Developing A Strategic Plan

“I’m getting my name out there.” I hear that a lot. That isn’t a strategy! Strategy doesn’t have to be long and complicated. But… there are 3 simple requirements of an effective strategy.

1. Determine the WHY. Why are you doing this initiative… whether it’s a new blog or a meeting with a potential referral source? You have to start with the why. The global why is “to develop business” but you have to get more specific than that. If it’s a new blog, are you trying to build credibility so that when potential clients and referral sources Google you, they can see that you know what you’re talking about, and it gives them a strong reason to hire you over others?  Or are you doing it solely for search engine optimization purposes to drive traffic to your website. Your answer, even if it is “both”, will drive the content focus of your blog differently.

2. Determine WHO is your target market? The key word here is target. I once asked an audience of lawyers… Who is your target audience? And someone in the back of the room said…”Anyone in a hospital.” I’m sure he was just being a “wise guy” but the sad truth is that most lawyers think on that big of a scale instead of narrowing their focus. You cannot market to everyone… when you try to do that, you connect with no one.

3. Determine WHEN you will meet milestones, and when the initiative will be completed. A specific timeframe is important to keep you on track. This is easier when the timeline is a day or two, but can be more difficult when the initiative requires more time. Setting milestone deadlines will be very helpful in keeping you focused and giving you a sense of progress.

I would caution you not to let tools, like blogs, websites and social media drive your goals and strategy. They are simple tools to help you achieve credibility, visibility and differentiation from the rest of the lawyers who work in your practice area. Give your potential clients a reason to hire you. And make sure that you’ve determined the WHY, the WHO, and the WHEN before you begin!

Shoot me an email if you’d like help with this process!

Our lives are complicated… juggling work and home; overloaded and overwhelmed. Most lawyers are looking for shortcuts for their business development initiatives. When you boil it down to the essence, business development is actually very simple. Most lawyers have a pretty good idea of what to do…. but do they do it? No, it gets put off day after day. Here are 4 simple steps to follow every single day that will make a big difference in the long run…

1. Do It! Yes, as Nike says… “Just Do It.” Make the phone call, start the article, set up a meeting. Take action! Don’t wait to have a block of time. Stop for 2 minutes and do the one thing that will put you one small step closer to your goal.

2. Observe. How did it go? Were you pleased with the outcome of the meeting? Do you need a better agenda for the phone call? How could you find more topics for your articles that are even more relevant to your target audience?

3. Adjust. What did you learn from your observations that could improve your next call, meeting, article, etc.?

4. Repeat. Plain and simple… you will never master the art of business development if you don’t do it over and over and over again.

Four simple steps. Remember that big projects can get done one small step at a time. Now do something every single day!

If you need some help creating a strategy and a system to make this happen, I can help… just send me an email!

As I write this, I’m sitting at the Miami Airport heading to my Denver office. Yes I work from two locations. Why? Lifestyle, getting to do work on my terms, a change in climate and most of all family.

I was born and raised in Denver and have been away since college. I’m back in Denver, because I want to reconnect with my family and in the process build a book of business. I am discovering a fascinating legal and business community in Denver.

When I read this article in the Huffington Post, it stopped me in my tracks. It’s by Alpita ShahSometimes, ‘Right Where You Started From’ Is Right Where You Belong (At Least Right Now.) It is an eye opening account of one woman who took the leap… to be present and do what’s right for her and her husband.

I don’t post articles in their entirety often, but in this case I don’t want you to miss a word from Alpita’s moving story. As you read it you may be inspired to rethink where you started from… your home, your first passion, your dreams or whatever you have been putting on the back burner:

 One of my favorite parables illustrating differing visions of success is about a Mexican fisherman and an American banker. It goes like this:

An American investment banker was on a much-needed vacation in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with one fisherman docked.

The banker was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the Mexican how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.” The banker asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish.

The fisherman replied he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.”

The banker scoffed, “I am an Ivy League MBA, and I could help you. You could spend more time fishing and buy a bigger boat with the proceeds, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats until eventually, you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to the middleman, you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing and distribution.”

He added, “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City to run your growing enterprise.”

The fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?”

To which the banker replied, “15 to 20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You could make millions.”

“Millions, señor? Then what?”

To which the banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife and stroll to the village in the evenings, where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

As I write this, I am in a coffee house in my hometown 40 miles west of Chicago, where I’m spending a few months at my mother’s house — the same house I grew up in. I’m texting with two childhood friends about meeting at local wine bar.

