Here’s an interesting tip to spur firm-wide adoption of new technology: Cut Off Non-Adopter’s E-Mail.
… people that make things complex and people that simplify.
Complexifiers are averse to reduction. Their instincts are to turn simple assignments into quagmires, and to reject simple ideas until they’re buried (or asphyxiated) in layers of abstraction. These are the people who write 25 page specifications when a picture will do and send long e-mails to the entire team when one phone call would suffice. When they see x=y, they want to play with it and show their talents, taking pleasure in creating the unneccesary (23x*z = 23y*z). They take pride in consuming more bandwith, time, and paitence than needed, and expect rewards for it.
Simplifiers thrive on concision. They look for the 6x=6y in the world, and happily turn it into x=y. They never let their ego get in the way of the short path. When you give them seemingly complicated tasks they simplify, consolidate and re-interpret on instinct, naturally seeking the simplest way to achieve what needs to be done. They find ways to communicate complex ideas in simple terms without losing the idea’s essense or power.
Entrepreneurs and business people want their lawyers to be Simplifiers. What do you do to simplify things for your clients? Do they know it?
UPDATE: I posted this without reading all the comments. There are some great nuggets in there. One is Scott’s response to a comment asking for a way to figure out which camp a prospective hire/consultant/etc. is in. Here is one of Scott’s ideas:
2) I’d give them a complex, but solvable problem. After they’ve solved it (even with help) I’d ask them to find a simpler solution to the same problem. If they’re a simplifier they’ll be into this – even if they don’t suceed they’ll be self motivated about seeking out a simpler way. If they’re complexifiers, they’ll balk at the suggestion that a simpler way exists and that it’s even worth their time to find it.
I had a party over the 4th of July and decided to mix it up a bit. I provided the food, but told all my guests to bring a six pack of beer that they’d never tried before. It was fun, and we all got to try something new.
It’s an emerging rule of thumb that suggests that if you get a group of 100 people online then one will create content, 10 will “interact” with it (commenting or offering improvements) and the other 89 will just view it.
Gerry Riskin and Michelle Golden have been talking about the importance of having a great receptionist. Having had two amazing secretary/receptionists (Janelle and Sandy, thank you!) in my last two jobs, I second (third?) this sentiment.
Now, how do you find that perfect receptionist? Here are some tips on recruiting great retail employees, from a blog I’ve just moved from “probation” to my regular reads called Just Looking, that may give you some ideas:
Find the Employee of the Month wall in the retailer. Normally this is back near the offices in a hallway that is accessible by the public. Write down the names of the last 6 people who won, and then go find them in the store. Walk up and congratulate them on winning and ask why they got the award. You might have a great conversation that could end with “Here is my card, if your interested in examining other opportunities give me a call”
Look at stores that are not in your industry. Too often, sales managers will only recruit from of retailers like themselves. I found great luck recruiting in retailers outside of my industry. Blockbuster Video was a great place to recruit entry level sales and customer service reps. Anyone who walked out from around the counter to ask me if they could help me find something, got my attention and my card.
Always Be Recruiting. Don’t ever stop, because you never know when you might run across someone that would be a great member of your team. I can remember two instances of this happening. One was when I was out to dinner with some friends. The waitress was amazing and during our chatter I found out she was looking for a part time job. I ended up hiring her for for the holiday season and we both were very satisfied with her 4 month stay. The other instance was when I answered the phone and a telemarketer began his pitch on the other end. It was one of those telemarketers that didn’t give up at the first no, but kept the tone very light hearted. He came in and interviewed for a full time position.
Recruit for the right traits not just sales skills. There is no way you will ever be able to evaluate a potential recruits selling skills effectively but you can get a good feel for their passion and enthusiasm. My goal when recruiting is to find someone who is outgoing, passionate and enthusiastic about what they are selling. I can’t teach passion but I can teach someone with passion how to channel it into selling better.
Set a Recruiting Goal when you go out. If you head out to go recruiting without a goal, all you will get is 2 to 4 hours of walking around. Set a goal of coming back with 4 to 5 names to call and at least 2 business card drops. A business card drop is when you introduce yourself and give them your card with a suggestion they call you. The list of names are of people who you will call later that day and invite them to come in for an interview.
