Developing A Strategic Plan

When it comes to business development, the legal profession isn’t known for teamwork. It could be described more as track and field, rather than football. Each lawyer in the firm does what he or she does and at the end of the year they add up the score. Seldom is there strategy to leverage the skills of all the players. BUT… when there is, it’s a beautiful thing! The velocity of success is remarkable.

How can legal business development teams work better for the greater good? There are interesting examples in the digital world. Walter Isaacson, author and CEO of Aspen Institute writes an article on Linkedin… Why Steve Jobs Obsessed About Office Design(And, Yes, Bathroom Locations) that has a few insights for legal business development teams.

Isaacson writes…

Creativity is a collaborative process. As brilliant as the many inventors of the Internet and computer were, they achieved most of their advances through teamwork. Like Robert Noyce, the founder of Intel, some of the best tended to resemble Congregational ministers rather than lonely prophets, madrigal singers rather than soloists.

Twitter, for example, was invented by a team of people who were collaborative but also quite contentious. When one of the cofounders, Jack Dorsey, started taking a lot of the credit in media interviews, another cofounder, Evan Williams, a serial entrepreneur who had previously created Blogger, told him to chill out, according to Nick Bilton of the New York Times. “But I invented Twitter,” Dorsey said.

‘No, you didn’t invent Twitter,” Williams replied. “I didn’t invent Twitter either. Neither did Biz [Stone, another cofounder]. People don’t invent things on the Internet. They simply expand on an idea that already exists.’

He goes on to explain…

There is something special, as evidenced at Bell Labs, about meetings in the flesh, which cannot be replicated digitally. The founders of Intel created a sprawling, team-oriented open workspace where employees all rubbed against one another. It was a model that became common in Silicon Valley. Predictions that digital tools would allow workers to telecommute were never fully realized. One of Marissa Mayer’s first acts as CEO of Yahoo! was to discourage the practice of working from home, rightly pointing out that “people are more collaborative and innovative when they’re together.” When Steve Jobs designed a new headquarters for Pixar, he obsessed over ways to structure the atrium, and even where to locate the bathrooms, so that serendipitous personal encounters would occur. Among his last creations was the plan for Apple’s new signature headquarters, a circle with rings of open workspaces surrounding a central courtyard.

Another key to fielding a great team is pairing visionaries, who can generate ideas, with operating managers, who can execute them. Visions without execution are hallucinations. One of the great visionaries of the digital age was William von Meister, a flamboyant entrepreneur who launched a dozen companies and watched all but one flame out. The one that succeeded became AOL. It survived because von Meister’s investors insisted he bring in two people to execute on his vision: a former special forces commando named Jim Kimsey and a young marketing whiz, Steve Case.

“Visions without execution are hallucinations!” So true. A business development team has a much better chance to succeed than a single lawyer trying to get people to do what he or she needs done to land a new client. That’s a painful process.

Teamwork… contributions by all team members. Big and small. Results celebrated by all. This mentality will lead to a whole new level of success.

Give me a call today if you’d like to discuss how you can build a business development team that gets results.

Let’s be honest most lawyers want the business development process to be more like a sprint to the winners circle. But the reality is that the winners circle is reserved for the slow and steady. THAT is not what you wanted to hear I’m sure!

The fact of the matter is that CONSISTENCY is a silver bullet. Yes, a slow silver bullet! You see, many are looking for the right tool… SEO, Google Ads, social media, blogs, You Tube channel, article, networking, etc, etc, etc! But these are simply tools, just like your phone is a tool. But your phone, itself, isn’t going to get you clients. It is what you do to leverage all these tools. How regularly do you focus on the strategy you have put into place? (Oh, you don’t have a strategy? We’ll get to that later.)

Here are three things to keep in mind to achieve consistency…

First… Focus – make your activity a habit. Do something every single day!

Second… Be Present – if you are truly present, whether it’s a meeting with a client or a conversation with a stranger, you will see possibilities. Possibilities that you can only see when you are truly listening and present to the person across the table or on the phone.

Third… Learn to say NO – Not to others but to yourself. Today we are bombarded by people telling is the newest and greatest ideas to win new clients and you would like to try them all… but you don’t have the time or the money to invest in them all. Pick one to three, then say no to the rest. Put them on a list to think about for next year’s strategic plan.

