Be a strong communicator.
Communication is probably the single most important thing in any business. If you do not do a good job of communication, then it’s not likely that the individuals within your firm will be speaking in one voice and acting in concert with each other.
You cannot ever, ever, ever underestimate, nor can you overdo, communication.
When I first came on as president of the firm, the first thing we did was go around and individually speak with every single shareholder in the firm and talk to them significantly and in depth an hour or two-hour conversation. That took a lot of time, but was the most important thing that I did because it led to an understanding of what they felt the strengths of the firm were, what they felt the challenges might be and their ideas of how you might move forward.
That turned out to be so successful that we now do that every year.
You’ve got to be really open-minded. The world is changing every day. You need to be open to suggestion and comment, doing things differently than they may have been done before.
Change is a very difficult thing. There are times when people are concerned about change, so you need to see the greater good. It’s a matter of making a case for change.
It’s very easy to become complacent in anything that you do because it’s comfortable. If we are not aware of what’s going on and addressing those issues and, in some cases, guiding that change, we will wake up in the morning and have no business.
It’s a matter of understanding the changes impacting our clients, and therefore, changes impacting us. We need to be leading that. We need to have a culture that accepts change, not as a bad thing but as an opportunity to grow.
Make concentrated efforts to help your customers.
I go and meet with our clients, even if I’m not doing the work for them. I spend time with their CEO, saying, ‘We really care about your business. We want to know what challenges you’re having. How can we help you? How do we do it the very best we can?’
They come up with wonderful suggestions, which we bring back to implement. We have industry groups, client service groups, all of which are focused on an individual area: What’s happening in the law? What’s happening in agencies and legislative actions and communities and government, and how does that affect our client? What could we propose to help?
Sometimes it’s doing seminars for them. Sometimes it’s just giving them a heads-up. Sometimes it’s just keeping them up to date with our weekly e-newsletters.
All of those things are focused on giving them information, giving them the opportunity to focus on things before it becomes a crisis. When our clients are successful, then we’re successful. Our whole focus is on our clients.
Without them we wouldn’t have a business. As they are satisfied with our effort, and as they grow and they prosper, so do we.
Get buy-in before, during and after a decision.
Make a determination of the direction, and make sure you have buy-in from those individuals that are going to be tasked with carrying out the implementation.
Always be very straightforward with those that you’re speaking with. Make your decisions based on a lot of input from people and information.
It gives us a diversity of input. It helps with the buy-in. You can make a goal for a company, but unless you have everybody agreeing that that goal applies to them, the implementation becomes very difficult.
Empower them by having buy-in to the vision, because then you’re going to ask them to be responsible for some part of the implementation.
Keep your employees around for the long-haul.
Hire extremely bright, confident, innovative, proactive people. Once you’ve done that, you just turn them loose and let them do their job.
As they’re coming in to a firm, you really inquire into their character and capability. They will prove themselves to you, and as they prove themselves to you, you give them more and more opportunity.
One is making sure you understand what each individual might want for their own individual career. People’s needs and desires are very different, and that’s something you should explore very early on when you’re hiring so you don’t get a mismatch.
Certainly mentoring is important. When a new lawyer comes in, we have a supervising shareholder, peer coaches, as well as these training programs, that are really intended to help them along the way when they hit an area where they may be unsure or have questions on how to proceed, but also to recognize what their strengths are and how they might best be utilized within the firm so they get the most satisfaction out of it, too, and the clients get the best service.
Take risks, but maintain focus.
The success of a firm has a lot to do with the willingness to be innovative and to be forward-thinking, and to be always focusing on solutions and opportunities. If you don’t do that, you only get what’s left.
Focus on your goals. Then every step you take, you go back to your base goals and say, ‘What is it that has led me here?’ And make your decisions based upon what those goals are. Does it fit into the scenario or not?
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