Category Archives: Idea Garage Sale

The Weekender #1

Welcome to the first edition of the NBH Weekender!  I’ve been saving up lots of stuff to share with you this week, so here you go:

Five simple emails you should send every week.

A better brainstorming method from Google that we’ve been playing with for a while. It really works better with introverts and in rooms with high status differentials:  Note and Vote.  Here’s how it works:

Note:  Distribute paper and pens to each person. Set a timer for five minutes to 10 minutes. Everyone writes down as many ideas as they can. Individually. Quietly. This list won’t be shared with the group, so nobody has to worry about writing down dumb ideas.

Self-Edit:  Set the timer for two minutes. Each person reviews his or her own list and picks one or two favorites. Individually. Quietly.

Share and Capture:  One at a time, each person shares his or her top idea(s). No sales pitch. Just say what you wrote and move on. As you go, one person writes everybody’s ideas on the whiteboard.

Vote:  Set the timer for five minutes. Each person chooses a favorite from the ideas on the whiteboard. Individually. Quietly. You must commit your vote to paper.

Share and Capture (2):  One at a time, each person says their vote. A short sales pitch may be permissible, but no changing your vote! Say what you wrote. Write the votes on the whiteboard. Dots work well.

Decide:  Who is the decider? She should make the final call — not the group. She can choose to respect the votes or not. This is less awkward than it sounds: instead of dancing around people’s opinions and feelings, you’ve made the mechanics plain. Everyone’s voice was heard.

Why might this work?  Because in most meetings, three people are doing 70% of the talking.

Hate networking?  Here’s a great way to think about it from Joanna Goddard:

Network up and down. Many people get turned off by the term “networking” (read: a bunch of suited-up people at happy hour) but I just think of it as a fancy word for making friends in your industry. When you email someone about a project, ask about their dog. Tell them about your vacation. Send a card when they have a baby. Be real with them. Help people. Stay in touch. Tell friends about job openings. Meet for breakfast, or send a short note saying you loved their recent article or project.

If it’s not networking that keeps you up at night, but rather just plain old-fashioned insomnia, don’t worry: there’s an app for that.

Overwhelmed when you don’t seem to get to anything on your to-do list?  Try a To-Done List instead:

Dubbed the “Anti-To-Do List” by Buffer’s Joel Gascoigne, this approach reportedly gives you an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and spurs productivity throughout the week. According to Gascoigne, by writing a separate list of tasks you have accomplished, including ones that weren’t originally on your to-do list, you prevent yourself from feeling “knocked down” by the fact that you’re doing something not on your original list.

Speaking of productivity, I really like this productivity tip from Nate Green:

Don’t create and consume at the same time.

You should either be creating something or consuming something. Not both at the same time.

When you’re creating, you’re fully engaged on what you’re doing. There should be no distractions, no “I’ll just check something real quick and then come back to this…”

Focusing on one thing without interruption is how you get meaningful work done.

When you’re consuming, you’re open to anything and everything. You get taken wherever the wind takes you, and it’s all groovy. What’s this article? Who’s that dude? This restaurant seems legit. You think they’re open for dinner? Lemme check Yelp…

Ray Kelvin, founder of the Ted Baker fashion brand, shares some of his tips for success. If you’re meeting with him, never be late:

“I have never, ever met someone really successful who’s late,” Kelvin says. “It is so disrespectful of other peoples’ time.”

Want to get more out of conferences and events? Here’s a great tip:

Before you leave to the conference there’s two things you need to do. One, is schedule a 30 minutes meeting with your team for the very first day when you arrive back in the office. The second is schedule a one hour slot for yourself either on the very first day or the very next day when you get back.

When you return, you already have a meeting scheduled with your team. Is 30 minutes long, so all those emails and fires can wait 30 mins for you to brief the team. That’s right, you’ll use that time to talk to them about the conference, the good, the bad, etc. And you will also show them your notes and give them an overview of what you’ve learned and what’s coming (action items) to each of them. This serves two purposes. First, with the conference still fresh in your mind you can accurately tell your staff what happened at the show and prepare them for what’s going to come their way, and second it helps you solidify what you learned during the show.

When you get to the second meeting you scheduled prior to leaving the office for that conference, you will then stop whatever you are doing and get all your notes out. Since all of them have an “action items” section at the bottom you can quickly go through your list and start identifying what needs to get done, prioritizing the tasks, and assigning them to appropriate team members (or to yourself).

Ever wonder what it would be like to be a judge for the Guinness Book of World Records?

“Like a visiting emperor, I have the power to confirm or destroy dreams with a thumbs up or down,” she says. “I don’t deserve this elevation. It’s my clipboard, suit and the Guinness logo.”

Love Sriracha (or “Rooster”) sauce?  An unknown street artist in Vietnam drew the iconic logo.

Mike Monteiro has eight great tips for working with a designer.  Chief among them (and true for every profession):

A designer should never make you feel stupid for not understanding their craft.

Looking to hire someone for a bold initiative, find someone who’s failed before, because they’re the only ones likely to succeed.

Finally, something to add to your Christmas list:


See you again soon!

Idea Garage Sale: 2013 Leftovers Edition

As we welcome in 2014, I thought I’d clean out my link closet once again and host another Idea Garage Sale.  Here are a bunch of links, ideas, videos and other miscellaneous stuff that didn’t quite make it into a blog post in 2013.  Look for more of these (and more substantive blog posts) in the year to come, as this blog turns ten!

Does the practice of law make you come alive?

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

via Swiss Miss

Need an Invisible Girlfriend?  Here’s a project I launched with a team of great people at a St. Louis Startup Weekend last month.  We’ve already been featured on Buzzfeed, Business Insider, Time and the Queen Latifah Show, and I’ve done radio interviews with stations in the U.S., Ireland, England, South Africa, Colombia, Canada and Malaysia.  It has been crazy, to say the least!

Seth Godin on Vampires:

You have metaphorical vampires in your life. These are people that feed on negativity, on shooting down ideas and most of all, on extinguishing your desire to make things better.

Vampires cannot be cured. They cannot be taught, they cannot learn the error of their ways. Most of all, vampires will never understand how much damage they’re doing to you and your work. Pity the vampires, they are doomed to this life.

Your garlic is simple: shun them. Delete their email, turn off comments, don’t read your one-star reviews. Don’t attend meetings where they show up.

It’s so tempting to evangelize to the vampires, to prove them wrong, to help them see how destructive they are. This is food for them, merely encouragement.

Great lessons from Maria Popova on seven years of curating Brain Pickings:

Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. 

Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone.

Build pockets of stillness into your life.

When people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them.

Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity.

Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.

Paul Graham (my favorite thinker) on prestige:

What you should not do, I think, is worry about the opinion of anyone beyond your friends. You shouldn’t worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world. When you can ask the opinions of people whose judgement you respect, what does it add to consider the opinions of people you don’t even know? … Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.

Read this Smashing Magazine article on user experience design and “decision fatigue” when you wonder why your clients so often fail to follow your advice:

Our decisions, even those that are mere preferences between option A and B, gradually take their toll on our cognitive load. The mental processes of decision-making are strenuous; we have only a finite store of mental energy available to exert self-control.

Basically, we get tired if we make too many decisions. As a result, according toBarry Schwartz, one of three things is likely to happen: we end up making poor decisions, we become more dissatisfied with our choices, or we get paralyzed and don’t choose at all.