So you say you don’t have a strategic plan… create one! It’s July 8th, what do you want to accomplish by the end of the year? What things would need to happen for you to feel great about how your personal life is in harmony with your work when 2015 rolls around? It need not be more than a few sentences to help you focus your efforts and be consistent. We are halfway through the year… don’t let 2014 get by you!

If you’d like to discuss this subject further, I’m here! Shoot me an email today.

Are you in a rut? Are you just going through the motions of your business development? Are you not seeing results? Are you overwhelmed and going in too many directions? Maybe it’s time to take a closer look!

At the end of EVERY week reflect on your performance and results of the week. Here is a list of eight questions to ask yourself…

1. Was your client service so solid that your clients will give you more work?

2. How many referral sources did you reach out to this week?

3. Did you do something to develop a relationship this week?

4. What did you do to increase your credibility with clients, colleagues or potential clients? (Examples could include writing an article, giving a speech or even spending ten minutes on the phone answering questions for a client or a colleague.)

5.  Did you feel “in control” this week… or did you feel that external events dictated how you spent your time and energy?

6. What did you enjoy doing this week?

7. What will you do differently next week?

8. What are you most proud of this week?

Write your answers down and look back on the progress you’ve made from week to week. Are there obstacles and issues that keep occurring? Find solutions. Are you feeling out of control more often then not? Look for the root cause of it and and see if you can find ways to alter the situation. It’s important to write down what you will do differently and to acknowledge what you are proud of… that is how change occurs!

If you’d like to discuss this process further, give me a call or shoot me an email today!

Accountability. I know you understand the importance of accountability to others, otherwise you wouldn’t be as successful as you are. But… I suspect that when it comes to accountability to yourself, you’re not quite as masterful. It’s not easy! You make plans and 15 minutes later they’re derailed by circumstances beyond your control… this happens to me more often than I would like, how about you?  When I read 4 Simple Ways to Boost Accountability by Lee Colan, Inc. Magazine contributor and author, I thought it would be valuable for all of us.

 This is what Colan has to say about accountability when dealing with a team, but imagine that the team is YOU…

 1. Be specific. Ambiguity is the Achilles’ heel of accountability.

What is it that you really need and want? It can’t be a vague idea, it must have details.

 2. Consider timelines in addition to deadlines. Whether you are requesting or delivering on a task, first consider your ability and bandwidth to get it done before you agree to the deadline.

Deadlines to yourself are often blurred lines with unrealistic estimates of your bandwidth. Get real and create a timeline.

3. Increase your say/do ratio. Being accountable is really about being reliable. How reliable are you to act upon what you say? The key is to be careful about what you say–and if you say something, be committed to doing it. Applying Tip No. 2 will help drive up your say/do ratio.

Avoid overwhelm and carefully commit to the things you truly care about.

 4. Use 3 Ws. Leave every meeting with a simple, three-column 3W form: What, Who, and When. What needs to be done by whom, and by when? You can even use the 3W form as a mental template for conversations to confirm agreement on what you just talked about: “OK, so you will identify our top three prospects by noon today, and I will call them by noon tomorrow.”

Imagine how powerful this concept could be when you hold yourself accountable.

Accountability to your clients and your partners is critical to your success as a lawyer. Accountability to yourself gives you the ability to complete important steps on the path to achieving your ultimate goals and dreams. So be accountable, to others… and to yourself! If you’d like some help along the way, I’m here! Just shoot me an email.

Happy New Year! I love this time of year because it signals a “fresh start.” We can look at our lives and decide what might need some adjusting. You noticed that I didn’t say,  “New Year’s Resolutions,” since we generally make them and break them in record time. What I have found works much better is committing to a “big idea,” one that is important and that inspires you.

Progress Over Perfection – One of the obstacles that gets in the way of progress for many of my clients is waiting for things to be “perfect” before they make the next step. Sometimes achieving positive results just requires a little faith in yourself, not perfection. Let me ask you: When was the last time you, REALLY failed at something? Probably NEVER. You wouldn’t be where you are if you had. Yes… you have made mistakes and taken the wrong path…  we all have. But you are smart and have many experiences that will help you avoid pitfalls, so have a little faith in yourself and take the leap even if things aren’t perfect. Your instincts will guide you. Let’s face it… PERFECT doesn’t exist anyway. Every single thing can be improved.

