What do you want? Yes, that’s a pretty big question for lawyers since most would start by explaining… “That depends…” I think Forbes contributorBruce Kasanoff who ghostwrites articles for entrepreneurs, and speaks about bringing out talent in others has a great bit of advice. Kasanoff explains…

“To paraphrase a bit, a professional recently wrote me to say that he was capable of being a VP, but that he was happy in his job, but he didn’t do such a good job of representing himself, but he was proud of his accomplishments, but he thought he should probably improve his skills, and what did I think?

I think he should have written: can you help me become a VP this year?

To get what you want, you have to be coherent, both inside and out.

This means you have to be clear, simple and focused in how you communicate with others. It also means you have to be clear, simple and focused in how you think. If one day you want to be VP, and the next you aren’t sure that you want to work harder or travel more, then you will never be a VP.

Perhaps you don’t want to be a VP. That’s ok— but to get what you want, you need to know what you want.

Once you decide, stick with it.

Wake up every day with your goal in mind. Simplify your language so that you can hold your goal in your mind and be prepared to share it with others. Be ready to deliver your elevator pitch whenever appropriate.

Your elevator pitch is what you will say to whomever has the potential to help you get what you want: a colleague, friend, neighbor or potential employer.

You need to make it easy for other people to help you. 60% of the people I meet do not do this. Instead, they share a sort of “stream of consciousness” slice of their feelings, emotions, experiences and ideas. I’m often left wondering whether the other person wants to be a magician or a doctor. In a perfect world, I would have days and days to get to know what’s in that person’s heart. But in the real world, I may only have a few minutes.

Just the other day, a young man wrote to say he actually wanted to be a doctor, but that he had been sidelined by financial and personal issues. He seemed more focused on those problems than on his goal of being a doctor. That’s understandable, but if your goal is to be a doctor, focus all your energies on that goal, so that any problems or obstacles pale in comparison.

I know this may sound trite, but that is how successful people operate. They know what they want, and they focus on that goal. The goal grows and grows until it block out most other things. They see the result in their mind, so clearly that they can describe it in powerful terms to others. At that point, it becomes exceptionally easy for other people to help. Why? Partially because they understand the goal, but also because it is human nature to want to join a winning team. When we sense that a person has fire in her belly and is destined to succeed, we want to help her out.”

Lawyers… take note that focusing on why you can’t do something, and focusing on the obstacles, doesn’t really get you where you want to go. Be clear and focus on your goal with blinders on and don’t let the naysayers rain on your parade. It’s your career and your life, stay in the driver’s seat! 

If you would like help figuring out what you truly want, drop me an email.

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!

 

We never have enough time. There is no disputing the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day. So instead of wishing for more time our focus should be on how to maximize our time. Forbes contributor… The Muse has written an article… 3 Ways To Get More Out Of Every Single Hour

Here are a few research-backed suggestions that can help you make the most of the time you have.

1. Value Every Single Minute… We tend to sell ourselves short in the time department. In many cases, we even allow others to take advantage of our time. So the most important step in time management is to take ownership of our time, making room for the activities that are meaningful and productive, and eliminating those that have less long-term value.

What sets worthy tasks apart are the outcomes associated with your time investment. For example, you might routinely attend a meeting that includes a lot of back-and-forth, but not a lot of action. Could that allotted time be better spent on an alternative activity, such as connecting with clients or collaborating with colleagues? Often, there are opportunities to “mine” time for more productive activities—we simply overlook them.

To this end, take a hard look at how you’ve been spending your time by completing a calendar audit. Start with this exercise: Record your hour-by-hour activities for two weeks. Then review your entries with these questions in mind: Was the time well spent? Were there solid benefits associated with the time spent? Would you go the same route again? In many cases, a “time” issue is actually a “task” issue. So jettison the tasks that add little to your effectiveness.

Most lawyers keep track of time. However it is with the focus of “more time, more billing” not with a focus of efficiency. Try this time audit as The Muse suggests and see if you can shed a little light on a more efficient use of every single minute.

2. Make Room for More Focus. From ringing phones to co-workers stopping by your desk for a chat, distractions are plentiful in most office environments. (Handling the “drive-bys” can be a real challenge.) While these distractions have become an accepted part of work life, they can wreak havoc on our levels of productivity. When we’re in stop-and-start mode all day, we find ourselves repeating tasks, losing our place, and spinning our wheels. In fact, it can take 20 minutes or longer to re-focus after an interruption.

