Monthly Archives: July 2004

Innovation Conference

I’ll have some more specific news soon, but I’m working on a brainstorming and innovation conference in Chicago on April 3 — the Sunday following Techshow. Attendance will be limited to around 30. If you have any interest, let me know. I’ll post more details in the next few weeks.

Keep your employees happy.

Thanks to The Small Business Blog for pointing me to this My Business article profiling ways Service Net Solutions keeps its employees happy. Some of the fringe benefits:

Fun Money. $100 per year to spend on any fun family-oriented activity. Employees get reimbursed if they bring in a photo documenting the event, says Callahan.

Health Care for the Home. Home warranties, covering everything from kitchen appliances to plumbing.

Community Outreach. Eight hours of paid time annually to volunteer in the community.

Computer Purchase Plan. Up to $400 every three years toward the cost of a new PC.

A Five-week Paid Sabbatical. Available every seven years.

None of these things can cost much to implement, but go a long way towards keeping employees happy. I’d love to hear from some the readers of this blog about the kinds of things their businesses/firms do to reward employees. Alternatively, I’d be just as interested in horror stories.

It’s the Cash Flow, Stupid

I’ve been following Will Keller’s The Accounting Blog for a while and found this post today with Will’s Advice for Managing Cash Flow. From the post:

Now please listen up because we’re getting to the important part. For most companies, the key cash flow drivers are as follows: pricing, sales volume, credit terms, inventory management, supplier terms, and expenses. In other words, the specific things that your company does in these six areas- from your pricing strategy to your payment terms to the amount of inventory you carry- will directly impact cash flow. That may not sound very glamorous, but the results can be exciting.

The advice in the article is (or should be) obvious to all lawyers, but it bears repeating from time to time.

The Weekly Five

I’m really going to have to come up with a new name for my sidebar’s “Weekly Five,” but for now, I’ve added five new links for your viewing pleasure.

Ain’t Big Firm Life Grand

Anonymous Lawyer, (whom I once thought was faking it, but may be the real deal) writes about the big firm rat race and answers the question posed by one of his partners, “Why do my kids hate me?”

They hate us because we’re never home. They hate us because we’re pulling out our Blackberries all weekend while we pretend (and they can tell when we’re pretending) to enjoy being around them. They hate us because work is #1, and they’re #2 — or #3, or #4. It’s sad. Because it’s not like years from now we’re going to regret not checking the Blackberry more often. It’s sad because time passes really quickly and it starts to feel like “too late” very quickly. That’s what keeps people here. By the time, maybe eight months into your first year, maybe a year a half — but not much longer than that in most cases — by the time you realize what this job is doing to you it feels like you’re stuck. “It’s too late.” And so you hope it gets better. And you hope, and you hope, and you work, and you work — and then it’s no better, and even more so, “it’s too late.” And then you may as well stick around and try and make partner, and then if you’re lucky enough and skilled enough and effective enough at what you do, and the right people know it, you make partner, and you think it’s all going to change. And a lot does change. But the hours are still long, and there’s still a hierarchy so you’re never really at the top of the totem pole, and the money jumps but the pressure doesn’t really slow down, and the people you compare yourself to change, and you aren’t really relaxed about it… and it really is “too late” now, because this has gone from a job to a career, and you’re stuck. And you never see your kids. And they hate you. And then you don’t even want to go home, and so you stay at the office, and the spiral continues…

Read the full post and the comments too.

What Do Sophisticated Clients Value?

Bruce MacEwen at Adam Smith Esq. beat me to posting about this article from Legal Week titled “The Client is Key.” Read Bruce’s post, read the article, and then dump hourly billing! As Bruce writes, “You have been warned.”

Working with the Older Client

David Wolfe writes a fascinating post in his Ageless Marketing Blog about the differences in marketing to older vs. younger consumers. I work with a lot of older (65 years and up) clients and found his tips very interesting:

Older consumers’ more inner focused decision processes pose challenges to marketers who are more accustomed to pitching to the objectively biased minds of younger consumers that favor direct, unambiguous marketing statements. Brain scans in fact have shown that younger minds struggle more with clarifying ambiguity than older minds generally do.

In fact, older minds are more quickly repelled by black-and-white marketing claims. The ambiguity implicit in saying something “could be” or “perhaps is” is less likely to challenge the older person’s need for feeling independent in making decisions about the worth and meaning of what a marketer says.

One of the biggest differences between younger and older consumers in how they make buying decisions can be boiled down to the fact that younger consumers want to be told what something is worth and means while older consumers are more like to make that determination for themselves.

Something to think about when working with (or marketing to) the older client.