Keep a People Pool. Don’t toss out information from old interviews. Make a file and keep it around for later job opportunities. You never know when a position will open that might be perfect for someone you didn’t consider before.
Network with other Sales Managers. Find sales manager in other stores that do not compete with you directly. They might be interviewing a candidate that needs more hours or income then they can afford, that might be perfect for your job. A lunch, once a month with a few of these other sales managers could help you locate the people you need. Who knows, maybe they might have a current employee who is looking for a change that is the perfect recruit.
Here’s an interesting productivity tip, via LifeHacker:
Get one thing done first – THEN check your email:
Author of Never Check Email in the Morning Julie Morgenstern suggests spending the first hour of your workday email-free. Choose one task – even a small one – and tackle it first thing. Accomplishing something out of the gate sets the tone for the rest of your day and guarantees that no matter how many fires you’re tasked with putting out the minute you open your email client, you still can say that you got something done. Once you’re “open for business” and paying attention to incoming requests, it’s too easy to get swept away into the craziness. So get your day started off on the right foot, with just one thing done.
As a dad, I can only hope my daughter writes something like this when she grows up. Now I just have to come up with some great advice for her. Here are a few nuggets I’m stealing:
13. Invest your money in something.
14. Invest yourself in something else.
The Soulard Idea Market is set for August 8, 2006 at the Lucas School House.
Who Should Come: If you are a blogger, lawyer, entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, designer, webmaster, writer, artist, salesperson, technologist, or _____________, I think you’ll enjoy the Soulard Idea Market. I only ask that you be passionate about sharing ideas and helping others. Everything else will take care of itself.
The Agenda: Well, there really is no “Agenda” as I’d like to have the Idea Market be the kind of place where people can bring their business problems, issues, questions, and (of course) ideas and share them with other innovative, creative, and generous folks. Think of this first event as sort of a “beta test” for a new type of networking/brainstorming social club that just happens to take place at a private happy hour in a cool, hip place. There is at least a 70% chance that this agenda will change, or even be ignored when we all show up, but for now, here’s how I see things happening:
5:30 – 6:00 Bar Opens, Attendees Arrive, Initial Brainstorming. In the last several LexThink!(R) events and private retreats I’ve done, we’ve posted provocative questions on large Post-It Notes all around the facility. When attendees arrive, they’ll be given a marker and a pad of smaller, half-page Post-It’s and asked to walk around and contribute their thoughts and answer the questions posted. This works wonders to get the creative juices flowing and opens up attendees to sharing other ideas the rest of the event.
6:00 – 6:30 Introductions. Idea Speed-Dating. I want to take a page from speed dating events: Attendees will have thirty minutes (broken up in much smaller chunks) to meet as many other attendees as possible and share the most compelling idea they’ve heard, best book they’ve read, most interesting person they’ve met, or most difficult problem they’ve faced in the past year.
6:30 – 6:45 Break.
6:45 – 7:30 Open Space Problem Solving. If any attendees are facing a particularly vexing business problem, and would like the group’s help to solve it, they can announce the problem (or post it on the wall) and any attendees who’d like to help can break up into small discussion groups to brainstorm solutions. Alternatively, anyone with a topic they’d like to discuss can also announce it here and interested people can join the discussion.
7:30 – 7:45 Break.
7:45 – 8:30 Open Space Idea Sharing. This is just like the Open Space Problem Solving session, except we’ll focus on new ideas.
8:30 Unreasonable Request Time. One of the three most compelling ideas I’ve stumbled across while blogging is Lisa Haneberg’s Unreasonable Requests. In short, we often have things we’d like to ask others for, but are afraid to ask. I’m going to ask everyone to write down an unreasonable request, post it on the wall with their name and phone number, and anyone who wants to grant the request can do so. Because the requests are, by definition, “unreasonable,” I don’t expect many to be granted — so everyone who gets one granted will be totally surprised.
8:30 – ??.?? Cocktails on the Patio (or elsewhere). We’ll stick around the School House as long as they’ll let us, but anyone who wants to continue their discussions after we’re politely asked to leave can do so at one of about 30 Soulard bars/restaurants that are within walking distance.
