In today’s episode, Jim and Tyson take a deep dive with eleven different guests to chat about growth, things they’ve learned, hurdles, and things they’ve had to overcome in their law firms. If you’ve been looking for successful ways to grow your firm, check out this rapid-fire episode.
3:00 make decisions ahead of time
8:21 culture, culture, culture
11:35 core values
13:42 systems, processes, hiring, and consistency
17:25 growth has been great
20:47 drive referrals
22:53 listen to your team
25:43 build out the seat
29:52 talk about vision
33:05 data is critically important
37:45 grandma’s on Etsy
40:11 automated with a human touch
44:37 be okay taking that one step to get unstuck
47:37 always be learning and see what other people are doing
50:53 building up something bigger
Watch the podcast here.
Join the Guild: www.maxlawguild.com
MaxLawCon 2022 Tickets are Live: www.maxlawcon2022.com
Jim: Welcome back to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast. I’m Jim Hacking.
Tyson: And I’m Tyson Mutrux.
I don’t know if we have to do the intro for this but it’s the first time doing this. It’s kind of a cool idea, your little brainchild. We’ll deep dive. I like the idea of it.
Jim: I’m pretty excited. I think it’s going to go really well.
So, just so that everyone knows what we’re doing, we’re going to go for a full hour. And we have 11 guests lined up. We’re going to talk to each of them for five minutes. And we’re going to try to stick to a really strict schedule. We’re going to ask them all about growth. This is all about the successful law firm. What are the things that they’ve learned in going through growth? What are the things that they’ve had to overcome? What are the hurdles. All those kinds of things. I think it’s going to make for a really interesting episode.
Tyson: Yeah. I think this is going to be a really fun one. This is going to be rapid fire. We’re going to get the best of the best of 11 guests. They’re going to talk about successes that they’ve had. The keys to success when it comes to growth. And I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Do you have your timer ready?
Jim: Yeah. So, I’ve got to figure out how I’m going to do this because– yeah, this will work.
So, let me get the timer ready. And we’re going to have to be a little bit rude in knocking people off.
So, I see people in the waiting room. This isn’t going to be like our usual Tuesday events. If you’re the next speaker, you’re going to be in the waiting room up until the time that you come on.
I have a little bell here, Tyson. When we get to the five minutes, I’ll hit it. Let me get the timer ready. And then, we’ll welcome in our first guest.
This is going to be fun.
Tyson: I agree.
Jim: I think it’s going to make for some interesting discussions, too. So–
All right. So, we’ll bring in– we’ll ask you to introduce yourself. Tell us who you are. And then, we’ll just ask for your tips or your hacks on getting started, all right?
So, our first guest, all the way from Colorado, is Melissa Shanahan.
Melissa: Hi, guys.
Jim: Hi, Melissa. How are you doing?
Tyson: Hey, what’s going on?
Melissa: Great. How about you? You both look fantastic.
Jim: We’re good. We’re good. You look great yourself.
Melissa: Thanks. Thanks a lot.
Jim: All right. So, I’m going to hit the timer. And then, you’ve got five minutes to go, tell us everything everyone needs to know in 2022 about growing their firms. You ready?
Melissa: Yeah. No conversation?
Jim: We’ll chime in but–
Melissa: Okay. That’s good.
Jim: Yeah, we’ll chime in. And we’re live right now. So, we’re going to go with it and see how it goes.
All right. Melissa Shanahan, thanks for joining us. We are very grateful for the support that you’ve given to Maximum Lawyer and the many of our members, over the years. Why don’t you tell us what advice you have for people when it comes to growth in 2022?
Melissa: So, I thought about high‑level, what can I offer that would be really useful in five minutes? And here’s what I’ve got. I think that it comes down to two things that are pretty broad and we could dig into any of them or either of them. One is that you have to make decisions ahead of time. That’s my working definition for planning. So, you have to plan. And you have to plan well. So, making a bunch of decisions ahead of time, strategically.
And then, the second piece of that is actually honoring the plan. So, it almost seems overly simplified but one of these two spots is where people get caught. They don’t do one of or both of them. So, when we think about making decisions ahead of time, you know, we often hear about quarterly strategic planning. A lot of people think that’s a good idea. A fraction of people actually do it.
So, strategic planning is a big deal in terms of what are you aiming for. Working backwards, how do you think you’re going to get there? What decisions need to be made ahead of time that– so you know to pull the trigger at certain points.
Now, here’s the thing. Is your plan ever going to go as you planned? No. Never. That’s not the point, right? So, I think people sometimes think it’s a waste because either they know themselves well enough to know that they typically don’t follow through or it’s just not going to go the way that I think anyway, so what’s the point?
But, truly, if you don’t have a plan, then you don’t have very specific steps of action to deliver on and to execute on. So, then, you’ll spin harder than you would have otherwise. There’s always lessons learned at the end of trying to execute your plan or executing your plan. There’s lessons learned about what you should do, what you shouldn’t do. And then, that makes you able to plan even better, smarter the next time around. So, taking planning very seriously is extremely important.
When it comes to honoring the plan, this is where– there are so many great people out there who talk about this. Nir Eyal is one of my favorites, N‑I‑R E‑Y‑A‑L. He’s an author of Indistractable. He talks about the triggers that will pull us off track. And there’s external triggers and there’s internal triggers. And the majority of the time, like 90‑something % of the time, it’s the internal triggers that are the distraction. And that’s because something comes up where there’s discomfort we don’t want to deal with. We would rather do anything than the thing we said we were going to do. And so, then, if we get into that, that’s because we’re trying to escape an emotional stance that we have at the moment. We’re trying to escape an emotion.