Ten Great Questions CEO’s Must Ask Themselves:

How do we avoid being another ___insert successful company that failed____ ?
How do we avoid the “crisis needed to change” mindset that results from complacency?
How might we cure ourselves from complacency?
What company has avoided complacency, and how can we learn from them?
What skills are we missing?
What skills, that we have, are no longer relevant?
What skills do we need to develop to be relevant?
What’s working and what’s missing in our organization that is hindering our ability to transform?
What do we really want to do?

How to Meditate

Ten Things to Do Every Workday:

1. Read something related to my industry.

2. Read something related to business development.

3. Send two emails to touch base with old colleagues.

4. Empty my private client inbox by responding to all career coaching questions within one business day.

5. Check in with each team member on their progress.

6. Have a short nonwork-related conversation with every employee.

7. Review my top three goals for my company that are focused on its growth.

8. Identify and execute one task to support each of my top three goals.

9. Post five valuable pieces of content on all of my major social media accounts.

10. Take a full minute to appreciate what I have and how far I’ve come.

Five “Provocations” from Ian Fitzpatrick

How to Say “No” to Working for Free

Complaining is not a strategy:

“If you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things can work out… Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.”

― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture (via Swiss Miss)

Non-Creepy Networking

Cheap & Free Resources for Bootstrapping Businesses


That’s it for now.  See you soon!



Idea Garage Sale: Inbetweenity Edition 2

Several years ago, I used to publish a series of semi-regular Idea Garage Sale posts where I’d share the miscellaneous stuff I’d collected that didn’t seem to merit a full blog post.

Today, Twitter and Tumblr are my outlet for the interesting links, ideas and random thoughts I find everyday.  However, every once in a while, I’ve got some stuff that fits somewhere in between Twitter’s 140 Characters and a full post on this blog.

Here’s some more of that “in-between” stuff:

The most impressive employee handbooks ever from Valve (.pdf).  Here’s a video pulling our some key lessons from the handbook:

Jeff Bezos on giving ideas time to work:

“If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people,” Bezos told Wired in 2011. “But if you’re willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that.”

The Fixer’s Manifesto:

If it is broken, fix it!  Because everyday practical problem solving is the most beautiful form of creativity there is.

Treat clients as team members:

From the initial stage of the project, it is a good idea to make it clear to the clients that you see them as a team member of the project and expect cooperation and support during the entire project. 

Designing Contracts for the XXI Century:

There are many reasons the core rules of contracts are still in place two millennia after the fall of Rome. But there are other elements that we can, and should, take to the twenty-first century.

If we want to address the readability problems unique to our era—and improve communication with our clients—then it’s time we fix the language, layout, and typesetting of our contracts. And who better than designers to do it?

The fewer the tools, the greater the imagination.” – Ben Orki

Seventy Great Critical Thinking Questions

Are lawyers among the screwed?  From Jason Lanier book You Are Not a Gadget:

The people who are perhaps the most screwed by open culture are the middle classes of intellectual and cultural creation.  The freelance studio musician, the stringer selling reports to newspapers from warzones are both crucial contributors to culture. Each pays dues and devotes years to honing a craft. They used to live off the trickle down effects of the old system, and like the middle class at large, they are precious. They get nothing from the new system.

Oblique Strategies is still a go-to place when I need to put my creative thinking hat on.

It’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking.” – John Cleese

Disrupt or Be Disrupted.  Pick One.

 “Give me a couple of billion dollars and I can set up a bunch of start-ups in just about every industry that will come in and eat the lunch of the incumbents, and not one of them will be able to change in time to do anything about it.”

So how many of us are worried about that? How many of us are working on our internal capacity to respond to disruption, or even our ability to move in and disrupt other parts of our environment? Not enough, I think. Of course, I understand why: our organizations are run like machines, and machines were never designed with disruption in mind.

If law firms’ compensation worked like W.L. Gore’s:

Everyone is ranked by their peers, people who know what they’ve done and how they’ve interacted with others on a daily basis; and their compensation will be based on that. That’s a powerful motivator to contribute. Here’s how Gore’s performance evaluation and compensation system works:

  • No specific criteria are provided; people are just asked to indicate who’s making the biggest contribution to Gore’s success.
  • An associate typically is evaluated by 20-30 peers and will, in turn, evaluate 20-30 peers. They are forced rankings, from top to bottom, and only for people you know.
  • A cross-functional committees of individuals with leadership roles discuss the results, and develop an overall ranking from 1-20 of these particular associates.
  • In setting compensation, they make sure the pay curve is aligned with contributions.

The most powerful manifestation of “we’re all in the same boat” is that all associates are part owners of the company through the associate stock plan. Gore believe that it not only allows everyone to share in the risks and rewards of the company, but also gives them an added incentive to stay committed to its long term success, and always consider what’s in the best interest of the company when making decisions.

Ping Fu on the importance of clarity:

[I]t is better to be clear than to be right. A lot of times, I find leaders want to be right and they think being right is what gains respect. I find being clear is what gains respect–if you’re clearly wrong, people can correct you, and if you’re clearly right, people can follow you.

Are you working with your introverted clients as well as you can?

Transform a Tablet Into an Affordable Kiosk for Clients or, you can use Reception Manager

Also true of CLE?

“There are only two things wrong with education: 1) What we teach; 2) How we teach it.” – Roger Schank

More Women = Better Creative Problem Solving:

Evidence suggests that the number of women on a given team drastically increases that team’s ability to solve complex problems.

What is the “One Metric that Matters” for your business?

That doesn’t mean there’s only one metric you care about from the day you wake up with an idea to the day you sell your company. It does, however, mean that at any given time, there’s one metric you should care about above all else. Communicating this focus to your employees, investors, and even the media will really help you concentrate your efforts.

Do your employees understand your business model?  Using the Business Model Generation Canvas for a Puppy Rental Business:

My goal is that any new employee working to make the awesomeness of puppies available to everyone will be able to walk into my office and understand the business model at a glance.

You shouldn’t use a client survey if …

Great overview on using personas to understand your clients better.

Instead of arguing back and forth whether or not these problems exist, it’s very easy to identify particular types of people for whom these problems MIGHT exist and then do some simple qualitative research to see if you’re right.

A great question when thinking about changes to your firm:

“What is the fastest, cheapest way to validate the idea?”

That’s it for now.  See you again, soon!

Idea Garage Sale: Inbetweenity Edition 1

Several years ago, I used to publish a series of semi-regular Idea Garage Sale posts where I’d share the miscellaneous stuff I’d collected that didn’t seem to merit a full blog post.

Today, Twitter and Tumblr are my outlet for the interesting links, ideas and random thoughts I find everyday.  However, every once in a while, I’ve got some stuff that fits somewhere in between Twitter’s 140 Characters and a full post on this blog.

Here’s some of that “in-between” stuff:

To Increase Innovation, Take the Sting Out of Failure:

Start by defining a smart failure. Everyone in your organization knows what success is. It’s the things you put on a resume: increased revenues, decreased costs, delivered a product etc. Far fewer know what a smart failure is — i.e. the type of failures that should be congratulated. These are the thoughtful and well planned projects that for some reason didn’t work. Define them so people know the acceptable boundaries within which to fail. If you don’t define them, all failure looks risky and it will kill creativity and innovation.