Set your TIVO for the Blawg Channel

Dennis Kennedy, Ernest Svenson, Marty Schwimmer, and Tom Mighell have started The Blawg Channel, “a common platform from which the best of the legal bloggers can distribute their content and, more importantly, individuals or organizations can obtain this content all in one place automatically.” Dennis and I have had a few discussions about this project and I think it is a really cool idea. I’m just waiting for their first reality series: “Blog Swap.”

Positioning your Firm

One of the (many) struggles lawyers have is carving out a niche for themselves in their firm or community. I ran across this post by Laura Ries in her new The Origin of Brands Blog titled, “Positioning is Alive and Well.”  She gives several ways to position a product (or service).  Her examples:

1. The Open Hole. Price is the easiest hole in the mind to understand and it’s one of the easiest holes to fill. Haagen-Dazs’ decision to introduce a more expensive line of ice cream set up the “premium” ice cream position for the brand and made Haagen-Dazs one of the enduring marketing successes of the past several decades. What Haagen-Dazs did in ice cream, Heineken did in beer, Rembrandt in toothpaste, Evian in water, Orville Redenbacher in popcorn, Rolex in watches, Mercedes-Benz in automobiles. High price is only one of the open holes in the mind. Low price is another. What Haagen-Dazs did at the high end, brands like Wal-Mart and Southwest Airlines are doing at the low end.

2. The New Category. Sometimes there are no open holes in the prospect’s mind and you have to create one. We call this positioning strategy, “create a new category you can be first in.” Gatorade, for example, was the first sports drink. PowerBar was the first energy bar. Red Bull was the first energy drink. UnderArmour was the first in performance workout clothing. Zima was the first … well, what was Zima the first of? The label said “ClearMalt,” but nobody knew what that meant. The television announcement ads were no help either. “What’s in it?” asked a bartender. “It’s a secret. It’s something different,” replied a mysterious pitchman in his white suit and black hat.

3. The Number-two Brand. Consumers like choice. Sometimes you can build a powerful brand just by giving consumers an alternative to the leading brand. But what strategy can best deliver the No. 2 position? “Maybe if we can produce a better product than the leader,” goes the thinking, “we won’t necessarily overtake them, but we will wind up in the number two position.” This is the worst possible approach. Why is this so? Because the leader in your field already has the perception of producing the better product. Then how do you become a strong number two brand? You become the opposite of the leader. Coke was for older people, so Pepsi became the cola for younger people. Listerine was the bad-tasting mouthwash that killed germs and odor in your mouth. So Scope became the good-tasting mouthwash and a strong number-two brand. Home Depot is the leading home-improvement store, but its crowded aisles and jammed shelves appeal more to men than women. So Lowe’s became the home-improvement store for women with clean layouts and wide aisles.

4. The Specialist. Every coffee shop in America sells coffee, but they also sell hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, apple pie, donuts and dozens of other foods and beverages. So Starbucks specialized in coffee and became a very successful brand. So did McDonald’s which specialized in hamburgers. And Dunkin’ Donuts which specialized in donuts. And Subway which specialized in submarine sandwiches. Enterprise Rent-A-Car specialized in the “insurance replacement” business and became the largest car rental company in America.

5. The Channel Brand. Sometimes you can position a brand to fill a channel hole. L’eggs, the first supermarket panty-hose brand, became the largest-selling panty-hose brand in the country. Today there are opportunities to create Internet channel brands. Amazon.com, eBay, Monster.com and Salesforce.com are just some of many successful “Internet-only” brands. Paul Mitchell became a $600 million hair and skin-care brand by focusing on the professional hair salon channel. Ping did the same in golf clubs by focusing on the pro-shop channel.

6. The Gender Brand. Sometimes you can build a big brand by focusing on half the market. Marlboro because a big brand by positioning itself as the first cigarette for men. Virginia Slims became a big brand by positioning itself as the first cigarette for women. Curves became a big brand by positioning itself as the gym for women. Secret became a big brand by positioning itself as the first deodorant for women. There’s a lot more to say about the subject of positioning. I suggest you get yourself a copy of the 20th anniversary edition of Positioning. You can’t go wrong if you simply take your mind off your product, your brand and your company and focus instead on the mind of the consumer. Since it is in the mind of the consumer that the real marketing battle is won or lost.

What position is your firm in? Where do you want it to be?

Laura has a lot of other great stuff at her blog. Check it out.