So, learning how to breathe through some of the discomfort that comes up, whether it’s you want to snack and you don’t want to do the thing you want to do or whether it’s you’re going to go overhaul a system, because you don’t want to do the thing that you said you wanted to do at that time. Having the discipline and awareness enough to be able to sit through that, take a deep breath, and then do the thing you said you were going to do anyway to the best of your ability. That is a meta skill. And the more you learn that the faster you’ll move towards completing the plans that you had made. And that’s when you start to blow your own mind. But most people will flee.
So, I don’t know where we are with time.
Jim: You’re fine. So, you want us to give us an example of someone who you’ve seen grow lately and how the planning sort of fit into that?
Well, the Nicolaysen’s come to mind. They have been consistently quarter, after quarter, after quarter getting in a room and shutting the door for a day or two days, depending on the retreat, and making plans and learning lessons deliberately, writing lessons on the board and making plans about their future. And setting goals scare the crap out of one or both of them – the partners. And then just one foot in front, the other. And sometimes the retreats are intense and not very fun because it just wasn’t the quarter or, for some reason, things didn’t go the way they thought, or maybe they allowed themselves to get distracted. And in some quarters they just flew.
And, now, I genuinely believe the compound effect of getting in a room every quarter for, now, two and a half years is they are flying now. And it’s paying off. But it feels like it doesn’t early on. But it’s the compound effect that really gives way. So, they are an example of someone who is stuck with it– had the discipline and stuck with it. And, now, they’re reaping the rewards.
It doesn’t mean it’s cakewalk but it’s– the momentum is much different now for them.
Tyson: Melissa, let’s see if we can squeeze in one last question. So, big problem that we see is people will start with their quarterly goals. And then, what will happen is they want to achieve it in the first quarter and will just give up.
So, what is your advice to those people that they don’t hit their goal, which they’re inevitably not going to do? So, what’s your advice to those people?
Melissa: There’s a big difference between being very committed to your goal and being attached to your goal. If you’re committed, you show up no matter what. If you don’t get– deflation isn’t a thing that throws you off. That’s an internal trigger that’s creating– that’s causing you to get off.
But if you are committed to it, no matter what, you show up. You keep showing up and keep showing up. And, you know what? If it doesn’t happen by the quarter’s end, it’s around the corner, you keep going.
So, being attached to it means that you’re tying your ability to keep going to the result but the result’s never going to happen unless you’re committed. So, it’s just kind of a backwards way of approaching it though I totally understand. It’s natural.
Tyson: Love it. Very good.
All right, we’ve got to say goodbye to you, Melissa.
Melissa: All right. Hi, Elise.
Elise: Melissa. How are you?
Melissa: I’m good. It’s so good to see you. [inaudible 00:07:51].
Elise: I know. I love seeing you.
Melissa: All right. I’ll talk to you guys later.
Elise: Tell your baby I said hi.
Melissa: Okay. I will. Bye.
Tyson: All right. Now, we have, next up, Elise Buie. She is amazing. She’s host of Maximum Mom.
Elise, all right. You’ve got five minutes. We’re going to put you on the clock. Jim’s going to start the timer. There’s a bell. So, if we hit the bell, he’s going to ding it.
Tyson: Tell us everything you know about growth and how you’ve grown your firm.
Elise: Whoa. Everything I know about growth.
Culture, culture, culture. Hire for culture. Fire for culture. That’s what I know about growth. Like just bring on people that align with your core values. I mean, 150%. And never, ever, ever make an exception because every exception is a failure. I mean, I know that sounds so simple, in some ways, but it has made a world of difference for us to just, I mean, hire so strongly for our core values. I mean, if somebody is missing one core value, that’s a hard no for us like every single time.
And, you know, even when you’re feeling kind of pressured, and people are at capacity, and everyone’s like, “We really need to hire.” We just never will make an exception. And that has made a world of difference in just getting really great people on the team because I think the growth is all about the team, and our team working together, and just supporting each other.
I mean, we’ve been hit with COVID in our office even though we’re virtual, so we don’t really have an office. But, I mean, we have like 10 or 12 people out with COVID. I mean, that’s a mess. And watching people support each other, and come behind each other, and pick up work, and work on their vacation time. I mean, it’s just– it’s been mind boggling to watch. So, culture.
Tyson: So how do you figure that out though, Elise? That’s not something that you started out with figuring that out.
Tyson: So how do you figure that out? How do you know what the right culture is?
Elise: Well, I mean, I made a lot of bad hires, initially. For sure. And then, had to learn to let people go that were a bad fit.
And so, once we really delineated our core values, then– I mean, we really talk about those core values. Like, in interviews, we ask questions around core values, you know, circumstances that would bring up core values.
We do so much testing on people. Like, you know, we do the Jay Henderson testing. We do strength finders. We do Kolbe. I mean, I love to know. I mean, I’m a psychology freak though, so I want to know like how my team fits together. You know, like if I’ve got an attorney working with a paralegal, I want them to really be matched well, like pick up each other’s slack rather than have like, you know, two of one thing.
So, I mean, we move people around, too, like if things aren’t meshing. I mean, we do a lot of, you know, surveys around how you’re getting along. How are things working? And we really look at their work product too like do they flow well together? I mean, I really love all of that. You know, just psychology of understanding people. And so– I mean, really getting to know your people and putting them through a lot of– I mean, we go through probably three layers of interviews. And then, like I said, all the testing.
So, I mean, I know a lot about my people when they’re coming on board, you know. And I personally spend time talking to them, you know, when they’re coming on. I don’t know, I mean, I have kind of– I think I have a good read on people for the most part. I mean, I really do understand people just because of my Guardian Ad Litem work. I mean, I’ve spent so much time interviewing people in really high stakes situations. I don’t know. So, I think that that– I mean, we are just very people oriented and like really about the psychology of how it all works.
Tyson: So, you mentioned the core values. Are the core values something that you came up and you said, “Hey, team. This is what our core values are.” Or, is this something that you came up with your team together and you all came up with those as a team?