The Food/The Drink: I’m looking for a sponsor for the food. I want to have appetizers at least, although several Black Thorn pizzas would certainly fit the bill. The School House will have a full cash bar open for the duration of the event.
The Cost: Right now, I’m shooting for FREE. If I can’t find a food sponsor, it might be $5.00–10.00 per person.
The Space: The Lucas School House is one of the coolest spaces I’ve found in St. Louis. It is a hybrid space, with plenty of space for discussion, along with a stage and state-of-the-art audio/video capabilities. There’s also wifi, of course. Here are some pictures of the downstairs and upstairs spaces.
Did I mention there’s a full bar? The address is 1246 Gravois Avenue, St. Louis, MO (Map).
How To Attend: We’ll have room for around fifty people for our first event. If you’ve e-mailed me before, I hope I’ve sent you a link to sign up at a site I’ve set up for the event. If you’d like to come, and haven’t gotten an e-mail from me, you can sign up here.
Any Questions? E-mail me at Matt@LexThink.com or call my cell phone at 618–407–3241.
I look forward to meeting all of you.
The Soulard Idea Market is at the Lucas on August 8, 2006, from 6:00 until 8:30. I’ll have more details tomorrow.
Rick Segal needed a new toilet seat. He removed the old one and planned to take it to Home Depot so he could find another that fit. Then he had this though:
On the way over I started thinking about how normal (aka comfortable) it will be to wander around home depot with a toilet seat. Everybody in the place is there to do something involving the installation or repair of something. Indeed one might think of it as a sign of pride or a badge of honor that I, lowly VC/Bureaucrat, had the macho chops to be DIY in the bathroom business. Oh, yeah. In fact, to be Joe “I’m bad” Fix-it Stud Muffin, you haul around the whole toilet but that’s for another day.
I was, at the same time, pretty certain that if I walked around the grocery store with a toilet seat, the reaction would not be the same. I was sure of it, but as a service to my now loyal readership of 20 (thanks to all the cousins out there), I endeavored to prove this theory.
I swung by the grocery store (Sobeys, if you must know), hopped out and proceeded in with my toilet seat. I dropped it into the basket, wandered around, grabbing a few things, and then headed to the checkout. Stares, looks, snickers from kids, right on cue.
Next, I headed over to the Home Depot and did same. Nothing. Everybody, including the kids with parents, were all busy doing whatever.
So, what’s the point of this bathroom humor? According to Rick:
Developers of products and services spend way to much time thinking that whatever environment they are in, it’s the same comfort zone as everybody else. So, the next time you want to remind a developer/designer to remember the target, send em out for a case of soda and a bag of chips while carrying the office toilet seat. That feeling of being uncomfortable, stared at, etc, is what some people feel like when a software and service isn’t comfortable for them.
I think he’s absolutely right. As lawyers, we tend to forget just how uncomfortable our clients are when they meet with us, give a deposition, or go to court. To remind ourselves just how uncomfortable they feel, perhaps we should take Rick’s toilet seat advice. Next time you are about to appear with a client for the first time on “just a routine matter” in court, think about how you’d feel standing there in front of the judge with a toilet seat in your hands. That should come close to approximating your client’s unease and discomfort.
Michael Cage shares three mistakes he sees many small consulting practices (like law firms) making. Number two on his list:
Your clients have problems they do not know you can solve. Clients have many problems you can solve. But with many of those problems, they have no idea that your business can help solve them. It is up to you to identify the problems, let the client know you understand them, and tell them what to do about it. (There is a never-fail system I use to do this, it’ll be the topic of another post. Keep an eye out…)
How do you identify all of your clients’ problems?
I wanted to share these, taken off the coast of Southern California on a whale watching trip several months ago. We came across a pod of killer whales, and then about 1000 common dolphins. One dolphin didn’t make it. It was like watching a National Geographic special. Amazing.
Here are two of the whales:
Here are some of the dolphins:
Cats aren’t the only animal that plays with its food before eating it.
Now, where’s dessert? And yes, that pink stuff in the water is dolphin leftovers. Yummy.
Last night, as I was reading Grace a book, and she asked me (in a perfect TiVo moment) to “pause” it for a minute. Since I’ve not posted a picture for a while, here’s one from last week.
