Jeff Heintz isn’t bragging when he says the legal firm where he is managing partner, Brouse McDowell LPA, made it through the recent recession without missing a beat ― it’s a matter of fact that the firm only had a few scratches.
“We did OK because we stuck to what we did best; I think our reputation served us well,” he says.
Once Heintz realized that the 92-year-old company’s brand was the best weapon in his arsenal to fight the recession, he instilled a way of thinking to bolster that premise for the 120 employees.
“We adopted the philosophy that we are going to control the kinds of things we can control,” he says.
The first premise pertains to the quality of work, an obvious aspect that can be controlled.
“If you work hard, and you have high character, and you behave in a manner that is befitting of things like ‘A Lawyer’s Creed’ and ‘A Lawyer’s Aspirational Ideals,’ good things are going to happen to you,” Heintz says.
“If you develop skills that enable you to help your client as a technician and develop the feelings that enable you to discern how best to direct your client, whether or not a particular strategy has short-term or long-term benefit, then you can become a trusted adviser,” he says.
“There’s no better feeling in the world than being a trusted adviser, somebody who works hard, develops a business and builds it into something grand, and it is the centerpiece of that person’s life and perhaps that person’s family,” he says.
Place a high premium on community involvement, and feel an obligation to give back to the extent you can by participating and furthering the efforts of nonprofits and volunteering because it is the right thing to do.
“It also gives your people an outlet other than just coming in and putting on their miner’s helmet and cracking away at work. It keeps them fresh, focused and gives them some perspective.”
Dedication to clients can also be controlled.
“We’ve had relationships with clients that go back decades,” he says. “We’ve been through tough times with clients and we’ve been there for them. This time it was tough times for everybody.”
With a relationship that has developed trust and understanding over the years, there are often mutual benefits.
“You and your clients benefit from the strength and depth of your relationships because businesses across the board were facing issues that they never faced before, having to consider choices that they never considered before, and I think it is a considerable comfort to them to know that when they would pick up the phone to call their advisers, it’s a number that they have been calling for 30 or 40 years.”
One of the tools that may serve you in being open with clients is what Heintz calls the “sneaky direct approach.”
“You just sit down with them, and you tell them the truth,” he says. “You let them know even if you can’t lay out for them chapter and verse what will happen, you lay down for them as best you can your belief about what will happen and what steps you are taking to control what can happen. I think people tend to react well to that.”
Another factor to control is the seriousness with which responsibilities are taken.
“Take that commitment of trust very, very seriously,” Heintz says. “One of your first thoughts should be how is this going to benefit your client ― not how much money can you make, not how quickly can you get this job done, not how much personal goodwill can you get from this.”
As a final matter, protect yourself as best as you can against the things you can’t control.
“Ignore a lot of the chatter for things that happen at the federal level ― the preoccupation with the recent Washington gridlock, for example ― as difficult as it is,” Heintz says.
How to reach: Brouse McDowell LPA, (330) 535-5711 or www.brouse.com
Availability is king
It’s been said that no matter recession or economic growth, your ability to succeed in business is only limited by your availability to your customers.
Jeff Heintz, managing partner of Brouse McDowell LPA, believes in that. In fact, he has his home phone number on his business card.
“If you make your clients know that you are available to them pretty much 24/7, they appreciate the commitment and are very conscientious how they use it,” he says.
Likewise, cascade that premise of availability throughout your staff, from top to bottom.
“If you are accessible, that’s a talisman of your commitment to your clients,” Heintz says.
“Don’t tell them, ‘You need to get a hold of me between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday because I’m not going to look at my mail over the weekend, and I’m not going to answer my phone.’
“Not everything’s an emergency, and there are people out there that live their lives at general quarters ― and everything’s an emergency ―but there are emergencies out there, particularly as we increasingly get to a global economy where it may be 7 p.m. on Friday night in Akron, Ohio, but 9 a.m. elsewhere on the globe where people are at work when you are at play. But most people use their best judgment, and they have the ability to discern between what’s an emergency and what’s not.”