Elise: I came up with some of them, initially. Some of them definitely emanate from me. And then, others were a team thing. We probably have, I think, seven core values. And I would say three of them emanated from me. And then, the others, we’ve come up.
And we look at them every quarter. And we really look at them annually. We’re in the process of going– we’re in the middle of our annual meeting. We do two days. We’ve done one. So, we have a second day. And we really look at them and make sure that we’re still kind of aligned around our core values.
Tyson: And that’s what I was going to ask you about next, actually. How do you make sure that you all are following your core values? That’s the last thing. You have to sneak that one in.
Elise: Well, I mean, I do it by really asking myself very directly. I mean, when I’m addressing, let’s say, a problem in the office, I read my core values and I’m like, “Am I addressing this in a way a leader who has these core values would act?”, you know, and really making very concerted efforts to do that.
And we talk about them all the time. We use the language from our core values as part of our shared lexicon and our shared vocabulary. Like radical candor is one of our core values. And we will talk about it. Like when I go to have a tough conversation, I will say, you know, “As part of our radical candor, we are going to have this tough conversation.”
Do you know what I mean in we like–
Tyson: Oh, absolutely.
Elise: –bring up the vocabulary all the time?
Tyson: Love it.
All right, we’ve got to say goodbye to you, Elise. Thank you so much for sharing. Really, really appreciate it.
Jim: Bye, Elise.
Elise: Bye, guys.
Jim: All right. Next up is Russ Nezevich.
All right, Russ, you’ve heard us so far. We are talking about growth. We want to hear from you. You have five minutes to share what do you want the world to know about what it takes to grow a practice or a business in 2022.
Russ: Yeah. Great question.
Thanks for inviting me. I think I’m here to make everybody else look really, really smart but I’m happy to be here.
So, I think that my theme, really, for 2021, where we doubled from 2020. And now, in 2022, where we plan to double again is it’s all about– and none of this is anything that you guys don’t already know. In fact, I think I learned it from you. It’s systems and processes. It’s hiring. And it’s consistency.
We really started to grow when I started to hire. When I started to take some of the minutia of literally answering phone calls, and scheduling meetings, and moving things around on my calendar myself and hired somebody in January 2021 to do all that for me. It is no surprise that, in 2021, we doubled because it got me away from doing that garbage and let me focus on the other things.
Systems and processes. Here’s how we do things. Here’s how we move a client from point A to point B. Here’s how we get them through the pipeline from being a prospective new client, to being a client, to being a completed done and happy client who’s left us a five‑star review. And all those steps in between.
And then, consistency. Consistency of doing YouTube videos. Consistency of doing webinar marketing. Consistency of doing outreach to people.
I’ve made a comment that I think some people liked at the last Max Law Conference when I said, “Even when it’s not working, it is. Even when these things don’t feel like they’re working, keep doing them and keep doing them consistently. That consistency pays off.” So, even when you don’t think it’s working, it’s working. And it’s all going to come back around to you.
Those are my things.
Jim: What was the hurdle that you had to get over for that first thing that you mentioned about getting rid of the tedious things that you yourself were doing? What was the mindset shift that you had to have in order to make that change?
You know, I don’t know if it was necessarily a mindset shift. I mean, part of it’s just giving up control and allowing somebody else into your world to do it. I mean, I started really as a pure solo. And then, it’s the little things, right? It’s– I hired Ruby to answer my phones. And then, I didn’t have to do it anymore. And then, I gave them access to my calendar. And then, I didn’t have to do it anymore.
And then, after listening to some really, really smart people in this group, I hired somebody to literally handle my email for me. And then, I didn’t have to do it anymore. And, when I stopped handling my email, that person who was handling my email said, “Hey, you know, I could probably do this for you, too. And I could probably do that for you, too.” And next thing I knew, she became a 30‑hour‑a week COO who’s salaried and does so many things beyond just answering the phone. So, as I let her into my world and let her expand what she did for me, everything changed.
Jim: And what advice do you have for people that are sort of sitting on the fence or maybe going sort of slowly towards delegating more and more?
Russ: Yeah. Start slow.
You know, we hired an attorney five weeks ago and fired them last week, because it didn’t work out. And I went all in. Like I hired my first full‑time associate. Literally, that day, I got an email from someone else who was interested in the position because I hadn’t taken the position down yet. We’re probably going to extend another offer within the next week or two. That offer is going to be for 15 to 20 hours a week. And we’re going to bring ‘em in. And we’re going to go slow. And we’re going to be smarter. I mean, some of that was our fault. Some of it was the fault of the person that we hired.
So, you don’t have to do it all at once. You don’t have to hire a full time 40‑hour‑a‑week COO or an executive assistant. Start by hiring somebody to answer the phones. And then, hire someone to do a little more.
Jim: Awesome. Thanks so much, Russ. Thanks for joining us. It was great having you.
Russ: Thanks, guys.
Jim: You got it, Russ.
Russ: See ya.
Tyson: Thanks, Russ. See you, buddy.
Russ: Take care. Bye. [inaudible 00:17:16]
Tyson: Thanks, Russ. Okay, buddy.
Jim: I’m liking this format so far, Tyson. How about you?
Tyson: I am, too.
So, Jay, with real talent hiring. We’ve already had one mention of you today. So that’s fantastic. Tell people your keys to success when it comes to growth, and expanding, and scaling the business.
Jay: Absolutely. Hey, it’s great to be here. Thank you.
Growth. Growth has been great. By the way, I really like what everybody’s been saying and appreciate what Elise Buie was saying about culture and hiring and Russ as well. So, good stuff.
For me, it’s about– well, hiring. I mean, I’ve got to say hiring for one, right? It is absolutely critical who you hire. And, when it comes to core values, it’s a matter of how do you know they’ve got those core values. And I think that’s sort of what you’re asking a little bit, right?
So, also, for me, it’s customer service. I mean, I’m absolutely huge on making sure that my clients get exactly what they want, that they know what they’re supposed to be getting, that they get what they want, and that that service is there for them.