For example, when is an article ready for publication… after 4 hours, 40 hours or 400 hours? If you are writing about what you know it can be 4 hours or even less for that matter. Some people work on an article for weeks.  If it is for business development purposes… stop!

Think about the results you could achieve this year if you take a leap of faith… then assess the situation, make adjustments and try again. I have had the pleasure of watching many clients do just that and the results are amazing. So, you can choose to adjust and adjust until you think something is perfect OR you can choose PROGRESS. What would you like your 2014 results to look like?  Make your 2014 Big Idea … Progress Over Perfection!

If you’d like to discuss this topic further, shoot me an email!

Focus… it’s a hard skill to perfect when there are so many demands, options and desires. There is one thing I have a lot of experience with… and that is being scattered and unfocused and dealing with the results of my lack of focus. Every single time I wanted to shift my focus and go in a new direction I made a very convincing argument as to why it was a good idea. My gut was sending out alarm signals, making me feel the need to convince someone. In truth it was me making excuses for myself! Does this sound familiar? I bet it does!

So what did I learn from those experiences that helped me create a different course of action? It turns out that the solution was very simple. I created a strategic plan… a well thought out strategic plan. One that made me look at my long-term goals and in some cases create them where there weren’t any. I looked at things like the path of profitability, of joy and fulfillment and how much time I have to get there. When you create a strategic plan like that it gives purpose to your actions and when your gut sounds the alarms of caution you will be more likely to hear it. When that scattered voice distracts you, ask yourself… Does this action or new initiative get me closer to my goals or am I making excuses for it just because I WANT to do it? If the answer is just because you WANT it then get to the core of what you want about it and find a way to nourish that desire in a way that complements your strategy, and doesn’t detract from it … don’t kid yourself that it is good for business.

Many years ago I lost a quarter of a million dollars because I took on a project convincing myself that it was a sound business idea when in reality it was because I WANTED to travel and create. At the time I had no strategic plan to guide my thinking. By the way, I now take exotic vacations and travel between my two offices in Miami and Denver. As far as fueling my creativity… I write books, blogs and help others do the same. Those things fit into my strategic plan AND fuel my desires. It was a VERY expensive lesson to learn… but I learned it well!

What should go into your strategic plan? What kinds of things get you off-track? Would you like assistance in figuring it out? Shoot me an email and let’s talk.

Experience success and it’s like a drug… you want more. Success in your law firm is much the same. Whatever got you there, you put into high gear to get you more. Whether it is building relationships with big corporate clients or lateral hires that bring a book of business, oftentimes the strategies that once worked will outlive their usefulness and become liabilities. Author and Inc. Magazine contributor Les McKeowen has seen several “types” of strengths turned into destructive weaknesses…

 1. The legacy business that holds growth hostage. Perhaps the most common way in which a great achievement becomes a liability is when the company has fought a long, expensive battle for industry prominence– and won.

Often the price that has been paid for that victory in terms of time, resources and personnel is so high that everything that follows is distorted by its gravitational pull: A components manufacturer builds an unassailable position in the plastics industry, but can’t (or won’t) adapt to new materials because of the literal and psychic sunk cost in its old, legacy industry.

Take a long look at your practice areas and industry teams. Are they truly relevant in today’s world… or are you stuck simply because your founding partners got you there?

 2. The single customer that distorts the entire business. Sure, it’s great to get a large customer. Your industry’s equivalent of Walmart or Apple comes a-knocking and before you know it, you’ve got massive orders, a lengthy pipeline, and predictable cash flow (even if the profits are tight).

You also get considerable bragging rights. At industry conferences, competitors look at you with envy. Your employees feel proud to see your product at outlets everywhere. You’re a member of an elite club.

But back on the factory floor, or in office cubicles, your entire business is gradually being distorted.

Until one day, you no longer have control over your own destiny. You can no longer afford to lose this customer, because if you did, you’d have to essentially start all over again.

Take a look at your single largest sales success – has it brought you freedom? Or are you trapped?

I have first-hand experience with this one and the word “trapped” hits to the heart of the matter. It’s hard to admit, but stop and take a hard look at what this big gorilla is doing to your organization and if the feeling is “trapped” then start doing something about it… now!

 3. The maverick-turned-jerk who pollutes the atmosphere and destroys your culture. Every growing business needs a big dog or two–hard-charging, get-it-done Operators who work every hour God sends (and then some) to build the success of the business in the early days.