 How to Generate Good Ideas (Video):

What one book could give you a new, useful superpower?

Big Customers, Who Need ‘Em?

[C]omplexity is like a leak in your roof. It starts small. But over time, it does real damage. And once that damage has begun, it’s hard to stop. Best not to let it in in the first place.

On Valve’s Design Process and Advocating for “Great” Ideas:

Not all ideas are good. These include yours. If you have a “great idea” that everyone thinks is stupid, don’t push it. The others will also have stupid ideas. If you’re pushy about yours, they’ll be pushy about theirs and you’re just going to get into an impasse. If the idea is really good, maybe it’s just in the wrong place. Bring it up later…. Maybe they’ll like it next month.

Tips on Getting “Engaged” to Clients:

Don’t simply pursue what you think you deserve. Earn your projects. Earn your clients, and let them earn your expertise in the engagement period.

Advertising guru David Ogilvy’s tips for writing:

7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.

8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.

9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.

10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.

Placeit is a pretty cool way to make it look like your website is on a mobile device.  Great for presentations.

If you’re tired of all-male panels at conferences, do something:

Have you noticed that a lot of the time it just seems like, gosh, there are a lot of dudes speaking at this conference? Perhaps you’ve been on a panel and you’ve looked around and seen man after man after man. Maybe you’ve thought, it’s too bad the organizers didn’t think to balance this out a bit more and ask some women to speak too.

I love that this has bothered you. And I am happy to tell you about a simple step you can take to help change this: Refuse to speak on all male-panels. Just say no.

Improve collaboration at work by banning lunching alone (.pdf).

Some great Creative Thinking Ideas rounded up from Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business:

If you’re facing creative detractors, how can you create creative baby steps they’ll find more acceptable for getting started?  – Maelle Gavet – CEO, Ozon Holdings (#10)

Apply design and pleasing aesthetic principles to the most necessary, thankless, and joyless tasks humans have to do to raise the creative energy from them.  – Jessica Alba – Cofounder, The Honest Company (#17)

Innovate with only things that already exist in your business. Put together new combinations from pre-existing elements.  – Adam Brotman – Chief Digital Officer, Starbucks (#3)

What would an experience look like that is destined to “disturb the universe”?  – Ross Martin – Executive VP, MTV Scratch (#46)

How can you use your creativity to add more serenity to your customers’ lives?  – Leah Busque – Founder, TaskRabbit (#42)

What happens when machines can do 80% of the things lawyers do (like they can for doctors)?

Over time, doctors will increase their reliance on technology for triage, diagnosis, and decision-making. Eventually, we’ll need fewer doctors, and every patient will receive the best care. Diagnosis and treatment planning will be done by a computer, used in concert with empathetic support from medical personnel selected more for their caring personalities than for their diagnostic abilities. No brilliant diagnostician with bad manners, a la “Dr. House,” will be needed in direct patient contact. Instead, we’ll use “Dr. Algorithm” to provide the diagnosis, while the most humane humans provide the care.

Where will all this innovation come from? Some believe we have to work within the constraints of the medical establishment. I disagree.

Innovation seldom happens from the inside because existing incentives are usually set up to discourage disruption.

Well, that’s all for now.  Look for some more items in the Garage Sale next week.  Thanks for shopping!

What’s In Your Firm’s Garage?


Looking for a place to foster creative side projects and innovation, Microsoft has launched a incubation space for their employees called the Garage.  According to this CNET article, the “Garage” is a workshop-type place that gives employees access to tools, a place to experiment and the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues who share similar interests and skills.  It also is a place where some fun creativity can happen:

 In addition to getting the new space, the Garage also hosts “science fairs,” where employees put together poster-board presentations to show off their creations. Judges, wearing white lab coats, select winners, who get to ignite a homemade volcano dubbed Mount St. Awesome as their reward.  Microsoft has also begun holding “Garage weeks,” where business units stop working on Microsoft products. Instead, employees focus on pet projects. Sometimes, their creations have nothing to do with Microsoft’s business whatsoever. One employee spent a week working on a self-leveling skateboard, something of a Segway for the skate crowd. Sometimes, they’re only peripherally related, such as an immunization tracker application for Windows Phones to help parents keep tabs on the different vaccines their children had received.

This is a fascinating idea that has a place in almost any industry — including law.  Imagine if a law firm set up a “Garage” for lawyers (along with invited clients) to think together on ways to bill differently, serve clients better and explore new practice areas.

If you had an opportunity to build your firm’s garage, what would go in it?  What kinds of things could you accomplish if you and your colleagues had the time and place (and permission) to innovate and think differently about your business.

Idea Garage Sale: The Technology Bin

These are a couple of leftovers in the tech bin that I’ve found, used and/or just wanted to share:

  • Review Basics:  Online, secure reviewing platform for video, images.
  • CircleUp:  Email or IM a question to a group and get back a single result with everyone’s answer.
  • ScanR:  One of my favorite apps.  Turns your camera or cameraphone into a scanner and business card reader.
  • Jott:  Love this one too.  Call a number, leave a message, and get it converted to a text email sent to you or to someone else.
  • iPolipo:  Schedule meetings automatically, share your calendar selectively.
  • TimeSnapper:  Automatic screenshot journal.  Answers the question: “What the hell did I actually do today?”
  • PlaceSite:  Local wireless platform that could work in conferences or small groups.
  • Gaboogie:  Conference calling service that calls you and your attendees.
  • Fidg’t:  Uses Flickr and LastFM tags to visualize your network.
  • ProfileFly:  Ties all your contact, profile, and bookmark links together on one place.
  • Pando:  Share large files through email and IM.

Also, check out this Google Document with a bunch more links from the ABA Techshow Presentation.

Yet More Stuff from the Link Closet

More Idea Garage Sale stuff for you:

  • Should law firm partners open up their email (including sent emails) to associates as a learning tool?
  • Does your business have a plan?  Try PlanHQ.

I have more links coming tomorrow, and some tech links later today!  Enjoy.

Carnival of the Leftovers, The Legend of Curly’s Gold

After hosting my Spring Idea Garage Sale, and realizing there was still some more stuff sitting around my bookmarks folder, I’m back with a final installment of the Carnival of the Leftovers.  Like a box of kittens, these ideas and links are Free for a Good Home:

Share Your Best Ideas

If you want to build your idea, share it. If you’re afraid someone will steal it, then how will you sell it? If a copycat could take you out, then nothing can turn your idea into a gravy train.

Customers Really Aren’t Stupid:

I’ve had several customer service jobs. I’ve recently come to realize that the customers aren’t stupid. It may seem like a disproportionate chunk of the people you see every day are complete idiots, but the fact is that they’ve got more going on in their lives than, say, renting a movie. So if they don’t know the late fee policy at your rental store, it’s because they haven’t spent the time to learn the policy, not because they are too stupid to understand it.

I feel stupid for not knowing this already:

When rinsing your toothbrush, flick the bristles facing down towards the sink rather than facing up towards the mirror. You will never have to clean the toothpaste off the mirror again.

Take a Hack Day:

Today at noon, however, Yahoo got serious about Hack Days by making it Yahoo-wide. Every Yahoo engineer is invited to participate, and other employees are joining in as well. Anyone with an idea is encouraged to gather a team up and spend a day coding. Tomorrow (Friday) at noon, the hacking stops and everyone will get together to review what’s been built.