I’m reminded of an interview that was done many years ago, pre‑dotcom bust of Jeff Bezos. Amazon was like five years old. They were the darling of– I don’t know, whatever internet world was going on. And he was being interviewed by this guy that kept saying, you know, “You’re an internet play, and there’s this dotcom bust, and aren’t you worried about what all of the investors are thinking?” And he said, “No. No. Don’t invest in a company that’s going to be an internet company.” He goes, “I don’t want to be an internet company.” He goes, “My goal is to be the best customer service company in the world.”
I found that to be really interesting that that was his whole goal from the beginning to be this phenomenal distribution channel and killer customer service business that gave people what they wanted, when they want it, in a way that was easy, and whatnot, right? So, if you can start to measure – build some kind of a customer service index score. Like, do a survey. Get in front of your clients and ask them how things are going.
And then, another thing I would do, I would survey my clients. And another thing that I would do would be I would get my team, I would score myself on a regular basis. I’d do some kind of like 1 through 5, or some kind of a 1 through 10 scale, and score myself – how effective am I in terms of customer service? And, you know, if you need to know what some areas– and you all know what to measure yourselves on about that, right?
And then, I would get my team to start measuring themselves. You know, it’s really amazingly powerful if you can get your team to actually score themselves and consistently pay attention to something, it changes it automatically. The change you want will automatically occur.
So, if you said to your team, for instance, “We’re going to start measuring how effective we are from a customer service standpoint. Every evening, at the end of the day, I want you to write down on a scale of 1 to 10 or 1 to 5, whatever you want, how effective were we today with serving our client base,” right? And if you would do that for a week or two, you would find that even your employees who may not naturally be very customer‑service oriented, they would shift. And they would get more focused on that which would naturally create the change that you’d want to see around customer service.
So, I think surveying yourself, and checking that out, and getting your team to pay attention to it by scoring themselves will make a big, big difference and help drive referrals which will be my next point about what can we organize to literally drive referrals so that we can grow in a natural organic way. And, if customer service is stellar, that will happen somewhat automatically. But you can also build a system around it and really be powerful.
Tyson: I love that.
So, you’ve mentioned the core values earlier. And– how do you– what’s the process you go through with the companies that you deal with and the actual potential employees? How do you align those core values?
Jay: So, you know, I don’t actually take clients through the core values exercises. I can. It’s just not part of my main offering. But I do have a total answer with that. And that is that, because I measure how people think and make decisions, if you were to tell me, “Here’s my list,” like Elise has seven core values. If you were to give me your core values, when you’re talking to me about who you’re trying to hire, if I have measured that person, I can tell you where they will align and where they will not and whether that will change or not. So, that’s how I do it.
Tyson: Excellent. Excellent. Very good.
Jay, thank you so much. Been great. We’ve got to kick you off. Then, go to Adela next.
Jay: [inaudible 00:21:50].
Tyson: Thanks, Jay.
Jim: Thanks, Jay.
Jay: Thank you. Bye. See you, guys.
Jim: All right. Next up is Adela Zepcan. She’s the director of people and culture at the Hacking Immigration Law, LLC.
Adela, thanks for joining us.
Adela: Thanks for having me.
Jim: Adela, you’ve got five minutes to tell everyone about the growth that we’ve experienced over, say, the last two years, the lessons that you’ve learned, and the advice that you have for everybody listening.
Adela: Okay. I’ll talk really fast.
So, essentially, from the beginning of 2021 to end of 2021/January 2022, we went from– and I looked it up, from like an average between 11 to 14 employees to a total of 39. And, next week, I’ll have around 40 employees on our kind of payroll. And so, with that came a lot of challenges and I summed it up in, essentially, like six different categories.
And I really wanted to focus on all the things that kind of we had to struggle with and/or did really well in the transitions. And one of them– and I want to start this one is number one is listening to your team – your existing team. Don’t forget that they exist, you know. As you grow with a company, all you’re worried about is how am I going to fill this position? This position needs to be built out. Who’s going to take over this lead? Who’s not going to be elevated to like the higher role and/or who’s going to be managing this team? What does it all entail? Do I have the funds necessary to hire this many people, right?
That’s kind of at your forefront the entire year but, at the same time, you already have an existing team of, on average, 11 to 14 team members at the beginning of the year, right? And you want to constantly stay in touch with them, and communicate with them, and have them be heard, right? So, listen to your team, when they’re telling you, “Hey, I’m having a hard time keeping track of this, or I can’t get all my work done, or I can’t do this or that.” It’s either a call for help and additional training or it’s more of a we need to get our numbers kind of together and have them find additional team members for support.
Kind of number two that I learned is investing in your leadership team and having them stay on the same page, right? Not everyone is meant to be a manager or in the leadership seat. So, making sure that you have the right people is going to be key for your company growth.
Three, and I think thanks to– I know COVID is a horrible thing, but with COVID, it gave us a little perspective and time to reset and get our systems in place kind of in the early– like, right as COVID started. We had a lot of kind of wiggle room to build, build, build, build. And we certainly took advantage of that. So, that allowed us to kind of perfect and enable our systems with the goal of enabling our team members to utilize their time efficiently, right? So, no re‑drafting cover letters. No re‑drafting emails etc.
And then, we also had the mindset of right person, right seat. So, just because you’re the right person does not necessarily mean you’re in the correct seat. So, sometimes shuffling around team members will let them kind of skyrocket in a position they didn’t think they wanted and/or sometimes that kind of backfires and you move them in a seat that they weren’t necessarily in the right seat. So, shuffling your team – existing team and making sure that you’re utilizing their key skills is going to be a big one for us.
