When to hire your first (or next) employee

Share

A sole practitioner asks, “How do I know when I can afford to hire my first employee?”

That depends. If you think like a lawyer, you’ll wait until you have so much work piled up you can’t keep up with it. Hiring your first, or your next employee will be a matter of necessity.

But you’re not just a lawyer. You’re also a business owner and if you think like a business owner, you will invest in the future of your business (practice).

You won’t wait until it’s obvious you need help. You will imagine the future of your practice the way you want it to be and make sure you get there ahead of time.

In other words, you’ll hire staff before you absolutely need them.

I did this. I hired people when I didn’t yet have enough work to keep them busy. I expected my practice to grow and I wanted to be ready.

I did the same thing with office space. I got bigger space before I needed it. I was nervous about signing a long term lease, but I filled the space every time.

Don’t dwell on where you, imagine where you want to be. Buy some big boy pants and know that you will grow into them.

I was once in the real estate business with another lawyer who thought even bigger than I did. He wanted us to lease the penthouse suite in a building on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. The rent was gag-inducing. He also wanted us to hire several secretaries and buy new computers, and the business was barely getting started.

We did it. We invested in the future we expected to create and our investment paid off.

Of course we were also motivated by a tremendous fear of loss. We had huge overhead and had to make it work.

We charged higher fees, took out bigger ads, and worked out tails off. In less than a year, we were paying all of our expenses, had leased top of the line Mercedes, and took home six-figure draws, and this was in the 80’s when six-figures meant something.

If you expect your practice to grow, invest in that growth. Take on bigger space before you need it. Hire more people before you have enough work to keep them busy.

Start with employees, because they are scalable. Unlike a lease, if the work doesn’t materialize, you can easily downsize.

If you’re still not sure, start with temps or part time help. If you share space with another attorney, talk to them about sharing a secretary.

Don’t be reckless, of course. But don’t play it safe, either.

If you wait until you’re sure, you’ve probably waited too long.

Share

Growing your law practice through osmosis

Share

Yesterday, I did a consultation/strategy session with an attorney who has been practicing less than two years. During the session, we talked about his income. In the first three months of this year he has averaged $10,000 per month, which is more than double what he earned per month last year.

What made the difference?

He purchased and read The Attorney Marketing Formula in January of this year and thinks this can’t be a coincidence. He’s giving me the credit, and that’s great, but here’s the thing. He hasn’t really implemented anything from The Formula. Nothing major, anyway. In fact, he told me there were some concepts he was still unclear about.

So how could this have immediately caused his income to more than double?

I think I have an answer. I think that although he hasn’t done anything new to market his services, he’s thinking about it. Those thoughts are changing what he says and does in almost imperceptible ways.

Now, he knows what’s possible. And important. His subconscious mind is starting to percolate with ideas. He’s paying attention to things he may have glossed over in the past.

He may not realize it, but merely by reading about marketing, he is becoming better at marketing.

I can’t wait to see what happens when he implements some of the strategies and techniques he has learned.

Click here to check out The Attorney Marketing Formula

Share

Begin with the end in mind (and work backwards)

Share

Most people choose a goal and then start working towards it. They put one foot in front of the other and keep walking until they get to their destination.

If they choose the wrong step, however, they may get sidetracked and lose sight of their goal. If they do the steps in the wrong order, they may waste time and resources.

A better way, some say, is to begin with the end in mind and work backwards.

Let me give you an example of how it works.

Let’s say you have a goal of getting one additional referral each week.

Nice goal, yes?

Okay, now you have to ask yourself this question: Can I do this tomorrow? Can I get one additional referral per week starting tomorrow?

The odds are the answer is no. So you ask another question: What would have to have happen first?

Putting aside the idea of getting more referrals from your clients and existing contacts, let’s say the answer is, “I’d have to have twenty new professional contacts who know, like, and trust me. If each one of these twenty contacts sends me just one referral every five months, I would achieve my goal of getting one additional referral per week.”

That sounds doable. But can you do it tomorrow?

No.

What would have to happen first?

First (let’s say) you would need to connect with 100 new contacts (professionals, business owners, community leaders, centers of influence, etc.), in order to find twenty who are willing and able to send you one referral every five months.

Can you do this tomorrow? I’m guessing not.

What would have to happen first?

First you would have to identify (a) places where these people congregate, so you can go there and meet them, and/or (b) people you know who can introduce you to these people.

Can you do that tomorrow?

Yes you can. You can start anyway. You can do some research and find organizations comprised of people who fit the description of the people you want to meet who meet locally.

You can also comb through your current list of contacts to identify people who are likely to know these people. They have clients or colleagues or business contacts who fit the description. You know them well enough to ask for an introduction.

Finally, you have something you can do tomorrow. Now you can take the first steps towards your goal.

But if you do all of that, can you reach your goal tomorrow? No. What has to happen first?