Choose Your Seatmates Wisely:

We show ourselves in moments of system failure and panic and change and difficulty and crash-landings, not calm. Does true self emerge only (or especially?) when tested? Lessons about others come, perhaps, from their response to great fear or significant peril or the opportunity for sacrifice either taken or not. My colleague had failed that test before, but it was this final failing grade that made it clear: I could no longer work with him. He got his pool time; we gave our speech. I walked off that stage and never worked with him again. I knew I needed different seatmates for the rest of my flight.

Five Ways to Sell Know-How:

1.  Package it – Given the nebulousness of selling intangibles, Harrison coined the term i-Stuff. To shed i-Stuff of this stigma, one idea is to package it with manuals and other tangible material that helps define what the know-how is. People understand exchange of funds for tangible goods, so to the extent to which you can make the intangible seem tangible helps bridge the gap. If you don’t have a unique name for you know-how, name it, make it a “thing” that people can talk about. A three-letter acronym can be good, but another thing to think about is a name that communicates the value-proposition of the know-how. What problem does it solve? What benefit does it impart if you have it? From what I’ve heard, it can be difficult to sell know-how because your buyer may have trouble admitting they don’t know what you know. By packaging it, you give them a way to pitch it to their boss without making it sound like the valuable part they’re buying from you is the knowledge. Help your buyer save face.

Ten Steps to Guarantee Failure:

8.  List why it’s impossible – Now we are getting into the mental game of failing.  This is quite possibly your greatest weapon against achievement because it destroys hope and optimism.  So as soon as possible, set aside some time to create a long list of how impossible your goal really is.  No matter what your target is, I am sure you can come up with plenty of reasons why it’s impossible.  Be creative, make up some if you have to (i.e. “It’s impossible for me to lose weight because I was kidnapped by space aliens and injected with a fat-serum.”)  Bonus:  You get extra points if you can come up with an excuse using UFOs, ghosts or the Bermuda Triangle.

What I Did Wrong when Starting My Business:

I charged below market rate for my services.  This was because I did no research and had absolutely no idea what the going rate was for an outside consultant.  I was so totally thrilled that anyone would hire me that I was prepared to pay THEM.  The embarrassing thing is that my second client actually offered to pay me more money without me even asking.  Is that humiliating or what?  Lesson:  Research the market for your product or service.  Be realistic about where your pay scale should be based on your experience.  Then charge it unapologetically.

An Exemplar Example of the New Law Firm:

At Exemplar our interests are aligned with the client and we have an incentive to get them to their destination as safely and promptly as possible. We have a pricing committee of professionals who are dedicated to understanding value from the customer’s perspective. They make sure that the intake process is effective at getting the right information so that we understand how to design our services around exactly what the customer wants. What’s more, centralizing the pricing function in an organization is critical to providing a consistent customer experience. This also allows us to communicate, learn, and correct any errors in the process that would not otherwise be discovered if attorneys priced individually.

If Law Firm Offices Were Built for Productivity, Instead of to Impress Clients:

The office should be a hang out: a pleasant place to spend time. If you’re meeting your friends for dinner after work you should want to meet at the office. As Philip Greenspun bluntly puts it: “Your business success will depend on the extent to which programmers essentially live at your office. For this to be a common choice, your office had better be nicer than the average programmer’s home. There are two ways to achieve this result. One is to hire programmers who live in extremely shabby apartments. The other is to create a nice office.”

Schmooze or Looze?

Give favors. One of my great pleasures in life is helping other people; I believe there’s a big Karmic scoreboard in the sky. God is keeping track of the good that you do, and She is particularly pleased when you give favors without the expectation of return from the recipient. The scoreboard always pays back. You can also guess that I strongly believe in returning favors for people who have helped you.

Ask for the return of favors. Good schmoozers give favors. Good schmoozers also return favors. However, great schmoozers ask for the return of favors. You may find this puzzling: Isn’t it better to keep someone indebted to you? The answer is no, and this is because keeping someone indebted to you puts undue pressure on your relationship. Any decent person feels guility and indebted. By asking for, and receiving, a return favor, you clear the decks, relieve the pressure, and set up for a whole new round of give and take. After a few rounds of give and take, you’re best friends, and you have mastered the art of schmoozing.

If There Could be Only One:

I’ve thought about this a bit and I’ve decided if I could only have one marketing tool or activity, it would be business cards.  A business card, with a compelling message about your offering, is the most effective marketing tool you can have…if you can only have one. 

Beyond simple contact information, you should have a statement about your key benefit.  Make your card a mini postcard about your most compelling offer.  Use both sides of the card and get creative. 

Business cards are the most underused marketing tool available.  You can carry them with you anywhere. And they’re inexpensive enough to give away to everyone you meet. 

Everyone you come in contact with should walk away with a card or two to remember and refer you when a need arises.

Hire the Right Clients:

Would you just hire anyone because you needed help? Even someone that you can’t stand being around? Even someone that doesn’t have the skills to get the job done? If no, then why would you just take any job? Even a job you can’t stand doing. Even a job that won’t let you flex your skills. Even a job that will embarass you when it’s all over. What’s the point? To stay in business just so you can take on another job that you don’t want to take on?

Make Yourself Scarce:

While there are almost half a million lawyers practicing in the United States today, there are (gasp!) more than 125,000 in school right now. No matter what you believe about lawyers creating ever more work for ever more lawyers, there’s no question that with so many of them, they’re hardly scarce.

Carry Your Files to Court with an Octopus

Here’s One of the Coolest Tech Toys I’ve Seen This Year:

scanR is a service that helps you capture information contained in paper documents or whiteboards. scanR lets you use your mobile camera phone or digital camera to scan photos into legible, searchable digital PDF files and send them via email or fax.

The Best Blanket Ever?

Idea Garage Sale and Spring Cleaning

As I’m finally getting settled into my new place, I’m no longer surrounded by boxes and piles of "things" that need to be put away.  I still have, however, piles of ideas, bookmarks and links that have been residing in my head or my "to blog" folder. 

So, like I’ve done before, I’m throwing them up here in a kind of Carnival of the Leftovers, Part Duex:

Some quick thoughts:

On Interstate 44, all the way from the Oklahoma Border to St. Louis, why is it necessary to have mile makers EVERY 2/10’ths OF A MILE?  You can actually see the next mile marker as you are passing the previous one.  Stupid.  Seriously, how much money did it cost Missouri taxpayers to do this? 

Why must we walk in circles?

And if we’re walking in circles, let’s at least make a cool map.

Cool Idea Number One:  Start a Swing for the Fence award.

Cool Idea Number Two:  Bathroom Bingo:

During the tour [of the otherwise unspectacular church building] we were also shown the restrooms. As the pastor opened the door to the ladies room (it was empty), we stepped into an oasis. Plush walls and carpets, gorgeous faucets, changing rooms, and a spa-like atmosphere gave a new meaning to the word "rest-room." The men’s room was almost as impressive, but with slightly less floral patterns.

The pastor said they chose to spend a significant amount of money on the restrooms instead of anywhere else in the building because they were convinced that the return on investment would be higher than anywhere else. He’s probably right.

Cool Idea Number Three:  Name Tags that Do More.