Another thing that I’ve always kind of struggled with is, number five, and that is filling the position before the seat is even built out or established. Now, we’re always waiting for like, “Oh, we need additional support for X, Y & Z task.” And that could be a part time role. That could be a full‑time role but let me build it out. Let me build out the system. Let me come up with a manual. Let me do this. And by the time you do all that time has passed and your team is already still drowning, right?
So, making sure that, if you need someone or additional support, hire that if you have the necessary funds and build out that seat while that person is training, right? Help them create that perfect seat, right, because sometimes you don’t necessarily think about the things that that person is going to be doing. Hence, in the job description. If that seat is not necessarily built out, you want to add the “and other tasks and duties,” right?
And then, overall, I think the last piece I would give is invest in your team, continuously educating them, and giving them time to shine. So, letting them grow into the position that they are capable of growing to, right? So, making sure that you commit that 30, 60, 90. That you check in again at six months and making sure that they’re at their full capacity and utilizing the skills that they bring to the company.
That’s all I’ve got.
Jim: Right on time. What a great job, Adela.
Jim: That was awesome. You nailed it. Thanks so much.
Tyson: Nice job, Adela. See ya. Bye, Adela.
Adela: No problem.
Tyson: The Guild is an insanely productive community of lawyer‑entrepreneurs with a growth mindset who share their collective genius and hold each other accountable to take their careers and businesses to the next level. But in 2022, we are upping the game. In addition to exclusive access to the group, FaceTime with the two of us, discounted pricing for live events and front‑seat exposure to live recording, podcast and video, we’re mapping out, for members, the exact growth playbook with our new program, Maximum Lawyer in Minimum Time.
Jim: As a Guild member, you’ll build relationships and experience content specifically designed to complement your plan for growth. For a limited time only, The Maximum Lawyer in Minimum Time program will be offered for free to all new Guild members. Join us by going to maxlawguild.com.
Tyson: All right. Next up, we have the good old Ryan McKeen.
Ryan, you have five minutes. Tell us about the growth of your firm, the keys to growth, and how you’ve scaled it.
Ryan: Our firm has grown really from me, to me and a partner, me and a partner and an assistant. And we’re now at 19 people. We’re probably going to be up to about 30 people by the end of the year. We’re actively hiring nine positions right now.
So, growth both has been slow and sort of feels exponential. It just is like you do the right things over time and you get traction as you grow. And you sort of get some lift. So, I would say we made our first hires of full‑time people just four years ago. And, now, we’re like running out of space for our people, again, for the third time.
Tyson: Elise mentioned, earlier, culture. And you talk about culture all the time. How do you make sure, with that growth that you’re having, that you maintain that culture?
Ryan: I mean, my job, as CEO, is to consistently repeat myself – repeat values, you know, remind people of values, lead through values, and onboard them. I think the onboarding process is just so, so critical. That’s when you really have someone’s attention. And how are you treating them? You know, what are you showing them? What are they seeing as they’re coming on to your firm? And, you know, how are you explaining the culture? I think that there needs to be a lot of conversations surrounding those things prior to somebody doing legal work or their job.
Tyson: I wonder, after you have repeated yourself 30 times to someone, do you ever get the, “What the hell does this guy even do anyways? He doesn’t even do any legal work.”
Ryan: They– No, I– this is one of the things with growth. One of the things with growth is you, as a leader, have to understand that the situation is changed and what maybe you were doing yesterday, you should not be doing today.
And I’m currently in a transition phase, I have a lot of legal work in my firm, which may surprise people, but we are actively hiring to take that off of my plate. So, they know what I’m doing. You know, I try to do excellent work because being excellent at what we do is one of our values as well, and to show that, to model that, so to speak.
Tyson: Do you ever get any resistance from your team about you taking some of those legal tasks off your plate because it’s going to give more work to someone else? And, if so, how do you deal with that?
Ryan: No, my team is like, “Ryan, you’re doing way, way, way too much and you need to be doing less.” And they want– you know, they have buy‑in. They have buy‑in to our vision. You have to talk about vision. You have to talk about where you’re going.
And when you get that buy‑in, they’re like, “Oh, this is how I fit into this. This is my opportunity. And what can I help with? What can I take off of you?” And be clear about those things – clear about the things that you are doing, that you will not be doing, and things that you should be doing.
Tyson: So, tell us about the decision process because this might put us at time. Tell us about the decision process that you had to go through when it comes to figuring out what things you’ve got to let go and what things you need to be doing as CEO.
Ryan: I mean, I think, as CEO, you have to be focused on the future. You have to be focused on the growth of the firm. And you have to let go of almost all things that are not those things, right? So, operational things, legal technical things, onboarding, finance. Those are the things that you have to let go of. And you have to have people who come in and fill all of those roles so you can effectively grow and lead the firm.
Tyson: Love it. Excellent.
Ryan, thank you so much. You’re a rockstar. Really, really appreciate it.
Jim: Yeah. So, yeah, it looks like our next guest isn’t even in the waiting room yet so we could go another question with Ryan. I have a question for Ryan.
I mean, I know, Ryan, that you’ve really been burning the candle at both ends. Talk to us about what your thoughts are. If the visionary or the leader is getting burned out, how does that actually affect growth?
Ryan: It’s terrible for growth, I think, because there are things that I should be getting to that are going to move us so much further ahead that I’m unable to get to because I have these other things that I have to do. So, I’m doing a lot of non‑priority tasks. And, in a way, I am sabotaging my growth.
I mean, I saw you at Anderson on earlier. We paid him. We had our whole leadership team like analyzed a whole lot. And part of it is finding out who you are as a leader. I think that that is an incredibly important process. And one of the things that he found for me was, I have a fear of success and no fear of failure. So, I, through my actions, can sabotage my own success. And–
There’s Billie Tarascio.
Billie: Hi, friends.
Ryan: Hey, Billie.
Jim: [inaudible 00:31:59] time.
Philly: So good to see you.
Tyson: All right. Thank you, Ryan.
Jim: We’ll see you, Ryan.