Why am I here? I sometimes ask myself. I earned my JD from Yale and spent 15 years in law, government and international affairs. As a senior advisor at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, I met with heads of state from around the world. I traveled to remote African villages with armed security guards to assess U.S. development programs and left on military jets from Andrews Air Force Base to attend donor conferences for reconstruction projects in Iraq. While advising the U.S. director on the World Bank board, I negotiated with international officials on pressing global issues on a weekly basis. Outside the office, I reconstructed my own house in the historic district of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Am I going backwards? Not in my mind. I am shifting my strategic focus to what is most valuable to me now. I am redefining success with my own yardstick by strengthening ties to family and friends, and aligning my professional work with more sustainable practices for my own wellbeing.

A few years ago, my mom was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. At that point, I had been in government and international service for over a decade; I had begun questioning whether exporting Western capitalism to developing countries was how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. Personally, I was fighting fatigue through Ayurvedic medicines and finding wise inspiration in Eastern spiritual practices.

Soon thereafter, I returned to the Midwest. While transitioning was not easy, I know that I am right where I am supposed to be right now. I’m spending time with my mother, a retired physician, who, even with her health challenges, has enough energy to give me Indian cooking lessons. I’m hitting golf balls with my niece and nephews, who were born while I was living inside the bubble of Washington’s Beltway.

I’m reconnecting with childhood friends who happen to be here at this point in their lives. One recently returned from Switzerland, where her husband was posted, and may move again; the other is a professional musician who has traveled extensively with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and now, with four children, is considering a university teaching position in another state. We’re re-bonding as we share similar visions about what it means to lead a fulfilling life.

I stay engaged with work in a way that reflects my evolving definition of success. I’m currently of counsel at a global law firm in Chicago and pro-bono counsel for nonprofits focused on community economic development. I’m studying mediation and yoga more deeply; I’m on the board of a local Zen meditation center and investing in a yoga eco-retreat center in Illinois farm country.

I also get on Skype regularly with my significant other as we find our path to be together on a daily basis. He understands this in-between space. He has taught me that life is less like a symphony with a preset score and more like a pick-up jazz quartet where improvisation is part of the process.

What the fisherman/banker parable teaches us is that one’s measure of success depends on the metrics used. This is true for individuals, corporations (i.e., triple bottom line) and nations (i.e., Bhutan’s gross national happiness index). “The Third Metric” is a visionary movement for all levels of this debate, and one that I support wholeheartedly.

 

 

 

 

“Never too old to chase your dreams.” says Diana Nyad. She proved it this week, becoming the first person to complete a Cuba-to-Florida swim without a shark cage! What an inspiration at the age of 64 or any age for that matter!

The 50’s and 60’s traditionally signal the need to be thinking about retirement… but wait a minute, not so fast! I know plenty of lawyers and entrepreneurs that are just like Nyad, looking to chase dreams, not retire! How do you want to spend the next 10 or 20 years? If you are like many lawyers I know, you may want to keep practicing law… on your terms. If you manage the process well, you can! Here are a few things to think about…

  • Are you mentoring younger lawyers to be able to take over your book of business?
  • What kind of clients do you want to work for?
  • What kind of cases do you want to be able to work on?
  • How much time would you like to spend?
  • What has to be in place for for you to have the flexibility to do things on your terms?

OR… maybe you want to create a new future that doesn’t include practicing law. Whatever it is… the sooner you think about it, and begin planning, the better.

Shoot me an email if you’d like some help with this process!

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!

Are you overwhelmed? Are you finding it difficult just to keep up with the legal work that is required of you? Then… when you think of business development, it’s hard to imagine how you could possibly manage even one new matter?

That is something many lawyers struggle with. Whether management is requiring you to develop business or you are requiring it of yourself the issue of “overwhelm” needs to be addressed. Your practice needs help! Get your infrastructure in place. Here are a few ideas to help you create a process that will keep “overwhelm” to a minimum.

1. Identify your team. Who can you count on? Who produces work that is of the quality and standards you require? I’m a fan of identifying contract professionals that can be called upon when needed. You need to do this in advance, when there is time to have meaningful conversations. Not at the moment of “overwhelm.” Get a team of good, qualified, happy people around you. People that will be thrilled when you bring in a new matter, and that you can count on to get the job done right.

2. Learn to say no. Sometimes our “overwhelm” is imposed by others. Practice saying, “No… not at this time.” When you say it this way, your “no” isn’t personal. Then follow it up with… “I can fit it in next Monday, would that work for you?” With this method you are in control of your schedule, instead of letting someone else be in charge.

3. Plan in advance. This will help you identify where you will need assistance and what tasks can be done ahead of time. Advanced planning makes the crunch time easier to manage.