You need to meet them and get to know them. You need to find out what they are looking for that you might be able to help them with. You need to show them what you do and how you can help their clients or contacts. And you have to build a relationship with them, earn their trust ,and eventually, their referrals.

Can you do this tomorrow? No. What would you have to do first?

You’d have to talk to them, get their contact information, and begin a dialog with them.

Can you do that tomorrow (if you meet them tomorrow)? Yes you can.

And now you have a plan.

You can’t “do” a goal, you can only do activities. Begin with the end in mind and work backwards. Identify the activities you need to do, and do them, and keep doing them until you reach your goal.

Marketing is easier when you know The Attorney Marketing Formula

Share

There is no virtue in working hard

Share

There is no virtue in working hard. Not when you can get the same or better results with less effort.

Robert A. Heinlein said, “Progress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.”

In fact, that’s a pretty good definition of the word productivity. Getting more results with less effort.

To do that first requires an appreciation of the difference between effectiveness and efficiency.

Effectiveness means “doing the right things”. It means doing things that are consistent with your long term vision and short term goals. It means doing what’s important, primarily, and finding ways to minimize or eliminate everything else.

If growing your practice and advancing your career is important to you, you are effective when you focus on delivering value to your clients, building relationships with key people, and getting better at marketing.

Eighty percent of your results come from twenty percent of your effort. To be more effective, identify those twenty percent activities and do more of them.

Efficiency, on the other hand, means “doing things right”. It means getting things done faster or better.

You become more efficient by using forms, checklists, and templates to streamline your work. You become more efficient by hiring better quality employees who deliver better results. You become more efficient by improving your skills through study and practice and dedication to personal development.

These are some of the things that allowed me to quadruple the income in my law practice while reducing my work week to just three days.

But while there’s no virtue in working hard, there’s nothing wrong with it.

When you are effective and efficient, you might increase your effort-to-results ratio from one-to-one to one-to-ten. If you are effective and efficient and ALSO work hard, you might increase that ratio from one-to-one to one-to-100.

Earn more and work less through leverage

Share

Is working on weekends counterproductive?

Share

It’s Saturday morning (or Sunday) and you’re the only one in the office. You’ve wearing shorts and a teeshirt and haven’t shaved. That’s okay. You’re not going to see any clients today.

You put on a pot of coffee. It’s quiet. No phones ringing, no voices down the hall, and you can think. Maybe it’s too quiet, so you turn on the radio and get a background buzz of music or talk radio.

You’ve got a blizzard of files and papers on your desk. It’s been a busy week and you’re behind on a bunch of things. You push everything into one or two piles to clear some work space on the desk, and you dig in.

In a few hours, you’ve gone through most of the backlog. You’ve dictated letters and instructions to your secretary. You’ve dictated a declaration for a motion that needs to be filed next week. You’ve reviewed some older files and made notes about what needs to be done. You’ve reviewed and signed invoices that are ready to go out. You’ve signed checks to pay bills.

Finally, you filled your briefcase with files you need for court on Monday, turned off the coffee pot and radio, turned off the lights and went home.

Nicely done. It feels good. You’re looking forward to dinner and a relaxing evening with the family.

I remember this scenario well. I went through it often. Once every month or two I went to the office and got caught up and organized. I’d get a week’s worth of work done in a few hours.

But I knew guys who were in the office every weekend. They came in early and stayed late. Not just when they were prepping for trial–it was a regular work day for them. They would see clients and put in a full day.

That’s too much. You’ve got to recharge. You’ve got to have a life outside of work.

Apparently, what most of us intuitively understand has a scientific basis in fact. According to a study, “productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that there’s no point in working any more.”

Working on weekends once in awhile is fine. If you’re working every weekend, however, you might want to consider whether it’s worth it because the odds are it’s not.

Share

The one thing that made the difference

Share

In an interview yesterday I was asked what was the one thing that made the difference in my career. What was it that helped me become successful.

Back then, I said, meaning back when I was starting out and I was broke as a joke and just wanted to pay my bills, marketing made the difference.

When I learned how to bring in more clients, and better clients, everything changed.

Later, when I was making lots of money but had no time for anything but work, the key to my success as a sole practitioner was getting comfortable with delegating. This is difficult for many lawyers because we are very uncomfortable relinquishing control. But I did it and it allowed me to work only 3 days a week.

My income, went up, too, because I had more time for marketing and to improve my office’s systems.

In more recent years, the “one thing” that has made a difference for me has been passive income. When money comes in no matter what you do, even if you don’t do anything, well, it doesn’t get better than that. This allowed me to retire from the practice of law and do things I’ve always wanted to do.

So here’s my advice. If you need more money right now, study marketing. Get good at it. Make it your focus. Find something that works well for you and go “all in”.

If you have money but no time, hire more employees (or outsource) and learn how to delegate.

