Five by Five - Entrepreneur Edition Recap
Well, the Entrepreneur Edition of the Five by Five is done. Absolutely great advice for lawyers (and other service professionals) about how to cater to entrepreneurial clients. All of the posts are here in one spot.
Next week (or thereabouts) we'll have five legal technology gurus answer the following question: What five new technologies should all lawyers incorporate into their practices, but probably won't?
Five by Five - Barry Moltz
The final installment of the Entrepreneur's Edition of the Five by Five comes from Barry Moltz, author of You Need To Be A Little Crazy: The Truth About Starting and Growing Your Business who also blogs about entrepreneurism and his book. Barry's finishes up the Five by Five with:
1. Don't just keep track of the hours you spend with me, think value. There is nothing that gets me more angry than receiving an bill from an attorney for a tenth of an hour. When an attorney does this I think they are more interested in their time than the value they can bring to my business. I would rather have the attorney make their rate higher and not charge me for these short phone calls. Although I know all the attorney has to sell is their time, please disguise it a bit better. It makes me feel better.
2. Stop charging me for all those copies you make or faxes you send. There isn't another business on earth that charges me to make copies of my documents at 5- 25 cents a page or send a fax at $1.00 to $5.00 a page. I always kid my best friend who is a personal injury attorney that if he wants to make some money today, all he has to do is take out a file and start copying! Maybe, I am just jealous and wish I could do this in my consulting business. Again, hide this in your hourly rate. To me, this just seems like you are piling on! These services are a cost of doing business. Treat it that way.
3. Insist that I have all the correct agreements and legal documents. Entrepreneurs are famous for being sloppy on operating and partner agreements. Be ruthless with them and help them think through ALL the issues that could happen. Insist that these are update and in place.
4. Act as a "Lovecat" and connect me to your other clients that may be able to help my business as a vendor or customer. Entrepreneurs need your help referring them to other people that can use their services or products. You can be a key conduit. Try to make it happen. Likewise, maybe you other businesses that can help them as a vendor. Make the call and connect your two clients.
5. Counsel them not to sue every person that angers them. Tell them how expensive it will be. Help them understand that trying to mediate through issues is much better than going to court. In the end, at the court, the only one that usually wins in an attorney.
Five by Five - Businesspundit
The fourth contributor to this the Entrepreneur Edition of the Five by Five is Rob, the anonymous Businesspundit. Rob writes one of my favorite blogs on entrepreneurship and business issues. Because he writes anonymously, he pulls no punches. His Five:
1. Think customer service. Lawyers are in the customer service business, and they should act like it. If clients aren't happy, they shouldn't have to pay full freight.
2. Change the way you bill. I'd rather get away from this billable hour nonsense.
3. Technology, technology, technology. Why do lawyers generate so much paperwork? It's 2004.
4. Understand my business. I get way too many cookie cutter answers from lawyers.
5. Help me plan for the future. Most lawyers I have dealt with are great at writing and analyzing contracts, but I need more. Help me think about the way my strategies will play out from a legal perspective. Help me understand what issues and challenges I may face, and the best way to deal with them,
Five by Five - Jon Strande
These responses come from Jon Strande, writer of the Business Evolutionist blog and author of the e-book, "The Cash Register Principle."
1. Form partnerships with other service professionals and offer entire solutions. For instance, I think the idea of being able to "plug in" to a business backbone would be cool. If I'm starting a small business, there are whole series of things that I need to do, file paperwork with the state, getting a tax-id number, getting some accounting software set up, printing business cards, etc, etc, etc. Imagine bringing together a bunch of preferred business partners together and offering a turn-key business formation service. The businesses in the "partnership" could chip in and pay for a concierge/liaison that would hold the hand of the business owner during the process. In addition to that, make the billing for the "service" simple... seamless across all the offerings.
2. Continue that service beyond the business formation stuff. That business concierge should be someone to facilitate anything at any time for the business owner. My point in this is that if you're lawyer (or banker, or accountant, or whatever) you're just a silo, you might have something to offer the time-starved entrepreneur, but you're just a piece of the puzzle. You view the law as super important, and it is, but think about what the entrepreneur wants/needs - TO SELL. Not get burdened with legal stuff or anything else.