Make a commitment to do it! It’s easy to become complacent when things are under control. But just as sure as the sun comes up in the morning… you will have another crisis of “overwhelm.” It will happen; it’s just a question of when. Be prepared and you’ll get through it with a minimal amount of stress and chaos.

If you would like to explore this a bit further, drop me an email, I’d love to help!

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.

Networking… I hate that term. It conjures up images of “working a room”… smiling, shaking hands and collecting business cards. Business cards that end up on your desk under a pile of papers or left in your suit pocket only to be found the next time you wear that jacket. Sound familiar? What a waste of time and energy, don’t you agree? I think we need to redefine what needs to be done. To build a solid book of business requires strong relationships and that doesn’t happen with the typical networking methodology.

Building relationships takes time, thought and trust.

Time…  Building relationships requires a series of touch points. An introduction, an email, a meeting, another email, a phone call, a lunch, a note with an article, another phone call, a thoughtful gift… and so on and so on. You’ve heard me say this before… Do something every day! I know what you’re thinking… “I don’t have time!” Make time! The legal profession is built on relationships… so, how strong are yours?

Thought… Cultivating a relationship doesn’t just happen because you happen to be in the same organization, conference or networking event. It happens as a result of strategic thinking. How could you help this individual before you ask for a thing? Who could you introduce them to? How can you deepen the relationship? Are you listening for clues to help you accomplish this? Do you really know what they do or have you assumed what they do? Do you know how you can truly help them? Not what YOU think could help them… but what they think would be helpful?

Trust… If you genuinely have something in common, you have something they need and want and you sincerely like them… then trust that the relationship will grow. And the work will follow.

Remember that there are many types of business relationships and they can all have a place in your circle. Even if someone provides a service you may never be able to use, you may have a client who would be thrilled that you introduced them to this individual. So treat every relationship as though it has value… because it does.

People hire lawyers that they know, like and trust. And the only way that can happen is to build a strong relationship. So, take the time that is required to make this individual feel heard and valued. Give the growing relationship strategic thought, how can you contribute to one another? And lastly stay on course and trust that it will develop into work… directly or indirectly. There are two things that are critical to your book of business… your experience and your relationships. And believe me… they are equally important.

If you’d like to discuss your strategy for building relationships, I would love to help… drop me an email.

The 4th of July, what does it mean to you? Spending time with the family? Finally getting to sleep in? Barbecue with friends? Well, I hope it means all of that and more.

Today I would like to ask you a question… What does freedom mean to you, personally? Does it mean…

Not having to worry about bills? Not having to worry about saving for college tuition? Not having to worry about paying off your student loans? Not having to worry about retirement? Getting to spend more time with your children? Getting to do the kind of work you actually like? Being able to set your own schedule?

You can do all that! Building a book of business gives you independence. Plain and simple… the freedom to enjoy life YOUR way. So what are you waiting for? 

Have a great holiday weekend!

“I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” Could that be you? An Australian nurse named Bronnier Ware spent years caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She blogged about her patients epiphanies and has now written a book… The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Here are her findings from an article in The Guardian

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. “This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”

This does not surprise me, since I hear many lawyers talk about how they hate being a lawyer and they only went to law school because it was expected of them. Maybe its time to evaluate why you are a lawyer, is it for you or for someone else? Or maybe you need to find a way to re-shape your practice so that it fits you and your dream!

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. “This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

I think we have all heard this one. It is why are so many are looking for the impossible…”work-life balance!” Maybe instead we should be looking for harmony, and setting priorities. And be happy with life as it ebbs and flows, instead of striving for the impossible and feeling like a failure when we can’t achieve it.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. “Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

It’s easy to just go with the flow in order to not make waves in the firm. I have a client who is a partner who gets unreasonable requests from a senior partner in a law firm and who has no children. Sometimes the requests seem like demands that cannot be negotiated. It is my belief that the response could be something like this… “I can’t meet you on Saturday morning but I could stay late Friday night, would that work for you?” Find a way to express your feeling and you just may find that you have an alternative.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. “Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years.”

Relationships are at the core of the legal profession. Having the ability to work with friends and refer work to your friend is a privilege and a pleasure.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. “This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

Happiness IS a choice and the more you smile the happier you will be. So instead of telling yourself… “I hate this case… I hate the job… I hate the law.” Find the little things that you DO like and say…I like my client… I like writing… I like walking to lunch. You can choose to find fault or you can choose to find happiness… what is YOUR choice?

Choose… no regrets!  Live your dreams. Make work and play so seamless that you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. I know what you’re thinking… no one said it would be easy… but it can be done!

What a helping hand as you seek to build a practice that reflects YOUR dreams and YOUR priorities? I’d love to hear from you!