I know it’s hard but it gets easier. When I ran my practice, I resolved to do “only that which only I could do”. To my pleasant surprise, I found that there was very little that only I could do.

Delegate as much as possible and use the free time for more marketing, to improve your office’s work flow, and to have a life.

And if you have reached the point where you’ve got a handle on the money and the time, start thinking about what comes next. You might never want to retire or move onto to something else, and that’s okay. But knowing that you have enough cash and investments or passive income to do so, is a very good thing.

Marketing is easier when you have a plan

Share

Can you be successful doing work you don’t love?

Share

Can you be successful doing work you don’t love? If you define success in material terms, I think you can. But success is not just about money. To be truly successful, you have to be happy.

And here’s the thing. When you are happy, when you love your work, financial success is much easier to achieve.

You don’t have to push yourself to get up early. Mondays are your favorite day of the week. You can’t wait until your next speaking engagement, trial, or networking event.

When you love what you do, the work is almost effortless. Problems seem smaller and easier to resolve. You don’t have to work hard to find clients, you attract them, in droves.

When you love what you do, you are happy, and when you are happy, you love what you do.

What if you don’t love your work? What if it’s just okay?

You eliminate or marginalize the things you don’t like and do more of the things you enjoy.

You can delegate, outsource, and partner. You can change practice areas, client types, and target markets. You can get rid of the marketing techniques that make your stomach churn and replace them with things that come naturally.

You can also give it time. You may learn to love your work eventually. As you hear sad stories about friends who have lost their jobs and can’t find any work, for example, you might start appreciating things you previously took for granted.

Or you might see your current situation as a stepping stone to something else.

Whatever you do, make sure you don’t dwell on the negative aspects of your work. Focus on the things that make you feel good.

Think about the things that are going well and come easily to you. Think about your accomplishments and victories. Think about how good it is that you are paying your bills and that you have the time and space to turn an okay situation into something great.

Focus on the things that make you happy in your work because what you focus on grows.

Success is easier when you have a plan

Share

What will you do next?

Share

I’m working on a project. I still have a fair amount left to do but I already know what I’m going to do next. In fact, I’m already working on it.

I’m collecting research, making notes, and creating an outline. When I finish project A, I’ll be ready to move immediately into project B.

It’s exciting to know I have a pipeline of things to do. It inspires me to finish my current project, and allows me to start the next project with some momentum. It’s even better because my next project is somewhat related to the current one.

I don’t know what I’m going to do after I finish project B, but I have lots of ideas and I will choose one long before I finish project B. Of course, while I’m working on that one, I’ll choose the next project.

How about you? What are you working on now? What will you do next?

Share

Are you the smartest person in the room?

Share

When you have a problem, or you have to make an important decision, who do you turn to for advice?

Do you have friends or networking contacts who are subject matter experts in pertinent areas? Do you know successful professionals and business owners who can provide general business advice and help you sort things out? Do you have mentors or a panel of advisers?

Industrialist Henry Kaiser once said, “I make progress by having people around me who are smarter than I am – and listening to them. And I assume that everyone is smarter about something than I am.”

Michael Dell’s put it this way:

Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people … or find a different room. In professional circles it’s called networking. In organizations it’s called team building. And in life it’s called family, friends, and community. We are all gifts to each other, and my own growth as a leader has shown me again and again that the most rewarding experiences come from my relationships.

Getting proper advice can accelerate the growth of your career by helping you to avoid costly mistakes and leverage existing opportunities. You might figure things out yourself but why not talk to people who already know?

You can find advisers through formal networking or by asking your existing contacts for referrals or introductions. .

Start by asking for help with specific areas rather than general business advice. What kinds of information or advice do you need? Who might know someone who is an expert in that area?

You might start your own mastermind group. Ask four or five successful professionals or business owners in different areas to meet with you once or twice a month to share ideas and advice.

If you have more money than time, you might hire several experts on a trial basis.

No doubt you are intelligent and good at what you do. But that can only take you so far. If you want to take your practice to the next level, go find some people who are smarter than you.

Share

Eat dessert first

Share

I went to a funeral last night. DJ was my friend and business partner and he was only 55 when he died.

As I thought about DJ and what he meant to me, I thought about how much he loved people. He was a great listener, always upbeat, always willing to help.

More than anything, DJ liked to have fun. Having fun was his rai·son d’ê·tre. No matter what he was doing, he did it with gusto.

When we went to dinner with DJ, he had the peculiar habit of ordering and eating dessert first. He said he didn’t want to miss the best part of the meal.

Eat dessert first. Enjoy life while you still have it.

Stephen King said, “Ask yourself frequently, “Am I having fun?” The answer needn’t always be yes. But if it’s always no, it’s time for a new project or a new career.”

I’m going to ask myself that question more often because life is short and it passes quickly.

Share