3. Play the role of connector. As an attorney, you have tons of contacts in various lines of business, facilitate introductions of clients that might be able to help each other. If you have a marketing firm as a client, introduce them to other clients that could use their services. If you want more business from someone, help them be successful, they'll remember you for it and most people will repay that kindness by telling others about you.
4. Automate stuff that you can automate. Not to sell what an attorney does short, but several of the documents that you generate for clients are based on templates (be honest here), why not make that stuff available online, in a protected area, for existing clients. If I need a new contract for something at 8:30 at night, let me go online and create it instead of having to wait until 8:30 the next morning when you get in the office. Not all of the documents you produce can be automated, but for the ones that can be, automate them. Make them available to me when I need them. Add the simple stuff as well. Let me search other information, ask questions, etc...
5. Last, but certainly not least, remember that you're in the people business. Treating people well, regardless of what business you're in, is THE most important thing you can do... obviously.
Five by Five - Michael Cage
The next contributor to the Entrepreneur Edition of the Five by Five is Michael Cage. Michael writes about "Small Business Success, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship" at his Entrepreneurslife.com blog. Here are Michael's responses:
I was thrilled when Matt asked my to contribute to this edition of Five-By-Five. As a lifelong, parallel entrepreneur I've had more than my share of dealings with attorneys. My role has been as client, adversary, and occasional small business-to-business marketing “hired gun.” I've often found myself thinking, “finding a great attorney who understands my business just shouldn't be so hard.” Alas, it is. And, I'm still looking. Hopefully my answers will get you thinking at a minimum, and jump-start some changes at best. I haven't pulled any punches, nor have I been polite. I hope you'll appreciate the intention behind this: I'm telling you what entrepreneurs think, but often don't say, as they are walking out your door.
1. Don't make the mistake of thinking entrepreneurs know all you can do for them. It took me years and numerous businesses to fully appreciate the ways a good attorney could help me, and I'm not alone. This is both a disservice to your clients and a profit-killer for your business, and it can be traced back to the general fear and total misunderstanding most attorneys have about marketing. Good marketing does more than bring clients in the door, though that is the standard by which it should be judged. It also teaches and educates about exactly how you can help businesses, why you are uniquely qualified to do so, and the dangers lurking around the corner if you are consulted you too late. How many times do you say, “If you had only seen me sooner?” This should not happen, and, frankly, you have only yourself to blame when it does. Get off the high horse and embrace marketing as a way to help both your practice and your clients.
2. I'm not hiring you to bring the apocalypse. All too often entrepreneurs see attorneys as the place where deals go to die. A close friend of mine, a millionaire many times over, once completed the negotiations for a substantial deal. He said the next step was to take it to his attorney, where he'd have to fight and argue for hours to get the deal OK'd. It shouldn't have to be that way. Yes, I know your job is to keep me and my business out of trouble. I do appreciate it. But you can't lose sight of the fact that, ultimately, entrepreneurs hire you to keep their businesses out of trouble AND make it possible to grow. When proposed deals and contracts do not make your first cut; pro-actively give an alternative way to make it work. Realize entrepreneurs are driven by questions like, “How can we make this happen?” instead of “How many ways won't this work?” Cut the cynicism off, and work with your clients in a pro-active and positive way to make the deals happen. Then go from being perceived as “deal killers” to being known for understanding entrepreneurs and having the disposition to work with them.
3. Small business owners want specialists. Small business owners believe their business is unique. There is some, though not much, validity to the belief. The important thing to realize is that if you take the time to become familiar enough with your clients' businesses to grasp the unique aspects, you will be rewarded with a unique selling proposition no generalist competitor can touch. The reverse is also true. If you do NOT take the time to understand what makes your client businesses tick, they will defect to the first “more specialized” attorney who comes along. Specialization can be as simple as have a specific set of marketing campaigns for a specific type of business. I've seen response increase by as much as 72% by taking a generic marketing piece and making a single change -- calling out a specific type of business in the headline and delivering it to a targeted audience of those businesses.