Speaking of Ideas (from an amazing essay):

Pay attention to the idea that won’t leave you alone — this is taken from Paul Hawken’s Growing a Business. Sometimes an idea catches hold of you and you find you can’t put it down. Pay attention to that! Just start working on it. Can’t get yourself to do anything on it? Move on. Find yourself waking up out of bed to write down new ideas about it? That’s a good one to choose.

If you keep your secrets from the market, the market will keep its secrets from you — entrepreneurs too often worry about keeping their brilliant secrets locked away; we should all worry much more about springing a surprise on a disinterested market (anyone remember the Segway?). To quote Howard Aiken: "Don’t worry about people stealing an idea. If it’s original, you will have to ram it down their throats."

Immediate yes is immediate no — does everyone immediately tell you your idea is great? Run away from it. If the idea is that obvious, the market will be filled with competitors, and you’ll find yourself scrambling. One good test: when the New York Times Magazine puts out its annual "Year in Ideas" issue, is your idea in it? Then don’t do it. You’re already too late.

Burning down the professional service firm?  The Phoenix of Professional Service Firms.

Open up your own firm’s Idea Market:

Rite-Solutions has created an internal idea stock exchange where employees can suggest the company invest in new technology, enter into a new business channel, implement a cost-efficiency initiative … etcetera. Submitted ideas become mock stocks and employees read an “expect-us” (not a prospectus) detailing how the idea can benefit the company. These ideas-turned-stocks are then listed in the Rite-Solutions “Mutual Fun” board where every employee is given $10K in stock market fantasy funds to buy, sell, and trade in the ideas they believe Rite-Solutions should focus on.

Find your firm’s Innovation Fulcrum:

What’s the number of product or service offerings that would optimize both your revenues and your profits? For most firms, it’s considerably lower than the number they offer today. The fact is, companies have strong incentives to be overly innovative in new product development. But continual launches of new products and line extensions add complexity throughout a company’s operations, and as the costs of managing that complexity multiply, margins shrink. To maximize profit potential, a company needs to identify its innovation fulcrum–the point at which an additional offering destroys more value than it creates.

Goal Granularity:

The second key takeaway was the impact of the goal granularity to successful collaborations.  Said another way: collaborating around a shared mission can be much less effective than collaborating around a shared project goal.

Corporate Lawyers, are you ready for this world:

Capitalism normally does a good job of aligning the needs of buyers and sellers. Make a better widget and the world is yours. Capitalism is built from certain legal and financial building blocks. Contract law, tort, competition law. Property rights. Stable currencies to enable exchange of value over time as well as space. Freedom of expression is part too — the message “better widgets! over here!” is an essential part of “the market”.

But I feel we’re not there yet. We’ve created many new “ownership” and “transaction” technologies over time. Limited-liability corporations, partnerships, co-operatives; equities, debt and derivatives.

We just don’t have the mechanics to deal with a networked world and mass-participation in that network. Municipal networks are controversial because the only co-ordination mechanism is the force of government and the state. This is crude and dangerous; we contaminate the network with the power to tax, and the centuries of fighting we’ve undertaken to limit and mollify that urge.

Legal technology vendors, are you ready for this one:

In the summer of 2006, twenty-somethings will be busting out of graduate school [or law school] powered by a brand new set of productivity tools. Think about the jump from typewriters to word processors. Think about how, in the 1980s, our parents had to struggle to learn to use spreadsheets like VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3. We are on the verge of experiencing a jump in the capabilities of office tools that is just as significant as the jump that occurred when the first PCs landed on people’s desks. Why is this jump so big, and what does it have to do with the class of 2006? What are these people capable of? Well, to begin with, for most of them, the internet has been around since before they started high school.

The average MBA graduates in 2006 are not just knowledge workers. They are capable of being highly networked internal entrepreneurs and innovation creators. Their ability to connect is not just about email, BlackBerries, text messages and voice-mails. They are intimately familiar with all those tools, but ultimately, expertise with those one-to-one connectivity tools is just the price of admission.

What makes these new graduates so effective is their ability to work efficiently with large virtual teams and their amazing ability to maximize the power of their personal networks.

Real Estate Lawyers and Agents, are you ready for this one:

Take a few more bricks out of the anticompetitive walled garden real-estate agents have built around their unearned 6 percent commissions. The Times reports today on the imminent and much-anticipated launch of Zillow — a site from the founder of Expedia with big backing that will provide more open data on home prices — and throws in other sites aiming to break up the real-estate gang: Redfin, which will allow online bidding and negotiation, and PropertyShark, which takes listings in 15 cities. Add these together and you have the means to knock agents out of pricing and listing and negotiation.

Great Advice:

From Mike McLaughlinSadly, too many of us fail to create compelling and understandable descriptions of what we actually do for clients.To keep options open for serving a wide range of clients–across industries and business processes–consultants risk a loss of clarity in their marketing. The result: no one knows what they do.

From Kathy SierraRisk-aversion is the single biggest innovation killer, and of course it’s not just Microsoft that’s been infected. Taking risks is… risky. But if not taking risks is even riskier, then WTF?  …  Blogging has not made this easier… if anything, the idea that a gazillion bloggers and commenters (or even ONE loud one) will seize any opportunity to find fault with your ideas and attempts can dampen one’s willingness to be brave. So here’s my quarterly reminder to all (me included) that if you’re not doing something that someone hates, it’s probably mediocre.

From Scott Ginsberg: BE the change you want to see in the world. Be brilliant at the basics. Be the first one. Be the only one. Be unforgettable. Be interesting. Be a sleeper. Be that guy. Be the world’s expert on yourself. Be better than yesterday, but not as good as tomorrow. Be confident enough to be humble. But be somebody who reminds everybody of nobody else in the world.  AND DON’T wish it was easier, wish you were better.

From Pamela SlimDon’t be influenced by either side of the feedback pendulum.  Try not to get too excited when people are giving you raving accolades.  In the same vein, try not to get too upset when they give brutal criticism.  You need to have a very clear sense of yourself and remain focused on what your business is and how it will add value to your customers.  If you try to please those that think you are great, you can get paralyzed trying to live up to an impossible standard.  If you try to please your detractors and "fix" what they think is wrong with you, you will come from a place of unworthiness.  Learn from all feedback and keep a steady course towards your long-term vision.

From Marcus BuckinghamFind out what you don’t like doing and stop doing it.

Here’s another favorite quote:  "When you’re done with square one, pick it up and take it with you."  Horse trainer Linda Parelli (found  here)

Anyone else got some ideas they want to get rid of?  Tag them :

Now, back to the basement, I’ve got a bunch more stuff to give away.

Pickle Your Great Ideas

Here’s another idea from David Seah that I absolutely love:  The Pickle Jar.  Here’s his explanation:

I’m sometimes distracted by too many project ideas. When the ideas pile up, my productivity sinks because I keep thinking about them, and multitasking slows me down. To keep focused, I evolved a mind trick called The Pickle Jar that, despite its hokey name, actually works for me. It got me through my thesis, when writing was the last thing I felt like doing.

The Pickle Jar is an actual glass jar that once held pickles. Next to it is a square pad of paper, about 4 inches on the side. To get unrelated thoughts out of my mind, I write down a brief synopsis down, fold it twice, and put it into the Jar.

The physical act of writing down, folding, and then “pickling” the idea for later consumption is weirdly cathartic. Since I’m no longer in danger of forgetting the thought, I can relax. The act of formulating on paper has also satisfied the urge to follow up on it. The size of the paper also prevents you from writing too much…there’s just enough room to get the essence of the idea down.