In some cases, open offices are the culprit. However, we also contribute to the problem with the choices that we make. Psychologist Daniel Goleman discusses that we need to take control and protect ourselves from our own schedules—building time into our work lives to focus deeply on important tasks. We need to identify slices of time when, as Goleman explains, we have the opportunity to “cocoon” and concentrate fully.

You might consider silencing your cell phone or utilizing Google’s Inbox Pause feature to turn off incoming email for an hour or so each day. You can also ask your manager about setting aside two, uninterrupted 30-minute time periods during your workday, perhaps as your day begins, at lunchtime, or at the close of the day, where you can hunker down and do focused work.

You’ll likely be surprised just how much you get out of that time.

There is no doubt that when we can focus we are more productive, so take control of your time. So I suggest that you close your door and hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the doorknob with a time you expect to be accessible again. This will help to manage the expectations of those that need you.

3. Tame Procrastination. Procrastination is one of the most common workplace challenges—and for some of us; it can become a huge time waster. While procrastination can stem from feeling overwhelmed or under-prepared (in which case, don’t delay seeking guidance), research also suggests that procrastination can occur as the result of how we view tasks and goals. Specifically, we cast certain tasks in a very negative light—for, example, “I’ll finish the report by Friday, so my manager won’t be upset with me.” These are called “avoidance” goals—you complete them to avoid a negative consequence—and interestingly, they have a greater tendency to be correlated with procrastination.

But here’s the good news: You can curb procrastination by attempting to view these tasks differently, reframing them as an “approach” goal versus an “avoidance” goal. If you’re dreading a certain task, attempt to see it in the context of a possibly more appealing outcome. Could its completion contribute to advancing a larger, more positive goal—for example, impressing clients or being viewed as a team player? This may help you stay on course. An added bonus? Approach goals seem to offer more satisfaction when they are ultimately accomplished.

What I have learned from my own procrastination is that the task that I have put off generally doesn’t take as much time as I expected,and when I finish it, I often ask myself “Why didn’t I just do it sooner?” I could have avoided hours and sometimes days of feeling guilty that it was still on my “To Do List.” As the saying goes… Just Do It!

Want to discuss this subject further? Give me a call or shoot me an email!

 

Do you want a sure-fire way to predict when something is going to go terribly wrong? I do. There is a way but it’s not a crystal ball or Ouija board. The answer is in Forbes contributor Paul B. Brown’s article… The One Sign Something Is About To Go Wrong… And What You Can Do Before It Does. The legal profession is changing rapidly, and the ability to spot and adapt to these changes is invaluable.

Brown was asked for a formula to predict success…

While I haven’t found a foolproof formula to predict success, I know I have come up with a way to tell when something is going to go horribly wrong.

That is going to occur immediately after you become complacent.  I have never seen it fail.

The moment you think you have nailed it—you believe your product or service is perfect; you have mastered everything there is to know about leading their organization—something or someone is going to upset your proverbial apple cart.

For example, a new competitor will enter the market with a new way of doing things.

I am sure that Blockbuster thought everything was fine even when Netflix NFLX +1.21% first came along. The large box consumer electronic stores were doing quite nicely and remained unconcerned when an increasing number of people starting shopping their stores, asking lots of questions about the merchandise and then leaving empty handed (so that they could buy the product cheaper online.)

Or there will be a management challenge that you didn’t see coming. (“Wait a second! It looks like these Millennials want to be managed differently than all the baby boomers we have in our ranks.”)

You have two choices when you face these kinds of situations.

You can assume the new information/problem/challenge is an aberration and there is nothing to worry about. (People will always want to rent movies from a freestanding store; or in the case of the big box stores “this Internet shopping thing is just a fad.)

As for management challenges you can simply say: “These new workers will just have to get used to the way we have always done things. Our systems are perfect the way they are.”

Or you can take every potential change to the marketplace seriously.

No, not every new entrant or new idea could put you out of business, but it only takes one significant threat as Blockbuster and the consumer electronic stores learned the hard way.

The problem with worrying about every threat and every change in the marketplace is that you can never become complacent. You can never truly relax and enjoy what you have accomplished.

Accept that. The alternative is becoming obsolete or irrelevant.

While it is tiring—because you can never rest on your well-earned laurels—it is far better to be vigilant.