Tyson: Thank you, buddy.
Jim: All right. Next up is Billie Tarascio. She has built a family law empire, My Modern Law, in Arizona.
Billie, welcome. Please share with us all the advice you have, for the next five minutes, on what our listeners need to know about growing their law firms.
Billie: Five minutes, huh?
Jim: Five minutes. That’s it.
Billie: All right.
So, I was talking to my friend today who owns a nurse practitioners office, a naturopathic office. And she and I opened our businesses about the same time. And she was like, “I’m overwhelmed. Things are not going well. Like, does that ever happen to you?” Because everything was fine, at the moment, and I’m like, “All the time.” So, all the time. It’s just a matter of like, you know, solving the crisis so that the next crisis is not the same. Just different crises.
And I think intervening early and often. And having honest conversations about what’s working and not working is the key to growth – is one of the keys to the growth. I think data is critically important to help us to make decisions and to know if we’re on track or off track. And then, hiring and having great people. And then spending time with them and managing them. In my opinion, like those have all been really important to Modern Law’s growth.
Jim: Let’s talk about data because that’s something that we haven’t really covered yet so far in the show. Talk to us about data as far as sort of assessing where you currently are at and then forecasting for the future.
Billie: Yeah. I’m glad we’re talking about that.
So, data. I want data on every key component of my business. So, you’re asking about like forecasting. Is there really like financial data? And so, I think every firm should have a financial business model.
Now, a lot of lawyers that I have met have resisted this. They don’t want to know about finances. They don’t want to talk about finances. But I think this is kind of like your own individual finances. Like, if you are not comfortable budgeting and figuring out how much money is coming in and how much money is going out? What do I value? And what do I want to spend my money on? I don’t think it’s going to work. So, I would really encourage lawyers to dive in.
I follow something that is sort of like the Profit First model, where every– so 10% of our gross income I put into a taxes account, 10% of our gross income I put into a savings or profits account, 50% of my total, I’d like to go to employee costs, staff costs. And that leaves 30%. And I divide that 30% into 15% for sales and marketing – that includes the salespeople and all the marketing costs and lead gen and 15% for facilities – new offices, tech, materials. All that jazz. So, that’s my aspirational model.
And then, how do I forecast what my revenue is going to be? I’m really glad you asked that.
So, previously, I had set a goal– previously like five or six years ago, “We’re going to grow 20% a year.” And that was a fine goal but really not. It was never exactly 20%. It was always more.
And this year, when I looked at our 20% goal, and I was looking at our goal for where I thought we were going to end 2021, it wasn’t enough. So, I looked at it in different ways. I looked at okay, well, what if I take all my employee costs – all my payroll costs and I double it? Because if I know that’s 50%, then I should be able to say my revenue needs to be at least 50% of my current payroll costs because we’d really ramped up.
The other thing I did was I looked at all my team and I figured out what’s their capacity, what’s their individual capacity, and what’s about 80% of that. Both of those numbers were about the same projected revenue. So, I know, in a minimum, that’s going to be my projected revenue. And that was a better more data‑based decision than just saying 20% growth on last year.
Jim: What are some mistakes that you see law firm owners make when they’re thinking about growth?
Billie: It’s the things working together. It’s the, “Do I have enough clients? And am I spending enough time and attention on getting clients? Do I have the people that I need to do the work and do it well? Do I have quality control on that? And then, do I have the finances to support all those things?” So only if all three pieces work together – and all of them work well. If one of those things is off, you get a hiccup and you make a mistake.
Jim: Do you think lawyers, more often, grow too slowly, hire too slowly, or that they hire too quickly?
Billie: I mean, if you’re looking to grow, if growth is the goal, then they’re hiring too slow and they’re hiring wrong.
Jim: Awesome, Billie. Thanks so much. It was great having you with us.
Billie: Absolutely. Have a good day.
Jim: Bye. We’ll see ya.
Jim: All right. We’ve heard from lots of different law firm owners.
Next up is their friend Joey Vitale. And I remember when Joey was sort of hanging his shingle and he’s experienced monumental growth and transformation within his practice.
Joey, I want you to give everyone your tips for growth, but I would love it if you let off by talking a little bit just about your own law firm’s growth.
Joey: Well, I’m honored just to be here, Jim. I’ve been tuning in to all of the– the chats. Everyone’s been doing great. I’m excited to catch the replay once this is all done.
But, yeah, I have– I mean, the fondest memory of having lunch with you and Tyson and me giving you what, now, I look back and kind of like a pathetic vision for what I thought of for my firm. But you guys were nothing but supportive, and helpful, and asking really great questions.
It’s been a really fun wild ride these past few years of starting off as more of like a law firm for what I lovingly say was meant for grandma’s on Etsy to, now, becoming really a powerhouse trademark‑specific law firm. And last year was definitely a growth year but, honestly, I focused less on the numbers and more of other types of win’s, like how can we make sure that our leadership is doing more leadership‑team related tasks and less of the other stuff? I went from doing all of the sales calls at the beginning of the year to now doing zero of the sales calls which has just been such a game changer in terms of my time and, honestly, our processes being followed more, since I’m no longer the one in the seat there.
And it’s crazy. Once you do the work that you, Jim and Tyson, talk about – being able to really start to see the time freedom of being a maximum lawyer. And, now, I’m probably practicing law for less than an hour a week.
Jim: Wow. That’s insane.
From answering the phone– so, what did it take to get there Joe? What did you have to do? What mindset had to change?
Joey: I think one of the biggest mindset shifts for me was thinking about growth in terms of dials and not switches. Meaning, instead of saying, “How can I go from not doing any calls, when I’m doing all of them right now?” to “How can I train someone to maybe do these calls when I can’t, when it’s close?”, to “How can I do 50% of the calls?”, to “How can I get out of it completely?” And really setting more of like a dial‑based plan for getting to where I eventually want to go versus saying, “I’m going to make this huge kind of flipping a switch change in our processes and just hope that it works and the team is going to hate me when we flip this switch or try to.”