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Carnival of the Leftovers

Since my Idea Garage Sale, I’ve accumulated a bunch more stuff I’d like to get rid of.  In a nod to my ReThinking friends, I’m hosting my first (and maybe only) Carnival of the Leftovers.  In no particular order, here are the things on my mind and in my ‘to blog’ folder:

As I work on my site’s redesign, I need to keep in mind this info from A Day in the Life of a Persuasion Architect:

If you are truly focused on persuading folks on your site put the time and effort you are tempted to put into navigation and focus it on the ‘active window’. Navigation is important, just not as important as everyone seems to think. The shortest distance between your customers and conversion is not the navigation, it’s the embedded links in the active window.

The Anonymous Lawyer’s Firm Marketing Message:

We can charge what we charge because we’re better than the guys in the yellow pages. But that means we’re not generalists. We’re specialists. We have people who spend every day of their lives executing the same deal, over and over again, for different companies. He’s the guy you want executing that deal, because he will do a better job than virtually anyone else on the planet. But you don’t really want him telling you how to optimize the way you put your sprockets together on the assembly line, because that’s not where his expertise is. And we as a firm don’t want him spending time learning all about your sprockets, because that’s not where the best use of his hours is. We want him to do your deal, and then do six more deals this quarter, make 7 happy customers instead of just one, and have people lining up to get us to help them do that same deal too. 

If they’d have had a Masters in Business Imagination when I was deciding on graduate school, I wouldn’t be a lawyer today. 

Granting importance to others is a matter of paramount importance to your own future happiness.

Do you love your customers or who you want your customers to be?

Sean D’Souza suggests to niche your niche:

Your brain refuses to focus when it doesn’t have specifics.  So when you say: You help small business owners, you aim at all kinds of business owners. All kinds of business owners have all kinds of problems.  But let’s for a moment suspend the thought that you want ‘everyone’ as your target audience. Let’s, just for an instant, believe you want to target business owners who’ve been in business for five years or more.

Punishing Children with Praise?

Recently, I found myself at a crafts activity sponsored by a local library in which children were invited to create snowflakes out of pipe cleaners and beads.  A boy of about four or five sitting near me showed his mother what he had done, and immediately she gushed about how wonderful it was.  Then, since I was the only other adult at the table, he held his snowflake out so I, too, could see it clearly.  Instead of offering an evaluation, I asked him whether he liked it.  “Not so much,” he admitted.  I asked why, and he began to explain, his tone suggesting genuine interest in figuring out other possible ways he might have used the materials.  This is exactly the sort of elaboration and reflection that are stifled when we slather our kids with praise.  They tend to stop thinking and talking about what they’ve done as soon as we pass judgment on it.

Counter-Branding How To:

1. List the attributes of the master brand. In the case of 7-Up, the master brand was “Cola: sweet, rich, brown.” Everything else was either a fruit flavor or root beer and all of those put together were relatively insignificant. “Cola” overwhelming dominated the mental category “soft drinks.”
2. Create a brand with precisely the opposite attributes. To accomplish this, 7-Up lost their lemon-lime description and became “The Uncola: tart, crisp, clear.”
3. Without using the brand name of your competitor, refer to yourself as the direct opposite of the master brand. 7-Up didn’t become UnCoke or UnPepsi as that would have been illegal, a violation of the Lanham Act. But when you’re up against an overwhelming competitor, you don’t need to name them. Everyone knows who they are.

Let’s Hear David Allen Answer this One

If you only have X amount of time, is it better to perform at an average or below-average level across the board or be real good at a few things while sucking at the rest (which, by the way, has the parallel discomfort of inevitably having some people ticked off at you)? Which would you choose?

Maybe, He’d Suggest a Checklist.

Or He’d Park those Tasks on a Downhill Slope.

Is this why legal jobs get outsourced to India?

“America does well in industries that advance quickly, in which research and development — and not manual labor — are the key factors of success. In this way, cotton is a bit like software and jet engines — constantly innovating. The United States is losing out to developing countries in a different set of industries: the ones that don’t change that quickly and succeed best with plenty of low-wage workers.”

Instead of billing 2400 hours per year because your firm requires it, do it because it makes you feel good.

But you may get canned anyway.

When communication is effective and cheap, two things happen.  One is that the top doesn’t need to have the middle to be able to talk to each other.  the second is that talented people can co-operate and find each other more easily.  So dumb retards that you would have had to put up with before are now people that you can bypass and go and talk to someone interesting instead.   

I wish I’d known this before joining that blog network:

I think anyone who tries to make money DIRECTLY through blogging is statistically JUST BEGGING to have his ass kicked by the market. A few bright sparks may get away with it ocasionally, just like a pretty waitress in Los Angeles occasionally gets discovered in a restaurant and is starring in a movie a year later. Nice when it happens, certainly, but I wouldn’t place a bet on horse with those odds.

“Indirectly”, however, is another story…

Stop bragging about your firm, brag about your clients:

Your users don’t care about how fabulous you are. How fast your product is. How many awards you’ve won. If we want to inspire our users, we have to care about how fabulous they are. How fast they are. How many awards they might win as a result of using our products or services.

That’s what sociologists, psychologists, and cognitive scientists tell us. It’s what biologists and anthropologists tell us. Self-interest is hard-wired into the brain. That doesn’t mean people aren’t capable of thinking of others…but let’s face it–when your user makes a list of the people he cares most about, you’re not in the top ten.

And then reward them at unexpected times:

Intermittent, unexpected treats are more powerful than regularly scheduled expected treats.

Can we steal this for the LexThink instruction guide?

I hope you aren’t overwhelmed or frightened by any of the ideas. You can’t address all of them right away, some ideas will be thrown out, and some will be altered and enhanced. However, I hope that you never discard an idea because you want to play it safe. You haven’t accomplished your current success by playing it safe. Espousing the methods that got you to where you are, i.e. being bold, new, fresh, exciting and remarkable will help you grow even more. Safe is actually risky because safe is invisible, easy to catch, easy to beat and the path failure. In a competitive market, safe is death. Take some bold moves. Do things others won’t. Champion a cause, help as many people as you can in your pursuit of that cause, invite others to participate and your bottom line will take care of itself.

Or this?

But every bit of knowledge we acquire, whether from the butt-crack idiot savant who maintains the computer network or the woman who sorts the mail in the mail-room is something that can add immediate perspective or be something we can draw on later as part of an overall tack. And by opening yourself up to these kinds of non-traditional information, you have a chance to find out something about yourself and the intellectual or emotional baggage you limit yourself with, that is, the Third Base skill set.

Even if the phone isn’t ringing, you still have five appointments this week.

Speaking of Fives, here are five rules of creativitythings to do if you’ve only got five minutes and implementing the daily five minutes.

Here’s a Personal Lie Remembering Service, and some tips for remembering (and recapturing) lost clients.

Larry Bodine suggests we Market as Hospitals Do.

And ‘Stan Stankowski’ has some great rules for new associates.  Here are just a few:

4) Associates who are in their seventh and eighth years are not your friends.  They are not anyone’s friend. They are mean and devious. This is a result of being too expensive and old to lateral and a constant fear that they will not make partner, coupled with the pressure of a wife and three kids and a mortgage. It isn’t their fault. Really.