Want a fun tool to measure your networking efforts: David Seah’s Network Catch-O-Matic. In David’s post explaining the tool, he talks about “increasing your social surface area,” which is one of the best benefits of networking — and blogging.
Michael McDonough has an article in the Design Observer titled The Top 10 Things They Never Taught Me in Design School that made me think he was actually writing about Law School. Here are a few:
1. Talent is one-third of the success equation. Talent is important in any profession, but it is no guarantee of success. Hard work and luck are equally important. Hard work means self-discipline and sacrifice. Luck means, among other things, access to power, whether it is social contacts or money or timing. In fact, if you are not very talented, you can still succeed by emphasizing the other two. If you think I am wrong, just look around.
2. 95 percent of any creative profession is shit work. Only 5 percent is actually, in some simplistic way, fun. In school that is what you focus on; it is 100 percent fun. Tick-tock. In real life, most of the time there is paper work, drafting boring stuff, fact-checking, negotiating, selling, collecting money, paying taxes, and so forth. If you don’t learn to love the boring, aggravating, and stupid parts of your profession and perform them with diligence and care, you will never succeed.
7. When you throw your weight around, you usually fall off balance. Overconfidence is as bad as no confidence. Be humble in approaching problems. Realize and accept your ignorance, then work diligently to educate yourself out of it. Ask questions. Power – the power to create things and impose them on the world – is a privilege. Do not abuse it, do not underestimate its difficulty, or it will come around and bite you on the ass. The great Karmic wheel, however slowly, turns.
10. The rest of the world counts. If you hope to accomplish anything, you will inevitably need all of the people you hated in high school. I once attended a very prestigious design school where the idea was “If you are here, you are so important, the rest of the world doesn’t count.” Not a single person from that school that I know of has ever been really successful outside of school. In fact, most are the kind of mid-level management drones and hacks they so despised as students. A suit does not make you a genius. No matter how good your design is, somebody has to construct or manufacture it. Somebody has to insure it. Somebody has to buy it. Respect those people. You need them. Big time.
I’d love to get a list of those things you wish they’d taught in school, but never did. Leave a comment, e-mail me, or trackback to this post and I’ll compile them all for a future post.
Need to do some distraction-free writing? Try Dark Room, a “full screen, distraction free, writing environment.” I used it yesterday to knock out an article I’m writing and must admit, I really liked it.
In practice, I always preferred a face-to-face meeting with my clients to a telephone conversation or an exchange of correspondence. I believed in-person conversations were much more effective and better for both client and lawyer — and still do. However, it is important to keep in mind the true costs (to the lawyer and client) of that “short” meeting. From 37signals:
If you’re going to schedule a meeting that lasts one hour and invite 10 people to attend then it’s a ten-hour meeting, not a one-hour meeting. You are trading 10 hours of productivity for one hour of meeting time. And it’s probably more like 15 hours since there are mental switching costs associated with stopping what you’re doing, going somewhere else to do something else, and then resuming what you were doing before.
Remember how valuable your clients’ time is. Though you may not think their time is worth as much as yours, at the end of the meeting, neither of you will get that time back.
This looks like it is going to be fun (and it takes place in St. Louis):
The Red Bull Soap Box Race happens on the streets of St. Louis’ Forest Park October 28. Unlike most gravity-powered events, the Red Bull race follows a drag racing-like single elimination, bracketed duel format, with two racers fighting it out side-by-side down the course. The racers get a power boost at the start, too, in the form of a hefty push from their crew of four “mechanics.”
Red Bull is looking for fifty teams, who will be scored not only on speed, but also on creativity and showmanship. If you’re looking for design ideas, check out photos from some of Red Bull’s previous gravity races in Austria, England (pictured above), Sweden, Czech Republic, Australia, Italy, Finland, Ireland, Germany and
If you firm couldn’t afford that NASCAR sponsorship, how about sponsoring a Soap Box car?
The American Association of Law Libraries is hosting its 99th Annual Meeting in St. Louis next week. There are several law librarians who blog (or who want to start), and we are going to meet up Monday, July 10th at Kitchen K (map) for a blogger happy hour, starting at 5:00 pm. You don’t have to be a lawyer or law librarian to come. I hope to see you there.