Jim: I love that. And one of the things that we haven’t really talked about a lot today, when it comes to growth, is automation. And I know that you and your processes are pretty automated. Talk to us a little bit how automation can help with growth.
Joey: Oh, man. It’s such a game changer in ways that now I just honestly take for granted. I mean, we do everything that we can to make sure that we’re automated with a human touch. But, I mean, Jim, you’re a really high‑volume law firm. I know, you know this, too, that it really does just help with efficiency when you look at all the things that can be done in an automated way and automate it. Because one thing that I’ve had to learn the hard way is, yes, clients want to be taken care of. They want to be wowed. But, at the end of the day, they just want it to be easy. And if automation can help you make it easy, first, do that. And then, make it a better and more fun experience.
Jim: All right. We have one minute left, Joey. My question for you is, how did you transition from the grandma’s on Etsy to what you call the trademark powerhouse? I mean, you’ve done six trademarks for me. I’ve referred you every trademark person I know for the last couple of years. What has that transition been like for you?
Joey: Well, I’m actually going to share a Jim‑ism.
Joey: And ever since you and I talked about this, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. You and I had a really great back and forth about a month ago on how you’ve been growing your Facebook group. And if I can say it really concisely, it’s this, there’s really two kinds of marketing. There’s marketing that actually creates leads for your business and marketing that is really just more visibility.
And everything changed for our firm when we decided to prioritize lead generation marketing. And to the point of your and I discussion, it’s great to have high visibility marketing, to have a free Facebook group, to be putting out YouTube videos with no calls to action that just get your name out there, to have a great website. That’s all great. But, if you’re doing that at the cost of not having really good funnels in place of putting out marketing that’s going to get the calls ringing – to get the phone ringing, then you’re really missing out on an opportunity to have the marketing serve the sales department in your firm.
Thank you, Joey.
Joey: Thanks, you guys.
Jim: See you soon.
All right. Next up, Chris Nicolaysen.
Chris, how are you, my friend? Welcome.
Chris: I’m good. How are you?
So, you’ve got five minutes. I don’t know if you’ve been listening. I know you’ve been in the waiting room but let us know– by the way, great backdrop for your video today.
Jim: Might be the best one of the day.
Tell us about what you want our listeners to know when it comes to growth as we head into 2022.
Chris: Yeah. So, as you head into 2022, the thing for me, thinking back, we hit our– we’re going to hit our five‑year mark here next month. And when we started, we were a multi‑practice firm. So, we were family law, estate planning, and PI.
We had three PI cases when we started. I did family law about– I think I had about 25 to 30 cases. So, that’s– you know, that was really like the baseline. And, today, we are a full PI firm, no domestic, and I don’t have a caseload.
So, I think that thing for that, as you go forward is, if you’re in a spot that you don’t like, be okay shifting. But the way I got there though was by surrounding myself with people who are a lot smarter than I am, who have already gone through those mistakes. And so, if you’re going to surround yourself with those people, I think you learn from ‘em but you also steal from them, too. So, take whatever they have, whatever, you know, and try it out. And if it works for them, maybe it’ll work for you. It may not always be the right fit, but I think that that’s kind of been our process so far.
Jim: Well, and talk about that, about being willing to be flexible. I think so many people just rigidly declare, “I’m going to be this kind of lawyer. This is the way I want my practice to be.” Talk to me about how important it is, if it is, to be able to be flexible and willing to change.
Chris: I think it’s massively important, Jim.
I’ve got both a daughter– so, I have a daughter in law school. I’ve got a wife who’s what, you know, getting ready to go to law school. And I think, you know, I remember talking to people in law school saying, “I know exactly what I’m going to do or what kind of lawyer I’m going to be” things like that, right?
And I mean, I know you were a maritime lawyer at one point. We all have these ideas but then sometimes the idea doesn’t match up to that thing, you know, to the reality. And so, you’ve got to be able to shift because I’ve known too many lawyers that have just said, “Well, I guess the law is just not for me.” But I feel like the law is this really broad swath of– you know, that can cover a really broad area. And also, even the Maximum Lawyer piece of it, you don’t– I don’t even– I own a law firm, but I don’t practice with clients necessarily day in and day out.
So, I do think it’s that ability. Don’t– if you’re stuck, be okay taking that one step to try to get yourself unstuck. I think it’s well worth your own sanity.
Jim: Has there been a point or have there been points in your growth where you just sort of paused for a minute, looked around, and said, “Man, I can’t believe this is where we’re at.”
Chris: Not for myself as much because of the ways. So, similar, I heard Ryan talking earlier about the future thinker thing. And I’ve taken Jay’s assessment. That’s me. I cons– but I know for my partner it has been.
We were just talking recently about, when we first started, he opened up and he said, “You know, there were moments where I just go home and cry because I didn’t think we were going to make it.” And he had other like feelers out there.
I may burn the ships, burn the bridges. This is the thing and we’re just going to do it. And as long as I’ve got any control in it, it’s going to be awesome. And we’re just going to keep pushing.
Jim: Chris, one thing I know about you and your firm is that you are not afraid. And, in fact, Melissa Shanahan talked about this at the top of the show that you guys are not afraid to have hard conversations and to make tough decisions. Talk to me about that, as far as how that can be an entree or it could be a stumbling block, if you refuse to do those kinds of conversations.
Chris: Yeah. I mean, we’ve used her to help us have those at times. But, Jim, I think they’re needed.
If you know that you need to have a hard conversation with someone. I mean, I’ve heard you talk about your staff recently, things like that. But just anybody. You’ve got to take time to sit down and do it. Stop kicking the can down the road. Because if we hadn’t had those conversations, Jake and I, as partners, I mean, we both know what those conversations were. But we both know we’re better now because these are the things that make us not only business owners, but they make us adults.