But those big dogs can sour. As the business grows and becomes more complex, big dogs often bristle at being forced to comply with the systems and processes needed to scale. A little drunk on the autonomy they’ve built over the years–and often having built a massive amount of sweat equity with the business’ founders–they become mavericks.

Take a long look at your biggest big dog. If they’re teeing off everyone except you (and maybe, if you’re honest, they’re teeing you off, too), it’s time to admit that your once greatest asset has become a maverick liability.

Every law firm has one… the “big dog” who causes more havoc than the organization can absorb. Ask yourself and others, could the firm survive without him or her? The answer is usually, YES! It may be uncomfortable but sooner or later you will need to bite the bullet and part ways. Once it’s done people will say…”Finally, we thought you’d never wake up!”

It’s time for a reality check. Take your blinders off and make sure your strengths haven’t turn into your weakness. And please shoot me an email if you’d like to discuss this subject further!

Sometimes you just need a break… but you can’t take one until the document on your computer is perfect. The process takes much longer than it should because you feel brain-dead. If this situation sounds familiar, could it be because your life outside of work isn’t really refueling and recharging you to be able to be your best at work? Perhaps your multi-tasking outside of the workplace includes work and you never really feel disconnected. Inc. Magazine contributor Alexa Von Tobel has a few suggestions in her article 4 Ways to Have a Life Outside Your Business.

If you returned to work Monday feeling more ragged than refreshed, you don’t really own your downtime–and that’s a problem.

You already know that taking breaks to refresh your mind is good for creativity and productivity. But I’d be willing to bet that most entrepreneurs have trouble putting this into practice. It starts by reclaiming your downtime. Here are four tips to do just that.

Schedule “me time.” Me time is different for everyone. But regardless of whether it’s cooking, going to the gym, or relaxing at home with a book, make sure that you’re getting it in. For me, Saturday is my quiet time to kick back with a magazine or get a 10-minute chair massage so I feel like I did something nice for myself. It’s often how I find inspiration. For that reason, Saturday is my free day and I give myself permission to do absolutely nothing.

Yes, give yourself permission! Most lawyers are extreme achievers, so giving yourself permission to do nothing or to do what you love doing… now that is tough. But not impossible, try it!

 Set clear expectations. Being the founder and CEO of LearnVest means people ask a lot of me during the week. I hate saying no and letting them down, but I’ve found saying yes to everyone means saying no to myself and the things I care about. Over time, I’ve learned to say no politely and with sincerity. Recently I had dinner with a few girlfriends. Since I’d said I’d be busy from the outset, no one was upset about the fact they hadn’t seen me in a few weeks. However, if I’d tried to appease them and make plans only to cancel at the last minute, that would have been worse. It’s just important to set expectations, and I do it with everyone from family to friends and even my husband.

Setting clear expectations is a top priority when working with clients. But somehow we’re not as diligent in putting it into practice in our personal lives. “Under promise, over deliver” is sage advice not only for your business but also for your personal life.

 Keep separate calendars for work and play. Even on paper, my professional and home lives stay separate. I use several email accounts and separate calendars so I can see at a glance what my weekend looks like. If I check my personal email and see I have four errands to run, then I’ll know to power through so I meet with some friends. Since my husband and I have limited time and work similar hours, we throw things in each other’s calendar all the time. Again, it’s about setting clear expectations.

This idea may work for you. I think it depends on how packed your life is… kids, spouse, sports, charity work, etc.

 Outsource what you hate. If the weekend rolls around and you find yourself running all these awful errands, try outsourcing them. Personally, I love doing laundry. But it takes up to four hours, which isn’t a good use of my time, especially if I haven’t slept, gone to the gym, or seen family. If you find yourself dreading certain chores, pay someone else to do them and find a way to save money elsewhere, say by bringing your lunch to work. The point is to filter out what you dislike and don’t really enjoy and maximize the things that you do love because, let’s face it, the rest of the week you’re maxed out.

I love this one and live by it. It makes more sense to come in to the office and bill a client two hours at your hourly rate than to spend two hours cutting the lawn if you HATE it! Pay someone to do it… the return on investment of two hours is huge! Both in money and satisfaction, assuming you love your work… and that’s another conversation!

If you would like to figure out how to get a bit more harmony in your life, I can 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!