Let me tell you a story…

Jon Strande, one of this week’s Five by Five contributors has started the StoryBlog — a repository of stories for use in presentations.  The blog is pretty new, but has some great stories on it already. My favorite comes from Nerio Vakil:&nbsp:

This happened in one of Japan’s biggest cosmetics companies. The company received a complaint that a consumer had bought a soap box that was empty.  Immediately the authorities isolated the problem to the assembly line, which transported all the packaged boxes of soap to the delivery department. For some reason, one soap box went through the assembly line empty. Management asked its engineers to solve the problem. Post-haste, the engineers worked hard to devise an X-ray machine with high-resolution monitors manned by two people to watch all the soap boxes that passed through the line to make sure they were not empty. No doubt, they worked hard and they worked fast but they spent a whoopee amount to do so.  But when a rank-and-file employee in a small company was posed with the same problem, he did not get into complications of X-rays, etc. but instead came out with another solution. He bought a strong industrial electric fan and pointed it at the assembly line. He switched the fan on, and as each soap box passed the fan, it simply blew the empty boxes out of the line.  Moral of the story:  “Always look for simple solutions. Devise the simplest possible solution that solves the problem and learn to focus on solutions not on problems.”

Ways to Reduce Stress

The Nub picked up this list from a Philipine Newspaper. Titled, “Christian ways to reduce stress.” There are a bunch of great ideas and tips here (no matter what your faith). These are my favorites:

1. An Angel says, “Never borrow from the future. If you worry about what may happen tomorrow and it doesn’t happen, you have worried in vain. Even if it does happen, you have to worry twice.”

5. Say NO to projects that won’t fit into your time schedule or that will compromise your mental health.

6. Delegate tasks to capable others.

8. Less is more (Although one is often not enough, two are often too many.)

9. Allow extra time to do things and to get to places.

10. Pace yourself. Spread out big changes and difficult projects over time; don’t lump the hard things all together.

11. Separate worries from concerns. If a situation is a concern, find out what God would have you do and let go of the anxiety. If you can’t do anything about a situation, forget it.

14. Have backups: an extra car key in your wallet, an extra house key buried in the garden, extra stamps, etc.

15. K.M.S. (Keep Mouth Shut) This single piece of advice can prevent an enormous amount of trouble.

16. Do something for the Kid in You everyday.

20. Get organized so everything has its place.

22. Write down thoughts and inspirations.

23. Every day, find time to be alone.

30. Take your work seriously, but not yourself at all.

31. Develop a forgiving attitude (most people are doing the best they can).

32. Be kind to unkind people (they probably need it the most.).

34. Talk less; listen more.

36. Remind yourself that you are not the general manager of the universe.

37. Every night before bed, think of one thing you’re grateful for that you’ve never been grateful for before.

Five by Five – Entrepreneur Edition Recap

Well, the Entrepreneur Edition of the Five by Five is done. Absolutely great advice for lawyers (and other service professionals) about how to cater to entrepreneurial clients. All of the posts are here in one spot.

Next week (or thereabouts) we’ll have five legal technology gurus answer the following question: What five new technologies should all lawyers incorporate into their practices, but probably won’t?

Five by Five – Barry Moltz

The final installment of the Entrepreneur’s Edition of the Five by Five comes from Barry Moltz, author of You Need To Be A Little Crazy: The Truth About Starting and Growing Your Business who also blogs about entrepreneurism and his book. Barry’s finishes up the Five by Five with:

1. Don’t just keep track of the hours you spend with me, think value. There is nothing that gets me more angry than receiving an bill from an attorney for a tenth of an hour. When an attorney does this I think they are more interested in their time than the value they can bring to my business. I would rather have the attorney make their rate higher and not charge me for these short phone calls. Although I know all the attorney has to sell is their time, please disguise it a bit better. It makes me feel better.

2. Stop charging me for all those copies you make or faxes you send. There isn’t another business on earth that charges me to make copies of my documents at 5- 25 cents a page or send a fax at $1.00 to $5.00 a page. I always kid my best friend who is a personal injury attorney that if he wants to make some money today, all he has to do is take out a file and start copying! Maybe, I am just jealous and wish I could do this in my consulting business. Again, hide this in your hourly rate. To me, this just seems like you are piling on! These services are a cost of doing business. Treat it that way.

3. Insist that I have all the correct agreements and legal documents. Entrepreneurs are famous for being sloppy on operating and partner agreements. Be ruthless with them and help them think through ALL the issues that could happen. Insist that these are update and in place.

4. Act as a “Lovecat” and connect me to your other clients that may be able to help my business as a vendor or customer. Entrepreneurs need your help referring them to other people that can use their services or products. You can be a key conduit. Try to make it happen. Likewise, maybe you other businesses that can help them as a vendor. Make the call and connect your two clients.

5. Counsel them not to sue every person that angers them. Tell them how expensive it will be. Help them understand that trying to mediate through issues is much better than going to court. In the end, at the court, the only one that usually wins in an attorney.

Five by Five – Businesspundit

The fourth contributor to this the Entrepreneur Edition of the Five by Five is Rob, the anonymous Businesspundit. Rob writes one of my favorite blogs on entrepreneurship and business issues. Because he writes anonymously, he pulls no punches. His Five:

1. Think customer service. Lawyers are in the customer service business, and they should act like it. If clients aren’t happy, they shouldn’t have to pay full freight.