I mean, I think, as kids, we can run away from those things and ghost people and do that stuff.
But I think, now, if you’re going to own a business with somebody or have employees, you’ve got to take the time, as adults, to sit down and do it. For us, one of our core values is to be open and honest. So, if we don’t do that, and if we’re not open and honest with people, then we’re going against our own core values. And that needs to be a check to, but I think they can be well worth being had.
Jim: Awesome. Thank you, Chris.
Jim: Thanks for being on the show.
Chris: Thanks, guys.
Jim: We’ll see you, brother.
Chris: [inaudible 00:46:34]
Jim: All right.
Chris: Yep, bye.
Jim: And we’re going to end, last but not least, with our good friend Alexis Austin. We’re staying in Colorado.
Alexis, thanks for joining us.
Alexis: Wow. No pressure. Thanks for having me.
Jim: What do our listeners need to know as we close out the show? I know you’ve been listening the whole time. What are some things that we haven’t talked about or points that you wish to make about how people need to be thinking when it comes to growth?
Alexis: Well, I think, it’s actually– it’s a good time to bring this up because what I was thinking kind of encompasses what we’ve heard already. But there are two main things that I really attribute our growth to. At Right Law Group, we’ve had, I think, 100%, on average, growth every single year so far which is fantastic.
But the two things that I really attribute our growth to is, number one, the idea that there’s no new thing under the sun. Like Chris was saying, a few minutes ago, you have expertise that you can rely on from other people. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. You need to always be learning and seeing what other people are doing because it’s not as difficult as you think to at least get inspired.
So, for me, personally, every day, I’m doing between 30 minutes to an hour of personal development in some form or fashion, making sure I’m learning what other firms are doing, listening to podcasts. I’ve listened to every single Maximum Lawyer podcast in existence. And just really embodying that idea of constantly learning.
But then, with that idea of no new thing under the sun, you also have to have a plan for where you’re going because, as the cliche goes, you can’t get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going. So, what I’ve really tried to do is I’ve tried to look at what other people are doing.
Still, like Chris says. Our Maximum Lawyer group, especially, is great about saying, “Yes. Here’s what I do. Here’s what I have. I’m willing to share resources.” But the next component of that really is mapping out where you want to go. And to Chris’s point of being flexible, you can have flexibility and change things over time but there has to be a destination that you’re aiming for.
I’m a very goal‑oriented person. And so, what I have found is, if you combine the expertise of other people with your goal setting, you can just go exponentially further than you otherwise would. For example, I’m a big fan of being the dumbest person in the room. I want to be the one with the least amount of knowledge. So, I hire experts in marketing. I have my marketing team that they’re the experts. They tell me what to do. I put it out there.
I hire experts in financial planning. I have a fractional CFO. Every month, we get together, we get our goals set. We mark exactly where we’re going. We divide everything up. I do a Profit First break down, kind of like Billie Tarascio, because I steal from everyone. I think it’s a little bit of point of pride because I’m like, “Well, I know that this was taken from Jay Ruane. This is taken from Billie Tarascio.”
And then what you do is you build all of this out together and you understand that your goal is going to be different than everyone else’s. So, you set these goals and you have that flexibility, but you also have to know what it is that you’re doing and why. So, bringing all that together with the core values, that Elise was talking about earlier. You have to be true to who you are as a person, first. And then build your firm about around what you’re wanting.
So, for me, personally, my goal is not to be the richest lawyer in Colorado Springs. My goal is not to drive a fancy car. As long as my car has four‑wheel drive and good on the snow, I’m good.
But what I pride myself on is I want my team to be honest. I want our team to be known for being very ethical, responsible criminal defense lawyers, which is a little bit of an unusual thing in the criminal defense world. And that’s what our team is built around is the goals that we have for the company is kind of my personal goals. And what I view personally is what we should be aiming towards. But then, bringing in everything that I learned from other expertise and other people, automation experts too, when we’re going through all that – building all of these different expertise together to make sure that the expertise of other people are funneled in a way and channeled in a way that you can reach your individual goal.
Jim: I love that. Last question of the day. What has surprised you most about the growth that your firm has undergone?
Alexis: The fact that it’s growing [laughs]. I mean, honestly, what surprised me most is that the– and I think Ryan was talking about this a little bit earlier. The more I pull myself away from the day‑to‑day legal work and the more I focus on building up something bigger than me, outside of just me, building up our core values, building up our team, building up the customer service component of our firm.
What’s most surprising is, the more I build others up, the more our firm grows. And it sounds somewhat cliched but, truly, if you have a goal that you’re going for and you know that your goal is focusing on doing things, we’re cheesy here, we say, ”The right way because we’re the Right Law Group.” But if you’re doing it for the right reasons, and you have that goal in mind, and you have that growth path, what’s shocking is how quickly you can get there.
I would have never guessed that our firm would be where we are, competing at the level we are with other firms in town. Even last year, we’re just being able to get all the expertise of other people together and funnel it towards our goal. It’s shocking how well it works. It’s a little bit woowoo but– [laughs].
Jim: No. That’s awesome, Alexis. Thanks so much for being with us.
Alexis: Thank you.
Jim: All right. Well, that’ll do it for this episode of The Maximum Lawyer Podcast. We thank each of our guests Melissa Shanahan, Elise Buie, Russ Nezevich, Jay Henderson, Adela Zepcan, Brian McKeen, Billie Tarascio, Joey Vitale, Chris Nicolaysen, and Alexis Austin.
What a great show. We hope you liked this. If you did, make sure that you leave us a comment. Let us know what you think. If you have a topic that you’d like us to cover next month, we really like this round robin, rapid fire approach. We feel like you’ve got a lot of good value in the five minutes that each person shared. We hope you feel the same way.
And we’ll see you next time. Thanks so much.