8) It is impossible to overestimate the value that a wide variety of free beverages brings to your firm. Do not work at a place that makes you buy them.

10) You know that really keen causal dress policy? The one that was implemented because our “clients dress that way, and we want them to feel comfortable”? Here is a clue. For the first few years, your client is the partner you work for; if he or she wears a suit every day, do you really think it is wise to wear jeans on Friday?

Dealing with the Stress of Infinite Opportunity.

Here’s why you can overbill those corporate clients.  They are used to it because they do it to themselves:

There are many studies about the dismal rate of success for projects.  One that I use a lot comes from the Standish Group which tracks information technology projects.  The findings are that 23% of the projects were outright failures, 49% were over budget or didn’t meet the deliverables and 28% were deemed successes.  94% of all projects are restarted and average $2.22 spent for every dollar budgeted.

But don’t forget to charge the clients for those copies:

When I asked him why the hotel charges a per-minute rate for using the business center, he said his hands were tied: it was corporate policy. What a terrific way to disappoint one’s best customers. How could smart and well-paid executives possibly think that $.69 per-minute charges to use a PC ($1.99 per minute to use a printer) would do anything but create a poor word-of-mouth experience? Is this level of nickel-and-diming worth the ire of countless customers?

Want more female customers?

Moral of the story: The women’s market is an investment.  If you want to more effectively sell to them, and get them to invest in your business in return, you have to be in it for the long haul and serve their information-gathering, buying ways.  By developing into a comprehensive and relevant local information source and coming up with creative ways to reflect the people in and around your store/brand (as per those images and testimonials you are now displaying), you’ll stand out in a woman’s relationship-driven mind.

Don’t be Debbie Downer, Esq.

Well, that’s it for now.  I may host another edition of the Carnival next month.  Thanks for reading.

Cleaning Out the Link Closet (Day 2) – Personal Productivity Edition

I’ve been hoarding links in my “Productivity” folder in Onfolio.  These are primarily for my personal use, but I thought I’d share them here:

Cultivating Burning Desire and What’s Your Time Horizon from Steve Pavlina

No: How One Simple Word Can Transform Your Life from Marketing – The Bold Approach Method

The Perfect Day from Jason Womack

The Antidote to Worry from Curt Rosengren

The Clean Sweep Assessment

 The Josh Kaufman “Personal MBA” Program

My Equation for Serious Productivity – 2005 from Marc Orchant’s Tablet PC Weblog

Goal Setting: The 90–Day Challenge from Working Smart

Todd’s Entrepreneurial Rant: Unplug to Connect from Todd Smart at BeTuitive



Cleaning Out the Link Closet (Day 1)

Here are several links, each deserving its own post.  Check them out and write your own:

My friend Arnie Herz has an interesting take on Law Office Design.

Evaluating Sexy Ads from the Retail Store Blog (pictures semi work safe).

Using the Internet to Communicate and Collaborate from Ben Cowgill’s Legal Ethics Blog.

It’s the Feed Stupid from A VC.

The Sport of Business from Mark Cuban:

Every day some stranger from any where in the world that you have never met is trying to come up with a way to put you out of business. To take everything you have worked your ass off for, and take it all away. If you are in a growing industry, there could be hundreds or thousands of strangers trying to figure out ways to put you out of business. How cool is that.

The ultimate competition. Would you like to play a game called Eat Your Lunch. We are going to face off . My ability to execute on an idea vs yours. My ability to subvert your business  vs your ability to keep it going. My ability to create ways to remove any reason for your business to exist vs your ability to do the same to me. My ability to know what you are going to do, before you do it.  Who gets there first ? Best of all, this game doesn’t have a time limit. Its forever. It never ends. Its the ultimate competition.

Definition of “Churn” from Andy Haven:

“Churn” is the propensity for a customer to switch from one brand to another within a category, or for a worker to switch from one company to another within the same industry. It’s worse than simply losing a customer or an employee, because you’re not just down one unit, you’re actively contributing to a competitor.  It’s a net comparative loss of at least two units, if you catch my drift; you’re down one and your competitor is up one. Plus the fact that you’re out whatever investment you put into your customer or employee.

For example: to attract , train, house, equip, water, weed and polish a good, new associate for 3-4 years,  a firm these days probably has to spend between $200-$400k above and beyond what they’re able to bill them out for. If they then lose that associate to another firm, they’ve “churned” them to a competitor. So not only have they lost a worker, but they’ve paid $200k to train someone to go work at a firm that could take business away from them. And they’ve paid $200k for someone to take all his/her networking connections with them.  And they’ve paid $200k for someone to go badmouth them all over the place at their new digs. You get the picture. It’s bad on both ends.

Blogging Your Way to a New Job from Debbie Weil  (link from Kevin O’Keefe)

Fun Stuff 2004

I didn’t know what to get everyone for the holidays, but Mark Hurst did.  He is the author of the Good Experience Blog, and for a special Christmas treat, has compiled all of his “Fun Stuff” entries from his newsletter here

Each entry is guaranteed to generate a smile. 

Idea Garage Sale — Follow Up

I’ve pretty much cleaned out my "idea closet" with my garage sale and I hope that everyone found something worth taking.  Reader (and friend) Yvonne Divita added this comment to one of the garage sale posts:

This ‘idea garage sale’ is a winner. It deserves a blog of its own…with several authors…with encouragement for input…I see some marvelous things coming out of it. Your cookbook reference to generating ideas is another great way to get the mind thinking "out of the box"…let’s find a way to start thinking "out of the book" because we too often rely on books to instruct us on how to do business. (as a writer it pains me to say that, but it’s true.) So, what kind of "out of the book" ideas can we come up with? I’ll start…first, get comfortable in your own space. You can’t begin a business if you’re still struggling to fit yourself into the space society tries to assign you. Create your own space, and fill it with your energy and your expectations. Watch how fast it fills up with useful ‘stuff.’

Any interest out there?

Idea Garage Sale – Cookbooks

I love cookbooks, though I’m only a fair cook.  The best things about cookbooks is they give you some great ideas of what to make for dinner — leaving the execution of the recipe to you.  Here are some of my "Idea Cookbooks" I’ve accumulated.  I hope they help you cook up some tasty ideas of your own.

Strategic Horizons Articles

Ideas for Leading with Passion

Law Marketing Portal Articles


Innovaction Awards


Best Business Opportunities



Chasing Cool

Entrepreneurship Center

Strategos Articles

Growth Manifesto

Thinking Managers

Dumbest Moments in Business

Tom Peters Scorecard

Idea Garage Sale – Building Materials for Building the Perfect Firm

Here are some "building materials" I’ve accumulated as I’ve worked on building my perfect firm. Some are extras, some were the wrong size and didn’t fit, and some are just taking up extra space in my garage. I’d love to sell the whole truckload at once, but will consider any fair offer. Just one thing — you have to come here and pick them up. 

The Office

Winning Workplaces

The Bionic Office

Sprucing Up

The Staff

Keep Those Employees Happy

How Employees can Build the Brand

The Nurturer

Losing or Firing Employees


Happiness Pays


Leading with Passion

The Red Tape


Atlas Legal Research

Appointment Quest



Work Source Scheduling

The Business

Four Steps to Success

Getting Paid

The Board of Directors

Being Cool

Being Just Good Enough

Customer Service

The Client is Key

Financial Fitness

Managing Electronic Files

The Advertising

Web Site Tips

Good Newsletter Design

Hand Written Notes


Web Design Details

Webby Awards



Idea Garage Sale – Unattributed Leftovers

Here are a bunch of ideas I’ve had lying around.  I’m sure I’ve bought them from somewhere, but I can’t remember where.  If I’ve taken them (or stolen them) from you, I apologize for not giving you credit.