2. Change the way you bill. I’d rather get away from this billable hour nonsense.

3. Technology, technology, technology. Why do lawyers generate so much paperwork? It’s 2004.

4. Understand my business. I get way too many cookie cutter answers from lawyers.

5. Help me plan for the future. Most lawyers I have dealt with are great at writing and analyzing contracts, but I need more. Help me think about the way my strategies will play out from a legal perspective. Help me understand what issues and challenges I may face, and the best way to deal with them,

How to get Ink and Links for your business.

I’m proud to announce that this weblog has been named to the EDDix 50 – a list of the top 50 legal weblogs. I’d like to thank my parents for raising me the way they did, my lovely wife, my beautiful daughter, my agent, my producer ….

Really, I’d like to give kudos to the folks at EDDix, a new company in the Electronic Data Discovery business (get it, EDD). With a significant amount of work, they’ve managed to get most of the top “blawgs” to link to their new business site without paying a dime in advertising! Don’t get me wrong, I think my inclusion on the list is really cool, and Michael A. Clark and the others at EDDix have taken a lot of time to compile a great guide to legal weblogs, but I’m most impressed with the sheer brilliance of the marketing behind it. And like any list of Top 50 anything, there will be a bit of controversy — all to generate more links and traffic to the site.

What kind of thing could you do to get your clients or competitors talking about you? For lawyers, how about beginning a “Top 10 Small Businesses” award? Accept nominations from the public, have a panel of “experts” pick the winners, and invite all of the nominees (with their staffs) to a banquet you sponsor to honor the winners. Have a keynote speaker talk about a unique issue facing small businesses. Make sure your marketing materials are front and center and that you meet and greet every nominee. Arrange for photographs of the winners accepting their awards (with a firm member in each one), and send the pictures to the local paper along with a press release, or ask the paper to cover the event with a reporter. Total cost — a few thousand dollars. The ability to meet and interact with dozens of your target clients (and their families and staffs) — priceless.

I like this idea so much we’ll work on “The Silver Lake Group Award for Small Business” and see if
we can get it up and running for next year.

Five by Five – Jon Strande

These responses come from Jon Strande, writer of the Business Evolutionist blog and author of the e-book, “The Cash Register Principle.”

1. Form partnerships with other service professionals and offer entire solutions. For instance, I think the idea of being able to “plug in” to a business backbone would be cool. If I’m starting a small business, there are whole series of things that I need to do, file paperwork with the state, getting a tax-id number, getting some accounting software set up, printing business cards, etc, etc, etc. Imagine bringing together a bunch of preferred business partners together and offering a turn-key business formation service. The businesses in the “partnership” could chip in and pay for a concierge/liaison that would hold the hand of the business owner during the process. In addition to that, make the billing for the “service” simple… seamless across all the offerings.

2. Continue that service beyond the business formation stuff. That business concierge should be someone to facilitate anything at any time for the business owner. My point in this is that if you’re lawyer (or banker, or accountant, or whatever) you’re just a silo, you might have something to offer the time-starved entrepreneur, but you’re just a piece of the puzzle. You view the law as super important, and it is, but think about what the entrepreneur wants/needs – TO SELL. Not get burdened with legal stuff or anything else.

3. Play the role of connector. As an attorney, you have tons of contacts in various lines of business, facilitate introductions of clients that might be able to help each other. If you have a marketing firm as a client, introduce them to other clients that could use their services. If you want more business from someone, help them be successful, they’ll remember you for it and most people will repay that kindness by telling others about you.

4. Automate stuff that you can automate. Not to sell what an attorney does short, but several of the documents that you generate for clients are based on templates (be honest here), why not make that stuff available online, in a protected area, for existing clients. If I need a new contract for something at 8:30 at night, let me go online and create it instead of having to wait until 8:30 the next morning when you get in the office. Not all of the documents you produce can be automated, but for the ones that can be, automate them. Make them available to me when I need them. Add the simple stuff as well. Let me search other information, ask questions, etc…

5. Last, but certainly not least, remember that you’re in the people business. Treating people well, regardless of what business you’re in, is THE most important thing you can do… obviously.

Five by Five – Michael Cage

The next contributor to the Entrepreneur Edition of the Five by Five is Michael Cage.  Michael writes about “Small Business Success, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship” at his Entrepreneurslife.com blog.  Here are Michael’s responses:

I was thrilled when Matt asked my to contribute to this edition of Five-By-Five. As a lifelong, parallel entrepreneur I’ve had more than my share of dealings with attorneys. My role has been as client, adversary, and occasional small business-to-business marketing “hired gun.”  I’ve often found myself thinking, “finding a great attorney who understands my business just shouldn’t be so hard.” Alas, it is. And, I’m still looking. Hopefully my answers will get you thinking at a minimum, and jump-start some changes at best. I haven’t pulled any punches, nor have I been polite. I hope you’ll appreciate the intention behind this: I’m telling you what entrepreneurs think, but often don’t say, as they are walking out your door.