4. Spend less time focusing on your peers and more time focusing on your clients. I'm fortunate to count three extremely good, prominent attorneys among my close friends and associates. All three are master marketers, and understand how their clients want to be communicated with and marketed to. They share another commonality. All three have been brought up on downright silly ethics charges because of their marketing. The real reason? Up-tight peers who adhere to an antiquated set of "marketing rules" that benefit only those lazy, apathetic, and fearful of competition. As an entrepreneur, an attorney afraid of competition is of no use to me. As a potential client, I want comparative advertising allowed, I most definitely want to see testimonials in advertising, and I sure as heck would love to see an attorney use a guarantee. Taking it a step further and shifting gears, I've yet to meet a successful business owner of ANY kind who spends more time worrying about what their peers do than what their clients want. Loosen the death grip on marketing standards, and everyone who is worth their business license will benefit. (Those who aren't? They die or go work for someone else. As it should be.)
5. Entrepreneurs WANT to be marketed to. Once we do business, do not take me for granted or cease communicating with me. Thinking I will come back to you or refer business when I haven't heard a peep from you or your office in months is a very poor assumption to make. At the same time, don't mail off a newsletter produced outside of your practice and think it'll do for maintaining our relationship. It won't. If you want me as a client and a great source of referrals, you had better show you value my business by communicating with me on *at least* a monthly basis. The more relevant the content is to my business the better. And, above all, do not commit the cardinal marketing sin of being boring. Throw the tiresome, professional voice out the window and really communicate to me. Person to person. Just like you would a close friend who asked for your advice over a couple of whiskeys at the local bar. Remember, people complain endlessly about big, dumb corporations. Yet most professional service providers, and almost all attorneys, go out of their way to sound just like them. Take the time to learn how your clients like being communicated with, and the language they like to use.
I'll leave you with this final thought: Be bold. If all else fails, observe what your colleagues are doing in terms of marketing and service delivery and do the opposite. Your peers might snipe at you, but your clients will love you. Think about it
Five by Five - Professor Jeffrey R. Cornwall
First up for this edition of the Five by Five is Professor Jeffrey R. Cornwall, who holds the Jack C. Massey Chair of Entrepreneurship at Belmont University. Professor Cornwall has written four books on entrepreneurship and writes The Entrepreneurial Mind weblog. From the Professor:
1. “Invest” in your Clients. By this, I don't mean that attorneys should literally become equity investors in the entrepreneurial companies with which they work. But, they may need to “eat” much of what would normally be considered billable hours when first working with a start-up company. During the time before the business actually starts creating revenues through the early stages of business development is when many key legal issues need to be addressed. Shareholder agreements, patents, financing agreements, leases, employment contracts, etc. all require careful business and legal consideration. Yet, many entrepreneurs are strapped for cash. By offering heavily discounted fixed prices for such services, or by discounting hours billed, the attorney can actually make a major contribution to the early success of the business. The attorney will reap the benefits of this in the longer term as the company grows and its cash flows become positive.
2. Talk openly about fee structure for any project and work within their budget. Even as a business grows cash flow and budgets can remain fairly restrictive. Work with your entrepreneur clients to give them the most value for what they can afford. Offer them a fixed project cost rather than open ended hourly billing.
3. Develop a long-term legal plan. Work with your client to develop a long-term legal plan so they can plan for legal expenses that they will need to consider into the future.
4. Help your clients to make you more efficient in your work for them. Let them prepare their own drafts on documents. This can save a lot of money and will result in documents that better reflect their business and their strategies. Encourage them to organize their meetings with you to help make each meeting more efficient by covering several issues at once.
5. Help them to understand your world. The world of law is where you live. However, it is a scary, foreign land to most entrepreneurs. Help to translate what you are addressing with them into language they will understand. It is not the precise and technical way of dealing with clients in which most of you are trained, but it will lead to better outcomes for all concerned
Five by Five - Entrepreneur Edition
I've been a bit quiet about upcoming Five by Five's, but I have some really cool news to report, and some more in the wings. First, the bad news: because it is really difficult to keep the feature going every week, I'm going to spread them out just a bit. The great news is that I've lined up the participants in the next Five by Five. The feature will run on July 19 and the question will be:
What five things can lawyers do to better serve entrepreneurs and their businesses?The All-Star Cast:
Rob a/k/a BusinessPundit.To say I'm excited about this upcoming edition is an understatement. I continue to be amazed at the wonderful people who agree to participate in my little Q&A.
Michael Cage - Who writes about "Small Business Success, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship" at his Entrepreneurslife.com blog.
Coming soon: Five Legal Technologists answer the question, "What five new technologies should all lawyers incorporate into their practices, but probably won't?"