Weekly Free Time — Give employees an hour of "quiet time" every week — when the phones aren’t answered and meetings aren’t scheduled — to think, read a book, or just relax.

Incorporate Design — Hire a graphic design artist (with no legal portfolio) to review the format and design of every piece of mail and every type of document that goes out to customers.  Also, find the best interior designer in your town and ask them for one hour of time to give you tips on making your office more inviting and less intimidating.  Go to the most expensive and most popular stores and restaurants in your neighborhood.  Look at how they are designed.  Look at the people in them.  These people are comfortable in those environments.  If you want those types of people to be your clients, make your environment similar.

Commit to Clients, Send a Report Card– Prepare a list of client commitments and stick to them.  Include returning phone calls within a specified period of time.  Send the commitments to clients with every bill.  Offer discounts if you don’t live up to any of your commitments.  Give clients a small discount if they send back a "Report Card" with their payment.  Make it look like the ones kids got in the fifties.  Follow up with them on any grade they give below an "A."

The Monthly Status — Get a boilerplate monthly status report saved in every client’s file with their address, etc.  Send it every month and tell them what happened on their case that month.

Find Spaces to Collaborate, Not Just to Meet — Look for space in your office where you can have a comfortable conversation with a client, partner, or staff member.  Having a white board or other brainstorming tool would be a big plus.  Make it a fun place to think.

Create a Firm Master To-Do List — This list isn’t for client matters, but for firm matters.  Make marketing and firm development high priorities.  Make sure everyone has access to the list and place at least one item on the calendar each week to make sure it gets done.

Fund a Local "Genius Grant" — Find the biggest problem in your community and have a competition to solve it.  Involve the schools and retirement homes.  Give a prize for the best solution.  Make sure everyone knows your firm sponsored the competition.  Set aside another part of the prize money to go toward funding the solution.

Start an Exclusive Client Club — Come up with an unprecedented level of service and benefits (at a premium price) and offer it only to your best three customers.  Tell them they can invite others to join the club, but they must "vouch" for the new prospect.  Wait ten years, then retire.

Rewrite all of your Firm Documents — Every week, pick one of your "standard" forms (like retainer agreement) and give it to a sixth grader.  Ask them if they understand it.  Then rewrite it from scratch. 

Offer Gift Certificates — Find some kind of work you do and prepare gift certificates.  Send a notice to your clients telling them the certificates are available for the holidays.  In an estate planning practice, encourage clients to give the certificates to young couples who’ve just married or had children and might need a simple will.  The certificate could be for a will, or even a "free" consultation.

Open Ended Billing — Send a bill with no amount on the bottom.  Make sure you communicate all you’ve done for the client, then let them decide how much it was worth.

Open All Night — Find employees who want to work second and third shifts and experiment with one or two days a month where the firm never closes.  Advertise these days, and find out how many people who’ve never had time to meet with a lawyer come calling!

Find the Smartest People — Ask everyone you know for the names of the smartest people they know.  Invite those people to an exclusive dinner and offer to pay them for one hour each month of their advice — on anything.

Give Books — Go to your local school or library and donate several books on a topic that complements one of your primary practice area.  For instance, if you do divorce work, give the school several books about how children can best deal with divorce; or give the local library several volumes on divorce for adults.  Get your name in the front of each book and get your picture in the paper.

Garage Sale – GMail

Reader Steve Nipper offered up a G-Mail invite in the comments to a previous post.  I’ve got a few setting around too.  First five people to leave comments get ’em.

Idea Garage Sale – Day 1

For day one of my garage sale, I’ve collected some blog posts.  Twenty-five cents each, or five for a dollar.  If you want to buy them all, the price is negotiable.

A better voice mail greeting.

Five Balls.

Competing with Wal Mart.

The "Whole Enchilada" — Marketing to Hispanics.

Entrepreneurship Quiz

Be a "Category Protagonist"

Creativity and the Future.

Colorful Details make copy more believable.

The Being-Doing Balance.

Five tips for effective growth.

Hotel Minimalism.

Word-of-Mother Marketing.

A dozen habits of successful professionals.

Great leadership quotes.

In-and-Out ideas for lawyers.

Where are you most productive?

Is this how you listen to your clients?

Accountability Quiz.

Coach vs. Manager.

Advocating Pays.

Be a Business Advisor.

Bag the Biggest and Brag.

Targeting Workers for Benefits.

The Overworked.

What pain are you solving?

That’s it for today.  Come back tomorrow for some more great deals!

Idea Garage Sale – Used Bookmarks, Cheap!

Bookmarks for sale.  These bookmarks are gently used and are in fine working condition.  I’ve grouped them as best I can.  Make your best offer!

Billable Hour Remainders

ABA Commission on Billable Hours Report

The New Law Firm Economy — Billable Hours and Professional Responsibility

Looking Beyond the Billable Hour

Step Away from the Billable Hour

Burying the Billable Hour

The short, unhappy history of how lawyers bill their clients.

The Billable Hour: Putting a Wedge Between Client and Counsel

Toys for the Kids

Mr. Picassohead



Elastic Baby

Superhero Name Creation


Used Sports Equipment

Ham’n’Egg on Golf

Cool Things Defying Catagorization

Word Count

Idea a Day

Fat Fingers

List of Bests

Wonder of it All

The Cluetrain Manifesto

What to Rent


Non-Legal Sites with Interesting Ideas for Lawyers

We-We Monitor


Strategic Horizons

Consultants for Love

Customer Focus Monitor



Chinnici Direct

Lego Serious Play

Your Focus Group

We Do Stuff


Dream Dinners




Giving Answers

Foundation Source



Simple Thinking

Technology Extras



Planet PDF

Mail to the Future

Clear Board

Web Design Stuff

Boxes and Arrows

Stock Exchange Free Photos

Color Schemer Online

Mandarin Design

Fixing Your Web Site

Training and Seminars

Zingerman’s Zingtrain

Customer Evalgelism U.



Idea Garage Sale.

I’ve been spending the last two weeks doing some housekeeping around the office:  closing files, throwing stuff away, reviewing every open file, and generally organizing the stuff I have sitting around.  One of the things I’ve noticed is how easy it is to accumulate things on the computer.  For instance, I have over two-hundred items in my “to blog” folder on Bloglines alone.  Add to that the hundreds of articles and web sites I’ve book-marked over the last four years and you start to get the picture of some of the electronic cobwebs in my office.

I have finally recognized that I have too many ideas sitting around cluttering things up.  For the next week, I’m going to have an “Idea Garage Sale” on this blog.  I’ll be throwing up tons of links, blurbs, and thoughts that I’ve found laying around for you to take if you want.  If there is anything left at the end of next week, it will get shipped off to Goodwill.

And as for my fellow bloggers, I know you are in the same predicament as I am.  Everyone knows that when the whole neighborhood has a garage sale, more people show up to buy and more stuff gets sold, so join me and have your own Idea Garage Sale, too.

Enjoy your shopping!