1. Don’t make the mistake of thinking entrepreneurs know all you can do for them. It took me years and numerous businesses to fully appreciate the ways a good attorney could help me, and I’m not alone. This is both a disservice to your clients and a profit-killer for your business, and it can be traced back to the general fear and total misunderstanding most attorneys have about marketing. Good marketing does more than bring clients in the door, though that is the standard by which it should be judged. It also teaches and educates about exactly how you can help businesses, why you are uniquely qualified to do so, and the dangers lurking around the corner if you are consulted you too late. How many times do you say, “If you had only seen me sooner?” This should not happen, and, frankly, you have only yourself to blame when it does. Get off the high horse and embrace marketing as a way to help both your practice and your clients.

2. I’m not hiring you to bring the apocalypse. All too often entrepreneurs see attorneys as the place where deals go to die. A close friend of mine, a millionaire many times over, once completed the negotiations for a substantial deal. He said the next step was to take it to his attorney, where he’d have to fight and argue for hours to get the deal OK’d. It shouldn’t have to be that way. Yes, I know your job is to keep me and my business out of trouble. I do appreciate it. But you can’t lose sight of the fact that, ultimately, entrepreneurs hire you to keep their businesses out of trouble AND make it possible to grow. When proposed deals and contracts do not make your first cut; pro-actively give an alternative way to make it work.  Realize entrepreneurs are driven by questions like, “How can we make this happen?” instead of “How many ways won’t this work?” Cut the cynicism off, and work with your clients in a pro-active and positive way to make the deals happen. Then go from being perceived as “deal killers” to being known for understanding entrepreneurs and having the disposition to work with them.

3. Small business owners want specialists. Small business owners believe their business is unique. There is some, though not much, validity to the belief. The important thing to realize is that if you take the time to become familiar enough with your clients’ businesses to grasp the unique aspects, you will be rewarded with a unique selling proposition no generalist competitor can touch.  The reverse is also true. If you do NOT take the time to understand what makes your client businesses tick, they will defect to the first “more specialized” attorney who comes along. Specialization can be as simple as have a specific set of marketing campaigns for a specific type of business. I’ve seen response increase by as much as 72% by taking a generic marketing piece and making a single change — calling out a specific type of business in the headline and delivering it to a targeted audience of those businesses.

4. Spend less time focusing on your peers and more time focusing on your clients. I’m fortunate to count three extremely good, prominent attorneys among my close friends and associates. All three are master marketers, and understand how their clients want to be communicated with and marketed to. They share another commonality. All three have been brought up on downright silly ethics charges because of their marketing. The real reason? Up-tight peers who adhere to an antiquated set of “marketing rules” that benefit only those lazy, apathetic, and fearful of competition. As an entrepreneur, an attorney afraid of competition is of no use to me. As a potential client, I want comparative advertising allowed, I most definitely want to see testimonials in advertising, and I sure as heck would love to see an attorney use a guarantee. Taking it a step further and shifting gears, I’ve yet to meet a successful business owner of ANY kind who spends more time worrying about what their peers do than what their clients want. Loosen the death grip on marketing standards, and everyone who is worth their business license will benefit. (Those who aren’t? They die or go work for someone else. As it should be.)

5. Entrepreneurs WANT to be marketed to. Once we do business, do not take me for granted or cease communicating with me. Thinking I will come back to you or refer business when I haven’t heard a peep from you or your office in months is a very poor assumption to make. At the same time, don’t mail off a newsletter produced outside of your practice and think it’ll do for maintaining our relationship. It won’t. If you want me as a client and a great source of referrals, you had better show you value my business by communicating with me on *at least* a monthly basis. The more relevant the content is to my business the better. And, above all, do not commit the cardinal marketing sin of being boring. Throw the tiresome, professional voice out the window and really communicate to me. Person to person. Just like you would a close friend who asked for your advice over a couple of whiskeys at the local bar.  Remember, people complain endlessly about big, dumb corporations. Yet most professional service providers, and almost all attorneys, go out of their way to sound just like them. Take the time to learn how your clients like being communicated with, and the language they like to use.

