Friday, September 30, 2016

You are Wrong, I am Right.

Quite often I converse with attorneys who start their sentences with the phrase "The right answer is...”  It's absolute and it feels reassuring and neat; for every problem, for every question, there is a perfectly right answer.  This phrase always gets me wondering: who are they trying to convince, me or themselves?  Are they giving me the right answer, or are they just forcefully making the case that it is not the wrong answer?  Or more to the point, that they are not wrong. 

I got to thinking about being wrong, and the fear that we all have about being wrong after watching an interesting TED Talk.  Kathryn Schulz lays out what we all know and see every day; we have been trained not to be wrong.  As an attorney, you are indoctrinated even deeper into a code of always being right.  It is generally a good instinct to possess as an attorney; clients do not like to work with lawyers who provide incorrect advice or work product that contains mistakes.
As a small law firm owner, or an aspiring one, you need to wear another hat that is critical to your success: that of an entrepreneur.  Successful entrepreneurs take risks, try new things that are uncertain and yes, they make mistakes.  Successful entrepreneurs make lots of mistakes.  Often, doing it wrong is the only way to figure out how to do it right.
How can you start taking calculated risks when it feels so uncomfortable?  The answer is planning.  By leveraging the best available information to determine possible outcomes, comparing risks of action against no action and establishing ways to measure success, you will feel empowered to take smart calculated risks and make good decisions. 

To get started, focus on the following:
-You are never going to have perfect clarity.  At NexFirm I spend my days helping aspiring founders and managing partners of small firms launch and grow their businesses.  We look at critical decisions from every angle and bring to bear all of the information we can put our hands on.  In the end, we determine the probability of potential outcomes and make the best decision we can.  Often it comes down to one simple point, can we live with this decision if the worse (not worst) case scenario plays out.  You will never have perfect information or the “right” answer; if you wait until you do you will never affect change.
-You are likely to overestimate the risk of the unknown, and underestimate the risk of no action.  If you are working at a BigLaw firm and you think that you will “probably” make partner, the odds are against you.  If you think you can’t do better for yourself as a small firm founder than as an associate, you are again playing against the odds.  Staying with the status quo always seems more comfortable, and the unknown feels risky.  Planning levels the field, allows you to measure the risk of no action fairly against proactive decisions and move ahead.
-In the small law firm business, the odds favor those who pursue growth.  Many small law firms tend to suffer from the same problem; when they are busy they don’t have the time to engage in business development, when the work ends they starve while they feverishly work on bringing in billable hours.  Growth brings diversification and richer financial resources, and it is a key to longevity.
Try to step out of your comfort zone and seek out some calculated career risks, investigate and quantify all that you can to make the best decision possible and don’t focus so much on not being wrong.  You may not get the right answer, just the best answer.

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David DePietto is the founder and CEO of NexFirm. 
He can be reached at ddepietto@nexfirm.com

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Networking With Your Clients

Networking with your clients may appear to be a science, but I submit it is an art form that should not be dismissed because you say to yourself; "I'm not a good networker".  While it may be difficult to feel this as I did when I tried it, I found following the process below over time became easy and it has worked will for me, as I believe it will for you:

Make a client list that you want to focus on:  Be careful not to choose just the ones you have the best relationships with, but also those that understand and focus on relationship development.  If they have asked you to make introductions to them, they belong on your list and should be focused on all year.  Those that resist, you may want to put on the bottom of your list.

Get  dialog going.   This is the easy part; call, have breakfast or lunch, take in a ball game or just visit their office with cookies.  Focus on getting to know them better and asking for business will be much easier.

Be helpful.  Once you are passed this point, then you can figure out how to help them.  Who do you know that might make for a good introduction?  Can you help them resolve issues that they are focused on?  Even just being a sounding board helps.

Follow up.  Just like keeping the weight off is harder than losing it, so is follow up. But it is most important.  Try and think of creative ways to regularly stay in touch.  I have sent books I've read, email articles or TED Talks that I think may be interesting, share things from my life (by now you all know my passion for cricket), or just to check in on the thing we spoke about last. This approach I believe builds a strong connection between you and your client.  And when you are at a point that they will accept a dinner invitation that includes their wife or husband, then you have arrived!

Ask for help.  Now comes the biggest challenge: asking for help.  Difficult to do, maybe, but if you don't, your relationship will not blossom.  If you treat their contact well and help them, it's as much a favor you are doing for them that they do for you.  When they introduce you to someone that hires you, it validates their decision to work with you, which also makes them feel good.

Keep up the activity and results will come, and before you know it you will believe that you are "good at networking”! 


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David DePietto is the founder and CEO of NexFirm. He can be reached at 
ddepietto@nexfirm.com