Last week I made a speech about making a speech. I first asked the audience to raise their hands if they give speeches on a regular basis, how many do it occasionally, how many lead meetings, how many share their expertise with their colleagues and clients. As you can imagine more and more hands were raised until it was everyone in the room… because we all share our expertise with our colleagues and clients. So even though “giving a speech” may sound intimidating, most of us practice the basics each and every day. Speaking is a powerful tool for business development, and here are 7 key strategies to make you more effective (or help you get started!)

  1.  Can you simply share? We do it everyday, but when we think of delivering a speech we elevate it to lofty academic pearls. Yes, there are times that would be appropriate but most of the time it can simply be the act of sharing what you know, as you do every single day.
  2. Is your message clear? Make sure your message is crystal clear. Get rid of acronyms and insider terms.
  3. Does your audience care about this topic? If not find a connection that will make them care or pick another topic. Just because you think they NEED to know about this topic doesn’t mean they care.
  4. Be a storyteller. Tell a compelling story that will resonate with your audience. This is the best way to be memorable.
  5. Repetition, repetition, repetition! Get in front of an audience again and again. The more you speak the better you’ll be, and the better you are the more fun you’ll have, and the more fun you are having, the more your audience will engage with you and your message!
  6. You can do it your way. There are many ways to be a successful speaker… so do it YOUR way. Do what feels comfortable, if you have a great sense of humor… use it.
  7. Strive to be real… not perfect! I’ve saved the most important for last. REAL trumps perfect every time. An audience wants to see you, not a performance.

Here is a great TED Talk by Joe Kowan, How I Beat Stage Fright, that will engage, inspire and make you laugh!

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!

In the celebration of Nelson Mandela’s life we learned an African word… “ubuntu.” It is defined as “I am, because of you.” Of all the stories I heard in the steady stream of heart felt illustrations, there is one story that stands out…Take 15 minutes to listen to this TED Talk, a very special illustration of “ubuntu” by a wildlife activist from South Africa, Boyd Varty…

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.

There is no greater gift than to be able to do what you love. When people talk about their work as a passion, they often say that they would do it even if they were not paid. Their enthusiasm is contagious, their clients and colleagues feel it.

Do you love what you’re doing… or do you dread going into the office each morning? Many of the clients I work with are sick and tired of having that feeling of dread each morning. We explore what’s at the heart of the frustration…

1. Do you hate the practice area you find yourself in?

2. Do you hate the way your superiors, colleagues or clients treat you?

3. Do you hate the hours you are required to work?

Life is too short to “hate” what you do for a living. That isn’t why you went to law school. The big question is… What are you going to do about it?

Here’s a video I ran across on a LinkedIn article by Richard BransonHow to Find a Fulfilling Career.  He featured this video created by his son’s production company Sundog Pictures. Take 10 minutes and see if you don’t find a bit of inspiration.

If you would like to discuss this subject further, I’m here! Just shoot me an email.

Believe it or not it is Thanksgiving week! Do you feel as though you have been “full steam ahead” since last Thanksgiving? Many of us have… which is, why when I read the article by Minda Zetlin, an Inc. Magazine contributor I thought she was talking to me! As they say… “if the shoe fits!” Yikes! How about you?

It’s Sunday evening but instead of relaxing with your family, you’re sitting in front of your home computer. There are just a few emails you have to send out before the week starts, a couple of projects you want to complete in the quiet before the phone calls and urgent emails begin arriving the next morning. You’re tired, and vaguely cranky to find yourself working on what’s supposed to be a day of rest. But it needs to get done, so you push through.

If you’re anything like me, this will sound all too familiar. The thing is, it’s bad for your brain. A growing body of scientific evidence explains what many of us have learned from unpleasant experience: Push yourself through too many hours or days of work and your brain starts to push back. Ideas that once flowed easily dry up, and tasks that you should be able to perform quickly become excruciatingly difficult. If you’re like me, at that point, you feel tempted to scold yourself to buckle down and work harder. That’s completely counterproductive–you need to give your brain, and yourself, some rest.

In fact, scientists say you almost certainly need more rest than you’re getting. Here’s how to start fixing that:

 1. Take short play breaks. Reading about this research, I finally understand why it often feels necessary to me to pause in the middle of writing something, sometimes in mid-sentence, and play a computer game for a few minutes. Turns out that switching our attention to a simple task like a game (in the study it was some anagrams) gives a different part of our brain the opportunity to step in and problem solve.

Of course, playing video games is infinitely more fun than working so sometimes it can be hard to switch back. I find the Pomodoro Technique approach of using 25 minutes of work alternated with five minutes of recreation works well. Give it a try: You’ll find you work better and more efficiently if you let your subconscious handle part of the load.

2. Take more frequent vacations. Americans are allotted an average of 10 days vacation time each year. That’s not enough according to brain researchers–and many of us don’t even take all of it. A Harris survey found Americans ended 2012 with an average of nine unused vacation days.

That’s a shame because research shows that taking vacations, especially if you travel to a different environment, has solid brain benefits but that these benefits dissipate quickly and ideally should be replenished often.

3. Take one day–or at least one evening–off every week. In one experiment, members of a five-person consultant team were instructed to take one day off every week. In another, executives accustomed to working every evening were told to keep one evening work-free. Though they were reluctant to try it, fearing work would pile up during the breaks, participants actually loved the schedule. Months later they reported better work-life balance, which is hardly surprising. More interestingly, they also reported being more productive and prouder of their accomplishments. Clearly, more hours spent working does not equal better work.

4. Consider a mid-day nap. I know, it’s a radical suggestion and not practical in every job or workplace. But there’s a body of evidence that shows people who take naps are more alert, more productive, and less prone to mistakes than those who don’t. And one reason so many people feel sleepy in the late afternoon may be that napping is hard-wired into our systems, something even the ancient Romans did.

If napping is completely out of the question, you can also help yourself with a brief daily meditation break–even as little as five or 10 minutes. That will help your brain by releasing more alpha waves and it will make you happier for the rest of the day.

When you consider the benefits of trying Zetlin’s four steps to a healthier brain, why not give it a try? And what better time to try than this Thanksgiving week!

If you’d like to discuss this subject further, 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!

 

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!

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.