I’ll leave you with this final thought: Be bold. If all else fails, observe what your colleagues are doing in terms of marketing and service delivery and do the opposite. Your peers might snipe at you, but your clients will love you. Think about it

Five by Five – Professor Jeffrey R. Cornwall

First up for this edition of the Five by Five is Professor Jeffrey R. Cornwall, who holds the Jack C. Massey Chair of Entrepreneurship at Belmont University. Professor Cornwall has written four books on entrepreneurship and writes The Entrepreneurial Mind weblog. From the Professor:

1. “Invest” in your Clients. By this, I don’t mean that attorneys should literally become equity investors in the entrepreneurial companies with which they work. But, they may need to “eat” much of what would normally be considered billable hours when first working with a start-up company. During the time before the business actually starts creating revenues through the early stages of business development is when many key legal issues need to be addressed. Shareholder agreements, patents, financing agreements, leases, employment contracts, etc. all require careful business and legal consideration. Yet, many entrepreneurs are strapped for cash. By offering heavily discounted fixed prices for such services, or by discounting hours billed, the attorney can actually make a major contribution to the early success of the business. The attorney will reap the benefits of this in the longer term as the company grows and its cash flows become positive.

2. Talk openly about fee structure for any project and work within their budget. Even as a business grows cash flow and budgets can remain fairly restrictive. Work with your entrepreneur clients to give them the most value for what they can afford. Offer them a fixed project cost rather than open ended hourly billing.

3. Develop a long-term legal plan. Work with your client to develop a long-term legal plan so they can plan for legal expenses that they will need to consider into the future.

4. Help your clients to make you more efficient in your work for them. Let them prepare their own drafts on documents. This can save a lot of money and will result in documents that better reflect their business and their strategies. Encourage them to organize their meetings with you to help make each meeting more efficient by covering several issues at once.

5. Help them to understand your world. The world of law is where you live. However, it is a scary, foreign land to most entrepreneurs. Help to translate what you are addressing with them into language they will understand. It is not the precise and technical way of dealing with clients in which most of you are trained, but it will lead to better outcomes for all concerned

Five by Five – The Entrepreneurs

After a brief hiatus, this Entrepreneurial Edition of the Five by Five answers the following question:

What five things can lawyers do to better serve entrepreneurs and their businesses?

I’ll post each response over the next few days. As always, I welcome your comments. For the lawyers reading this, give me your ideas how you better serve your entrepreneurial clients. For the entrepreneurs, let me know how your lawyers should work for you. Also, anybody with ideas on a Five by Five they’d like to see, let me know.

Longer Hours = More Malpractice?

An article in Ergonomics Today references a study claiming Error Rates for Nurses Increase With Length of Shifts. According to the study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, nurses who work for more than 12 hours straight could face error rates as much as three times higher than their counterparts working shorter shifts. Makes you wonder if the same goes for lawyers trying to meet that 2400 billable hour requirement.

The Cycle

I feel like I’ve just hit for the cycle, won the trifecta, or (insert your sports metaphor here): horrible cold, internet down, computer network on the fritz, and three major projects to get through the door by Thursday. We think we’ve narrowed down the computer issues to a combination of lightning strike/power surge from this weekend and Norton Anti-virus gumming up the works. Light blogging to follow for a few days while we get caught up — I’m writing this from home now — but more big news on the next three Five by Fives (or is that Fives by Five) when I return.

One little rant first, today I went to McDonald’s (I know it’s bad for me, but I was in a hurry) and ordered some Chicken McNuggets. I asked for an extra sauce packet like I always have, and the helpful cashier told me that the McDonald’s is under new ownership and he would have to charge me extra for it. Now, I’m not a “regular” there, but I eat at this McDonald’s about once every two weeks. What a short-sighted business decision. I’m not going back.

If you are a lawyer, do you charge “extra” for copies, postage, or other things? When you clients get your bill for hundreds (or thousands) of dollars and see a $3.70 charge for postage for 10 letters, or $15.00 for copies, I bet they feel a lot like I did today.

How Not to Write Like a Lawyer

The following passage is a direct quote from a proposed Order we received in the office yesterday. It was drafted by a real attorney:

Matter comes now for discovery management, by stipulation and agreement of the parties, Attorney X for the Plaintiff and Defendant Y, Pro Se. The Court is advised and notes Y’s substitution as Defendant in this matter by operation of law pertaining to Lis Pendens heretofore recorded with regard to this matter by Plaintiff. Thereafter, by agreement of parties herein, and in supplement of the Court’s docket Order of April ___, 2004. It is Hereby Ordered: …

Seriously.

Five by Five – Entrepreneur Edition

I’ve been a bit quiet about upcoming Five by Five’s, but I have some really cool news to report, and some more in the wings. First, the bad news: because it is really difficult to keep the feature going every week, I’m going to spread them out just a bit. The great news is that I’ve lined up the participants in the next Five by Five. The feature will run on July 19 and the question will be:

What five things can lawyers do to better serve entrepreneurs and their businesses?

The All-Star Cast:

Rob a/k/a BusinessPundit.

Michael Cage – Who writes about “Small Business Success, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship” at his Entrepreneurslife.com blog.


