share cool stuff with other people. We all want to associate with happy, enthusiastic, fulfilled people. The words you choose can help other people feel better about themselves–and make you feel better about yourself, too.

9. They don’t discuss the failings of others… Granted, we all like hearing a little gossip. We all like hearing a little dirt. The problem is, we don’t necessarily like–and we definitely don’t respect–the people who dish that dirt. Don’t laugh at other people. When you do, the people around you wonder if you sometimes laugh at them.

10. …But they readily admit their failings. Incredibly successful people are often assumed to have charisma simply because they’re successful. Their success seems to create a halo effect, almost like a glow. Keyword is seems.

I believe every one of Haden’s tips are true. All you have to do is think of a couple of people you know who would fit this description of “Remarkably Charismatic” and I’m sure you will agree. I know I did. Now armed with this knowledge what are you going to do? You might start with one tip, practice it for a week then pick another, until you have made all 10 a habit. Remember that this has nothing to do with being an introvert or extravert… it’s simply what you do and how you treat others. So put your stuff away and listen. And shoot me an email if you would like to discuss this further!

 

I received an email from a father and a former Military lawyer now in private practice. He started with… “Thank you for the wonderful resource. I came across your blog on LinkedIn.” As he continues the tone turned to frustration and resignation. He explained the pressure and stress that I hear from many, many lawyers. He had the guts to write it down and hit SEND. He wrote…

Bottom line is that I am more miserable right now than I have ever been in 12 years since graduating, have no job satisfaction, stress through the roof, and not sure how to fix it. I came across your website tonight sitting at my daughter’s soccer practice on the night before the managing partner wants a written personal marketing plan. Not sure if this situation is salvageable but it just seemed that reaching out to you was the right thing to do.

I spoke to the lawyer and at the core of it all was the pressure to develop business and do it in a way that others think a lawyer is supposed to… a way that doesn’t take into consideration that being a father is his number one priority in life. I shared with him that he isn’t alone and that I have many clients who were feeling the same frustrations and questioning if they should even continue practicing law. But… he (and you) can have both! You just have to develop business YOUR way and in YOUR world… the world of being a parent.

Parenting doesn’t have to play second fiddle to practicing law. You can combine both worlds. Network or as I prefer to think of it, build relationships on the soccer field or ballet recital.

I have a client who went on vacation with his children who are participating in sporting events all over the state, and we outlined a plan for him to build relationships all along the way. Now tell me how often do you hear that a lawyer has a business development strategy for their vacation? Not often… there is only one reason that could happen. And that is because he is having fun doing it… and best of all, he is relieved that he doesn’t have to do it like other lawyers do, he can do it his way.

Does this scenario of stress and pressure sound familiar, and do you sometimes feel that it’s impossible to parent and practice law in the same lifetime? If so, do something about it. Create a book of business around what is important to you… your children’s lives. You may have to reconsider your practice area or at least add more, but it can be done. I see my clients do it everyday.

If you would like to brainstorm your options, give me a call.

Let’s get this straight… anything with your logo is NOT a gift. THAT, my friends, is a promotional giveaway.

A business development gift is something that you hope the recipient will value, appreciate and remember you fondly. So how do you come up with that item? You listen! You listen for clues that will lead to just the right gift. I have a client that was attending a trade conference. He was in an enviable position… one of 5 or 10 lawyers at a conference with over 4,000 attendees. Not bad odds, right? As part of our strategy he was to identify 3 or 4 people that could be good sources of business, either direct or referral. Then get to know them and LISTEN. Listen for clues for gifts he would be sending as part of his follow-up strategy.

One prospect was actually a couple. It turns out that the wife has a sizable farm in Costa Rica and during the conversation they talked about her desire to grow exotic fruits and vegetables. So my client is sending her seeds to grow exotic Mamey fruit. The cost: under $5.00. The impact: PRICELESS!

Another relationship he was working on was someone that he had a few conversations with prior to the conference and had scheduled time to share a drink with. At cocktails that evening they shared great conversation and their love for Bourbon. We decided that a very special bottle of Bourbon would be appropriate for a few reasons. A pricey gift, but the impact… judge for yourself. Here’s the thank you he received.

I got your care package and all I can say is that is one of the nicer gestures I have received in a long while, and I sincerely appreciate the thought.

As for the contents—I am a big bourbon fan, and I think “wow” sums it up.  Good advice on cutting it, and I’m surprised (but glad) that the box didn’t spontaneously combust on its way up here–that is some potent sauce.”

I guarantee you that every time this guy takes a sip from this bottle of Bourbon he will remember my client fondly.

Now… a bag of seeds or an aged bottle of Bourbon would not have the same impact for someone else. I once did a event with the Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck. The owner of the restaurant that hosted the event was so humbled and excited to host Bill Veeck that he wanted to give him an impressive gift… a rare $500 bottle of wine. As I left the event with Bill Veeck he handed me the bottle and said… “You enjoy this, I don’t drink.” The restaurant owner didn’t do his homework. There was never a conversation to build intimacy. A hand written, heart felt note sent the next day would have been much more impressive and memorable.

Set yourself apart and demonstrate that you LISTEN and care… that in its self is a valuable gift!

If you would like to drill down further into creating YOUR gift giving strategy, give me a call!