Complacency comes in many forms. The most harmful to a lawyer’s business is… “I’m too busy!” Yes, I acknowledge that you may have a heavy workload, but I ask you… Are you working as efficiently as you could? Are you leveraging the skills of a team? Are you making every minute you spend on business development count? If not maybe you have become complacent and begun to settle for business as usual! Now that you know complacency is a sure sign of impending disaster… what are you going to do about it?

If you would like to explore how this insight applies to your situation… give me a call.

 

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!

 

Have you ever left a meeting with a smile and thought…”I really like that person?” Chances are the person was witty or even downright funny. Or have you been in an extremely tense meeting and someone cracked a joke and all of a sudden the tension was broken? Humor can be a valuable tool when developing business. Forbes staff writer Jacquelyn Smith looks into the subject in her article… 10 Reasons Why Humor Is A Key To Success At Work. Here are four of the reasons that I think lawyers should take to heart.

People will enjoy working with you. ‘People want to work with people they like,’ Vanderkam (author of What the Most Successful People Do at Work, and What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast) says. ‘Why wouldn’t you? You spend huge chunks of your waking hours at work, so you don’t want it to be a death march. Humor–deftly employed–is a great way to win friends and influence people. You need to be funny, but not snarky (that’s not good for team building) and you can’t offend anyone.’

Humor is a potent stress buster. ‘In fact, it’s a triple whammy,’ Michael Kerr explains (an international business speaker, president of Humor at Work, and author of The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses are Laughing all the Way to the Bank). ‘Humor offers a cognitive shift in how you view your stressors; an emotional response; and a physical response that relaxes you when you laugh.’

Ha + ha = aha! “Humor is a key ingredient in creative thinking,” Kerr says. ‘It helps people play with ideas, lower their internal critic, and see things in new ways.’ Humor and creativity are both about looking at your challenges in novel ways and about making new connections you’ve never thought about before, he adds.

It helps build trust. ‘You can build trust with the effective use of humor because humor often reveals the authentic person lurking under the professional mask,’ Kerr says.

So if you are hiding your sense of humor because you think lawyers should always be serious, think again… tasteful humor and great wit could be great assets when it comes to building relationships and landing more clients.

 

What can legal business developers learn from a consumer brand expert? Forbes Magazine contributor Patrick Spenner points out in his article that engagement is important however the new frontier in 2013 for consumer brands is… SIMPLICITY.

As you know the legal profession is behind when it comes to adapting to trends… some lawyers are still not convinced that market engagement is a worthy goal. If you are one of the believers, you know market engagement matters! If you can’t spark someones interest, you don’t have a chance of building a relationship and consequently landing a matter or case. So what should we be looking at in addition to market engagement, even if it is only with your peripheral vision? I think Spenner’s ideas on simplicity should be considered when developing business. A filter, so to speak to guide your thinking and actions.

Here at Corporate Executive Board, we surveyed more than 7,000 consumers and interviewed 200 marketing executives across consumer brands and industries to find out. The answer: Simplify the decision-making process, so much so that consumers actually think less about the decision. Marketers can do that in three easy ways by helping consumers:

Trust the information they receive – providing recommendations by consumer advisors, ratings and reviews.

The legal profession has this one covered. Martindale, Chambers, Super Lawyer, etc. My question to you is this… Are you on those lists? I know some of you have been saying for quite sometime now… “I need to get my rating on Martindale.” So… DO IT!

Learn effectively without distraction – simplifying the research process by offering clear and streamlined brand-specific product information targeted to each decision stage.

Can prospective clients figure out the reasons you are the clear choice? Probably not many of you can answer yes to that question. As I say often on this blog… you need to improve your credibility and visibility so that it is a simple choice for a client to hire you. You must look at this from both sides; online and in the community.

Weigh options confidently – making transparent buying guides and brand differentiated information easily available.

Okay… this one’s a bit tough. You need to think about ethics and if you don’t you may get an email from the Bar one day reminding you that you should have thought about it. It’s obvious that you can’t point out your competition’s short comings. But you can make your credentials so powerful that anyone can see that you are the clear choice. If you have “written a book” on the issue, can your competition say the same?

Spenner defines the use of these as… Decision Simplicity. Whether your client is a consumer, a business executive or professional services expert… they are all busy, on information overload and never have enough time. Help simplify their decision-making and show them that YOU are the clear choice. Give them plenty of evidence that they can show their superiors to justify hiring YOU. And that my friend is NOT only a beautiful website and brochure… it’s much more than that! Demonstrate your expertise with articles and blogs as well as speeches and seminars. Focus on market engagement and keep decision simplicity in your peripheral vision!