Professor Jeffrey Cornwall
– Professor of Entrepreneurship at Belmont University and writer of The Entrepreneurial Mind.

Jon Strande – Writer of the Business Evolutionist blog and author of the e-book, “The Cash Register Principle.”

Barry Moltz – Author of “You Need to Be a Little Crazy” who blogs at his Barry Blog.

To say I’m excited about this upcoming edition is an understatement. I continue to be amazed at the wonderful people who agree to participate in my little Q&A.

Coming soon: Five Legal Technologists answer the question, “What five new technologies should all lawyers incorporate into their practices, but probably won’t?”

Innovation Tuesdays

Lori Richardson a/k/a Sales Process Diva has this great idea she calls “Power Wednesdays” where she teams with other professionals to keep her focused on marketing her business.

Form a group of a few people to champion each other – here’s how it works:
In the morning, your group all calls into a telephone bridge line and you do a quick “check-in” on how many calls you plan to make, what type of calls, and any other activity goals.
Mid-day, you all call back in and do another check-in to see how it is going; and have some virtual “championing” which will naturally fire everyone up – enthusiasm and success are contagious!
End of day – final check-in. How did your day go? Everyone says what they accomplished, what they learned, and what they will do next.

I like this idea so much, I’m going to start “Innovation Tuesdays.” One Tuesday a month, I’ll set up a conference call for readers of this blog to call in and share cool marketing and practice ideas. I’d like to limit the number of participants to ten or so, but if the demand is high enough, we can do multiple groups. We’ll shoot for a Tuesday in August for the first one. Any interest????

Open All Night

Another great article I found on the HOW Design site. This one profiles a “Create-a-Thon” hosted by a design agency to help pro-bono clients. According to the RIGGS website:

CreateAThon® is an innovative way of handling your agency’s pro-bono work and an outstanding way to make a positive impact on your community. It is a 24-hour blitz of creative energy focused on benefiting local non-profit organizations. Here is a brief summary of how CreateAThon® works:
* Your agency solicits applications from local 501(c)3 organizations.
* You select a group of projects based on recommended criteria.
* The number of projects accepted is based on the capabilities of the individual agency.
* These projects are then completed start to finish during a 24-hour period.

Here’s the story from the ad agency that hosted one for the the Philadelphia/South Jersey area:

So on September 11, 2003, Hypno led CreateAThon with an elite crew of guest art directors, copywriters, account execs and lunatic friends helping needy organizations with $165,500 worth of pro-bono services. We used the article to recruit other like-minded creatives and businesses; photographers, printers and paper manufacturers all answered the call of duty.

When word spread that Hypno was hosting CreateAThon, I started getting emails from people I’d never heard of volunteering to work with us. There was no shortage of talent, although there was a run on available desk space. And Hypno was flooded with requests from needy organizations that heard about the event through the nonprofit grapevine. Nonprofits had been hit hard by the economic slump and many desperately needed creative services.

Within 72 hours of the start of the event—from the first scribbled notes during client meetings to the final products—we saw fully realized posters, brochures, newspaper ads, flyers, postcards, logos, videos, Web sites and billboards. The work was fantastic, and clients were tearfully happy, not only because the creative work, printing and materials were free, but because the projects’ quality was top-notch. An excellent printer, Chapel2000, donated printing and materials.

I’m trying to get my mind around a way this concept would work in the legal business. If you have any ideas, let me know.

Satisfy the Unexpected Wish

Designer Rick Landesberg gives some great advice in this article on the HOW Design web site. Landesberg writes about taking a lowly job and making it into a meaningful project. His tips:

First: Don’t think about the money. Not your fees, not the budget, not the print costs. If the solution answers the need in a way that delights and surprises, the money often works out.

Second: Be sure to also present a solution that responds to the client’s request. If you disregard what he specified, your client might take offense. Do what is requested and do what it ought to be.

Third: Don’t presume your brilliant solution will be accepted. If it never gets out of the gate, your client will appreciate the extra effort nonetheless.

And finally: Cultivate a mindset that constantly goes beyond the client’s stated needs. Listen carefully and critically, and dream on your client’s behalf. Satisfy the unexpressed wish.

Great advice for lawyers, too. HOW Design has some more great articles on creativity here.

So That’s How Big Firms Get All The Top Students…

There is a fascinating conversation going on right now at Anonymous Lawyer’s Blog over this post where Anonymous Lawyer writes about how his large firm recruits and retains top students. Read the full post, and then go to the comments for a great give-and-take between an attorney at a “Lifestyle” firm (lower billable hours, time for a real life, lower pay) and a bunch of law students and associates who’d like to work there.

Finding your Niche

Tom Asacker points to an article from the August 2004 issue of Inc. Magazine by Norm Brodsky:

Brodsky writes: “There are three myths about niches that can get in the way of building a successful business. First and foremost is the myth that you have to choose your niche before you start your company. Granted, it’s sometimes possible to identify a niche in advance, but often you can’t see it until you’ve actually gone out into the market and begun to sell.” Having been there I can assure you that this is wise counsel from a street-wise entrepreneur. And it applies to an existing business as well. Don’t assume – like Polaroid, Xerox, Kodak, et al – that your niche is niche-proof. Everyone is looking to grab a slice of your pie with innovative new products and services. So be smart. Stay tuned in to your audience’s dreams, wants and pains and preempt your competition with your own bold, new offerings that improve people’s lives.

Great advice. Have you looked at your niche lately?

Inspiration at Work

Anita Sharpe at Worthwhile wrote about an interview with Kevin Carroll, a creative guru at Nike, in HOW magazine. Kevin was asked in the interview to quickly name six things that inspire him. Go to Anita’s full post for his response, but Anita wrote:

It’s a fun exercise, and if you do it quickly, you might surprise yourself, or, like me, you might produce something that sounds like a personal ad on Match.com: “Magazines. The Beatles. Great dinner conversations. Spontaneous adventures. Billy Crystal movies, or any humorous book or movie that also has a point. Views of water (I bought my house because a creek runs through the property; my office window has a view of a swimming pool and I count that, too.)”

My six things off the top of my head:

My daughter’s laughter.
My wife’s smile.
Being the first golfer to walk the course early in the morning.
The Missouri Botanical Garden
Having a client say “Thank you.”
Having a full day to do nothing but read.

Sometimes we need to step back and realize that work helps us live our life, and shouldn’t replace it. Now, back to our regular programming …

Creating Client Evangelists

Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, authors of Creating Customer Evangelists, have authored a FREE new e-book titled “Testify, How Remarkable Organizations are Creating Customer Evangelists” with additional profiles of companies that have made their customers fervent evangelists for their businesses. There are just too many great examples to list them all. The e-book is a 50 page PDF. Download it and read it today.

Let there be Light

15845_PE099792_S3I’m back from a vacation visiting my wife’s family (perhaps an oxymoron?) and back to blogging. After my post on ergonomics last week, I realized I needed a desk lamp. I found this one at IKEA in Chicago Sunday. The roller blade wheels really make me smile.

A Great Top Ten List

Jeremy’s Weblog has the “Top Ten Signs You’ve Been A Lawyer Too Long.” My favorites:

10. You’re planning on watching 0.8 hours of TV tonight followed by 1.2 hours of pleasurable reading.
8. You tell your parents they can no longer tell you what to do because you’re in a different jurisdiction.
2. Your trash talk repertoire includes the line, “You are my wholly-owned subsidiary.”

“Smart Men Online” Interview

Yvonne Divita, a participant in my first Five by Five asked me to return the favor. Yvonne interviewed me for her “Smart Men Online” feature that debuts today. Yvonne asked me some questions about technology, blogging, and the practice of law. I’m flattered she asked me and was happy to participate. Thanks, Yvonne!

Vacation

Dennis Kennedy is taking a firm retreat. I’m taking a vacation. My wife and I are heading up to Chicago for almost a week to spend some time with her family. We’ll be in the Glenview, Illinois area. If anyone is close and wants to grab a drink or something, shoot me an e-mail.

Partnership for Profits?

Todd talks about the book The Partnership Charter on the 800CEOREAD blog. Todd really liked the book, and I’m going to pick it up based upon his recommendation (it will be my first order from the 800 CEO Read site — how’s that for the power of blogging evangelism). In his post, Todd quotes the following passage from the book:

“Researchers from the Center for Study of Entrepreneurship at Marquette University investigated a sample of nearly two thousand companies and categorized the top performers as ‘hypergrowth’ companies and those at the bottom as low growth companies. Solo entreprenuers founded only 6% of the ‘hypergrowth’ companies. Partner founded a whopping 94%, and many of those had three or more founders.”

I’m still digesting what this might mean for solo lawyers, but now that I have a partner, I can see how a good partner can make a business hum.

Ergonomics for Lawyers

Saw this interesting survey in an article in my Ergonomics Today newsletter:

Want to know what makes an office worker more, or less, productive? According to a recent survey by Microsoft Hardware, 90 percent of workers believe their productivity is directly linked to their workstation design, and most would choose ergonomic tools to increase their efficiency over company-wide morale-building programs.

What struck me about it is just how little attention most lawyers pay to their own computer set up, much less that of their staffs. As my partner and I design our new offices (we are looking at new space soon), we are going to have small primary work offices with multiple meeting rooms to meet with clients. Because the attorney’s actual office doesn’t need to be a show place, we could do something like this or this instead.